Anti-Subordination Theory - Definition and Explanation - The Oxford Review - OR Briefings

Anti-Subordination Theory – Definition and Explanation

Understanding Anti-Subordination Theory: Promoting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

In the realm of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), Anti-Subordination Theory emerges as a crucial framework aimed at dismantling systems of oppression and fostering a more equitable society. This theory delves deep into the roots of inequality, focusing on addressing power imbalances and advocating for the rights of marginalised communities.


Anti-Subordination Theory, also known as Subordination Theory or Anti-Oppression Theory, is a conceptual framework within critical legal studies and social justice movements. It centres on challenging structures and practices that perpetuate oppression, discrimination, and inequality based on various social identities such as race, gender, sexuality, class, disability, and more.

Key Components:

  1. Recognition of Power Dynamics: Anti-Subordination Theory acknowledges the unequal distribution of power in society and highlights how dominant groups maintain control over marginalised groups through systemic discrimination and prejudice.
  2. Intersectionality: It recognises that individuals hold multiple social identities that intersect and interact to shape their experiences of privilege and oppression. For instance, a black woman may face unique forms of discrimination that stem from the intersection of racism and sexism.
  3. Structural Analysis: This theory emphasises analysing societal structures, institutions, and laws to identify and challenge the mechanisms that perpetuate subordination and inequality.
  4. Empowerment and Liberation: Anti-Subordination Theory aims to empower marginalised groups by amplifying their voices, advocating for their rights, and working towards collective liberation from oppressive systems.


Consider the case of workplace discrimination faced by transgender individuals. Despite legal protections in some jurisdictions, transgender individuals often encounter barriers to employment, face harassment, and experience unequal treatment in the workplace due to their gender identity.

Anti-Subordination Theory would approach this issue by:

  • Recognising Power Dynamics: Acknowledging that cisgender individuals hold privilege over transgender individuals in society and within the workplace.
  • Intersectionality: Recognising that transgender individuals may face compounded discrimination based on intersecting identities such as race, disability, or socioeconomic status.
  • Structural Analysis: Examining workplace policies, practices, and cultural norms that perpetuate discrimination against transgender employees, and advocating for systemic changes to promote inclusion and equity.
  • Empowerment and Liberation: Supporting transgender advocacy groups, promoting inclusive workplace policies, and fostering a culture of respect and acceptance to empower transgender individuals and advance their rights in the workplace.


Anti-Subordination Theory serves as a powerful tool in the pursuit of social justice and equity. By addressing the root causes of oppression and advocating for the rights of marginalised groups, this framework contributes to building a more inclusive and just society for all.

For organisations and individuals committed to DEI initiatives, understanding and applying Anti-Subordination Theory can pave the way for meaningful change and progress towards a world free from discrimination and inequality.

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