Toward an Intersectional Understanding of Process Causality and Social Context

Gary L. Anderson, Janelle Scott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Maxwell and Donmoyer both argue in this issue of Qualitative Inquiry that narrow definitions of causality in educational research tend to disqualify qualitative research from influence (and funding) among policy makers. They propose a process view of causality that would allow qualitative researchers to make causal claims more grounded in the thick description of practice settings. In this article, we build on this notion of process causality, but further argue that unless we also broaden traditional notions of context in qualitative research, we will continue to seek policy solutions primarily at individual, local institutional, and cultural levels. Although qualitative researchers have made progress in acknowledging the intersectionality of race, class, and gender at the cultural level, this intersectionality seldom extends to macro level structures and forces, in part because current notions of causality make such links difficult at low levels of inference. Borrowing on Donmoyer's notion of preponderance of evidence, we suggest a way to use process causality as a scaffolding for multilevel analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)674-685
Number of pages12
JournalQualitative Inquiry
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 2012


  • Intersectionality
  • causality
  • critical ethnography
  • social context

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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