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Surprising intersectionalities of inequality and privilege: the case of the arts and cultural sector

Ahu Tatli (School of Business and Management, Queen Mary University of London, London, UK)
Mustafa Özbilgin (Brunel Business School, Brunel University, London, UK, and University of Paris‐Dauphine, Paris, France)

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

ISSN: 2040-7149

Article publication date: 23 March 2012




This paper seeks to explore the difficult territory of intersectionality as it relates to inequality and disadvantage in the labour market of the arts and cultural sector. It aims to first examine the way Acker's concept of inequality regimes is located in the extant literature. Then, it aims to study the dynamics of intersectionality in the arts and cultural sector, which offers an ideal setting with interesting and counter‐intuitive outcomes of intersectionality.


The paper draws on a qualitative study which generated interviews with students, employers and higher education institutions which are involved in industrial placements (internships) in the arts and cultural sector in Britain.


In line with Acker, the paper also disputes a‐contextual and cumulative formulations of intersecting inequalities that rely on multiplying the unequal outcomes on the basis of traditional categories of disadvantage. Instead, it argues that multiplicity of identities and forms of disadvantage introduce complexity and contextual depth into the analysis of inequality if we are to understand interplay between different forms of disadvantage. In addition, the paper maintains that intersectionality produces surprising outcomes which vary across industrial contexts, in particular across different sectors of employment. It uses the case of work undergraduate and postgraduate placement practices in the arts and cultural sector, in order to demonstrate the unexpected nature of intersectionality in producing disadvantage.

Research limitations/implications

The study draws on a selection of students, employers and higher education staff from London. A larger selection of institutions outside London could reveal differences between London and other cities and regions in Britain.

Practical implications

Intersectionality is an important concern for diversity and human resources management professionals. This paper provides an assessment of it in an unusual sectoral context.

Social implications

There is need to develop an emic understanding of intersectionality in each sector.


In the literature, intersectionality is problematised at workplace and individual levels. This paper's view of intersectionality is original in the sense that it explores how intersectionality operates at a sectoral level. In doing so, it demonstrates that salience of a strand of inequality in terms of producing intersectional disadvantage depends on the context.



Tatli, A. and Özbilgin, M. (2012), "Surprising intersectionalities of inequality and privilege: the case of the arts and cultural sector", Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Vol. 31 No. 3, pp. 249-265.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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