Complicating Counterspaces: Intersectionality and the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival

Elizabeth A. McConnell, Nathan R. Todd, Charlynn Odahl-Ruan, Mona Shattell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The counterspaces framework articulated by Case and Hunter (2012), follows from community psychology's long-standing interest in the potential for settings to promote well-being and liberatory responses to oppression. This framework proposes that certain settings (i.e., “counterspaces”) facilitate a specific set of processes that promote the well-being of marginalized groups. We argue that an intersectional analysis is crucial to understand whether and how counterspaces achieve these goals. We draw from literature on safe spaces and present a case study of the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival (Michfest) to illustrate the value of an intersectional analysis and explore how these processes operate. Based on 20 in-person interviews, 23 responses to an online survey, and ethnographic field notes, we show how Michfest was characterized by a particular intersection of identities at the setting level, and intersectional diversity complicated experiences at the individual level. Moreover, intersectional identities provided opportunities for dialogue and change at the setting level, including the creation of counterspaces within counterspaces. Overall, we demonstrate the need to attend to intersectionality in counterspaces, and more broadly in how we conceptualize settings in community psychology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)473-488
Number of pages16
JournalAmerican Journal of Community Psychology
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Counterspaces
  • Intersectionality
  • Oppression
  • Safe spaces
  • Settings

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Applied Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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