From Theory To Praxis: A Round Trip Towards the Institutionalization of Intersectionality


  • Maria Caterina La Barbera Institute of Philosophy, Spanish National Research Council; University Antonio de Nebrija, Madrid, Spain
  • Paloma Caravantes Complutense University of Madrid, Spain
  • Julia Espinosa-Fajardo University of Seville, Spain
  • Laura Cassain Syracuse University, Madrid, Spain



After three decades of intensive debate, public institutions are beginning to follow international recommendations on the adoption of intersectionality in legislation and public policies. However, the obstacles to the implementation of intersectionality are still mostly unexplored. This article aims to fill this gap through the empirical study of the material and discursive obstacles to implement an intersectionality-informed plan in the municipality of Madrid. Using qualitative methodologies, our study highlights that, when it is discursively constructed through the concepts of gender and diversity, intersectionality loses its transformative potential or is  postponed indefinitely. These discursive obstacles are linked to three material obstacles: i) the absence of a regulatory framework and guidelines; ii) the compartmentalized organization and institutional culture; and iii) the lack of disaggregated data and underutilization of available data. The results of our study show that adequate training can help administrative staff to overcome these discursive and material obstacles. Our study contributes to the theoretical debate on intersectionality with empirical evidence and provides recommendations for its implementation within public institutions.

Keywords: intersectionality, gender mainstreaming, diversity, policy  implementation, discursive policy analysis.