Date of Award

8-21-2008

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Sociology

First Advisor

Charles Gallagher - Chair

Second Advisor

Ralph LaRossa

Third Advisor

Wendy Simonds

Abstract

Research on racial border patrolling has demonstrated how people police racial borders in order to maintain socially constructed differences and reinforce divisions between racial groups and their members. Existing literature on border patrolling has primarily focused on white/black couples and multiracial families, with discussions contrasting “white border patrolling” and “black border patrolling,” in terms of differential motivations, intentions, and goals (Dalmage 2000). In my dissertation research, I examined a different type of policing racial categories and the spaces in-between these shifting boundaries. I offer up “multiracial interracial border patrolling” as a means of understanding how borderism impacts the lives of “multiracial” individuals in “interracial” relationships. In taking a look at how both identities and relationships involve racial negotiations, I conducted 60 in-depth, face-to-face qualitative interviews with people who indicated having racially mixed parentage or heritage. Respondents shared their experiences of publicly and privately managing their sometimes shifting preferred racial identities; often racially ambiguous appearance; and situationally in/visible “interracial” relationships in an era of colorblind racism. This management included encounters with border patrolling from strangers, significant others, and self. Not only did border patrolling originate from these three sources, but also manifested itself in a variety of forms, including benevolent (positive, supportive); beneficiary (socially and sometimes economically or materially beneficial); protective, and malevolent (negative, malicious, conflictive). Throughout, I discussed the border patrolling variations that “multiracial” individuals in “interracial” relationships face. I also worked to show how people’s participation in border patrolling encouraged their production of colorblind discourses as a strategy for masking their racial attitudes and ideologies about “multiracial” individuals in “interracial” relationships.

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