Operationalizing Microaggressions: Definitions, Conceptualization and Typologies

Sean McCallaghan, Renier Steyn


Microaggressions are a form of subtle everyday discrimination. Originally proposed in the 1970s, the concept of microaggressions has received increasing attention, particularly in the current cultural focus on social justice. However, recent research has presented a challenge, as several authors have redefined microaggressions and proposed various conceptual frameworks and typologies based on the context of the deed. In this study, a systematic literature review of mainstream definitions, typologies and conceptual features of microaggressions was conducted to consolidate these frameworks. In total 108 research items were found; after screening, 39 research items were included in the review. The main findings suggest that microaggressions are a real form of subtle everyday discrimination, often committed unknowingly by the aggressor. They can take the form of microinsults, microassaults and microinvalidation. While many of the typologies in the research are linked to the minority status of the victim, all microaggression conceptualizations share a distinct but linked set of actions and reactions. The study concludes that there is a need to reconsider the context-specific use of microaggression conceptualizations.  In addition, future research should attempt to work within a universal conceptual framework that can be applied across target groups and environments. This will contribute to the development of a larger and more credible body of knowledge, as research findings can then be conceptually linked, opening up possibilities for meta-analyses. Overall, this research provides a summative and inclusive definition and central typology for microaggressions, which will aid in conceptualization and assessment in various contexts.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5296/jsss.v11i1.21954


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Journal of Social Science Studies ISSN 2329-9150

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