Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology (PhD)
Dismantling Racial Ideology Through Intimacy: A Cross National Investigation of Black/White Interracial Couples
This study compares the assimilation trajectories, identity dynamics and boundary work of French Antilleans, West Africans and their descendants in the Paris region. While previous studies have focused on the experiences of French Antilleans and sub-Saharan Africans separately or those of Blacks in France as a whole, this study engages in a more minute comparison of the experiences of West African immigrants and French Antilleans across two generations in mainland France. This comparison primarily aims to determine the role of the divergent civic, cultural and religious backgrounds of these groups alongside their largely shared racial characteristics in how they assimilate to French society across two generations. These variables are of particular interest given the salience of civic and cultural distinctions in France, while racial distinctions are notoriously downplayed. The main theoretical goal of the study is to assess the usefulness of segmented assimilation theory in accounting for the various assimilation outcomes of these groups.Drawing on 55 in-depth interviews complemented with wide-ranging statistical data, I explore the impact of cultural, religious and racial factors on the intergenerational educational and professional trajectories of both populations, analyze how these factors influence their identification patterns and assess how members of these groups seek to negotiate the various symbolic boundaries that they come up against, both in their relations to each other and to the majority population.The results suggest that French Antilleans have more favourable educational and professional outcomes than West Africans. Despite the importance of racial barriers for both groups, the findings also underscore the salience of cultural and religious forces as well as the identification dynamics and boundary work that both groups engage in. While some segmented assimilation mechanisms remain valid in the French case, the study also demonstrates the importance of empirically identifying societally specific assimilation barriers and cultural segments for the theory to retain its usefulness in other national contexts.
Brazil’s vision of race has been changing. In contrast with its former tendency to avoid static racial identifications and discussions of race, the country is pushing toward clearer racial definitions in order to institute racially targeted programs, such as racial quotas for Non-Whites in public universities. Using in-depth interviews from 19 students who entered university through racial quotas, this paper explores how these students envision fixed categories for themselves, how they deal with these categories in different situations, and what they think the implications of these shifts in racial understanding will be. The study shows that the racial categories proposed in legislation often do not represent the way students see themselves; indeed, they may not feel that racial categorization is something natural to their existence before applying for university. Respondents often feel discomfort dealing with the idea of categorization, as well as with the meaning of each category, and as a result they sometimes appropriate and redefine the categories. They speak of being reminded of their racialized bodies when contrasted or compared with others or their environment, and they demonstrate that race is a very flexible concept in their minds, varying in different situations. As well, their perceptions of race implicate ideas about social class and even personal aesthetics that are easily mutable. In trying to come to terms with the idea of race and how to bound it to something they can understand and grasp, students come to dispute the authenticity of racial claims. These disputes over how someone’s race is authentic may provide a space in which new meanings of race and racial categories can be created.
The assimilation outcomes of second generation youths have been hotly debated amongst scholars (Alba et al. 2011, Haller et al. 2011). While the outcomes are contested, it is undeniable that ethnic organizations play a central role in the second generation’s assimilation trajectory. Zhou and Bankston (1998) suggest that participating in ethnic religious institutions promotes upward assimilation through instilling an ethnic identity onto youths. My research on the greater Seattle area Vietnamese Buddhist youth organizations uncovered similar mechanisms that led to Zhou and Bankston’s overall quantitative findings, but also uncover the importance of resource brokering and networks. Based on 43 in-depth interviews, I find that organization participation promotes upward and downward assimilation, and the friendships formed inside ethnic organizations play a crucial role in assimilation outcomes. My project shows that participation in Buddhist youth groups instills a Vietnamese-American identity on youths and, in turn, this ethnic identity can lead to upward assimilation only if the individual is part of a peer network that promotes normative values. Downward assimilation can be associated with youth group participation if the youths enter peer networks that promote deviant behaviors. These deviant peer networks can supersede the positive effects of the youth organization’s overall influence on the individual.