Racial Queer: Multiracial College Students at the Intersection of Identity, Education and Agency

Racial Queer: Multiracial College Students at the Intersection of Identity, Education and Agency

University of Texas, Austin
May 2010
495 pages

Aurora Chang-Ross

A Dissertation Presented to the Faculty of the Graduate School of The University of Texas a Austin in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy The University of Texas at Austin

Racial Queer is a qualitative study of Multiracial college students with a critical ethnographic component. The design methods, grounded in Critical Race Methodology and Feminist Thought (both theories that inform Critical Ethnography), include: 1) 25 semi-structured interviews of Multiracial students, 2) of which 5 were expanded into case studies, 3) 3 focus groups, 4) observations of the sole registered student organization for Multiracial students on Central University’s campus, 5) field notes and 6) document analysis. The dissertation examines the following question: How do Multiracial students understand and experience their racialized identities within a large, public, tier-one research university in Texas? In addition, it addresses the following sub-questions: How do Multiracial students experience their racialized identities in their everyday interactions with others, in relation to their own self-perceptions and in response to the way others perceive them to be? How do Multiracial students’ positionalities, as they relate to power, privilege, phenotype and status, guide their behavior in different contexts and situations?

Using Holland et al.’s (1998) social practice theory of self and identity, Chicana Feminist Theory, and tenets of Queer Theory, this study illustrates how Multiracial college students utilize agency as racial queers to construct and negotiate their identities within a context where identity is both self-constructed and produced for them. I introduce the term, racial queer, to frame the unconventional space of the Multiracial individual. I use this term not to convey sexuality, but to convey the parallels of queerness (both as a term of empowerment and derogation) as they pertain to being Multiracial. In other words, queerness denotes a unique individuality as well as a deviation from the norm (Sullivan, 2003; Warner, 1993; Gamson, 2000).

The primary purpose of this study is to illustrate the agentic ways in which Multiracial college students come to understand and experience the complexity of their racialized identity production. Preliminary findings suggest the need to expand the scope of racial discourses to include Multiracial experiences and for further study of Multiracial students. Their counter-narratives access an otherwise invisible student population, providing an opportunity to broaden critical discourses around education and race.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One: Introduction
    • An Autobiographical Preface
    • Overview of Study
    • Research Question
    • Importance of the Topic
    • Outline of Study
  • Chapter Two: Literature Review
    • Introduction
    • Critical Race Theory and the Social Construction/Lived Experience of Race
    • The Multiracial Population – The Census: “Check One or More”
    • Historical Origins of Multiraciality in the United States.
    • Multiracials as Underrepresented Group – One Step Forward or Backward?
    • Racial Identity Development Theories and Models – An Overview
    • Multiracial College Students
    • Student Development Theory & Campus Climate
    • Education and Multiracial Students
    • Conceptual Framework
      • Introduction
      • Social Practice Theory of Self and Identity
      • Chicana Feminist Theory
      • Tenets of Queer Theory
      • Racial Queer
  • Chapter Three: Methodology
    • Reflections of a Multiracial Researcher
    • Genealogy of Methodology
    • Research Overview
    • Why Qualitative Research?
    • Setting
    • Participants
    • Selection Criteria
    • Counter Storytelling
    • Methods Rooted in Feminist Thought
    • Observations
    • Field Notes
    • Interviews
    • Case Studies
    • Focus Groups
    • Data Management and Analysis
    • Researcher’s Positionality
    • Making Sense of Methods
  • Chapter Four: Portraits of Racial Queers
    • Introduction to Participant Narratives
    • Participant Narratives
      • Dee-Dee
      • Solomon
      • May
      • Jonathan
      • Melissa
      • Conclusion
  • Chapter Five: Themes – Understanding and Experiencing Multiracial
    • Identity
    • Introduction
    • Racial Rubric – “I don’t have a racial rubric to follow.”
    • Racial Disclosure – “I couldn’t be passive about it. And I just told this girl, No! I am Hispanic!”
    • Identity Fusion – “There’s little way of being able to separate all of those identities out.”
    • Multiracial Entitlement–“ I felt more entitled to the [Multiracial] label.”
    • Development of Portraits/Narratives
    • Discussion
    • Agency
    • Culturally Responsive Teaching and Hidden Curriculum
    • Conclusion
  • Chapter Six: Multiracial Students in the Daily Practice of Schooling
    • Introduction
    • Learning the meaning of race at school
    • General Findings
      • Identity
      • Findings Specific to Multiracial Identity
      • The Politics of racial identification terminology
      • Negotiating and Strategizing – Racial Identity and Relationships
      • Phenotype Matters
      • Collective Experiences – Multiracials as Community
      • Skills, Intuition and Perspective – Lessons in Constructing Multiracial Identity
      • Implications and Significance
      • Expansion of Racial Discourses-Challenging Racial
      • Inclusivity
      • Rethinking and Reevaluating of Educational Public Policies
    • Final Thoughts
    • Reflections of a Native Researcher
    • Recommendations for Future Research
    • Lessons Learned
  • Appendix
    • -A Brief Genealogy
    • -Email to Participants
    • -Interview Questions and Prompts
    • -Informed Consent to Participate In Research
  • References
  • Vita

Read the entire dissertation here.

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