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Migrating Identities: A Study of Afro-Mexican Racial Identification Within and Across National Borders

posted on 01.05.2021, 00:00 by Roberto Rincon
This dissertation, titled Migrating Identities: A Study of Afro-Mexican Racial Identification Within and Across National Borders investigates the processes by which Afro-Mexicans from the Costa Chica region make sense of Blackness and their racial identification. Employing a multi-sited qualitative methods research design, Migrating Identities examines the shifting meanings of Blackness, identity and the political demands associated with race, as Afro-Mexicans migrate within Mexico and to the United States. While Afro-Latin American Studies has witnessed a surge of exciting works on identity, culture and African ancestry in Mexico over the last four decades, the emphasis on culture and elite-driven mestizaje ideology has caused many studies to overlook the impact of transborder migration on Afro-Mexican communities. I argue that the construction of racial meanings regarding Blackness is not solely contingent on the limits of the nation-space nor on the notion of invisibility, but rather, racial meanings change depending on the geographical, legal and cultural contexts that people inhabit. I find that experiences of structural and interpersonal racial discrimination in Mexico creates a sense of double consciousness among Afro-Mexicans that leads them to affirm a stronger black identification and interpret Blackness as a key and salient factor affecting their quality of life in their home country. However, the precarity of illegality and experiences of vibrant anti-Mexican discrimination in the United States on the other hand, creates a sense of racial ambivalence among Afro- Mexican immigrants that takes the form of a simultaneous movement toward and away from Blackness. Although Blackness is interpreted as proving a practical benefit in the US that at times can help black Mexicans go unnoticed and evade anti-Mexican discrimination, it is nonetheless not seen as a salient factor determining their quality of life in their host country. Studying racialization and its effects within and across national borders provides a more nuanced analysis of how racial formation and political subjectivity are rooted in the various ways that people negotiate the relationship between race, citizenship, cultural difference and nationality while living under conditions of marginality and extensive migration within and outside the nation.



Pallares, Amalia


Pallares, Amalia


Political Science

Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level


Degree name

PhD, Doctor of Philosophy

Committee Member

Torres, Maria de los Angeles Engelmann, Stephen Moruzzi, Norma Jones, Jennifer

Submitted date

May 2021

Thesis type




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