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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

“Because I’m neither Gringa nor Latina, because I am not any one thing”: Children of Colombian and Dominican immigrants negotiating identities within (trans)national social fields
by Upegui-Hernandez, Debora, Ph.D., City University of New York, 2010, 381; 3426937
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation explores how Colombian and Dominican children of immigrants living in New York City negotiate multiple identities, selves, cultures, and histories within transnational social fields. In other words, children of immigrants grow up in the midst of multiple cultures and juggle multiple sets of cultural norms, values, and expectations, their parents’ and those of mainstream ‘American’ culture, while they maintain transnational ties to the home country of their parents. This study contributes to the social psychological literature about Dominican and Colombian children of immigrants by introducing a transnational framework to understand their experiences growing up in-between cultures and borders. A mixed-methods secondary analysis approach was used to analyze a sub-sample of qualitative and quantitative data collected by The Immigrant Second Generation of Metropolitan New York study (1998-2000). The data analyzed include phone surveys with Dominican (393) and Colombian (169) children of immigrants and follow-up in-depth interviews with a sub-sample of Dominican (25) and Colombian (18) respondents. The research moves through levels of analysis, from the individual to the interpersonal, from the social to the structural, and contextualizes the experiences of Dominican and Colombian children of by addressing three questions: (1) what are implications of their immigrant parents’ home country on the negotiation of identities among Colombian and Dominican children of immigrants? (2) to what extent do Colombian and Dominican children of immigrants maintain emotional, social, political, and economic ties to their parents’ home country? and (3) how do gender, race, and social class shape their life experiences in the United States?

The analysis demonstrates that Colombian and Dominican children of immigrants had parallel psychological experiences of living among multiple cultures, maintaining transnational ties with family and friends in their parents’ home countries, and shared similar identity negotiation strategies that challenge reified notions of ethnic/racial/national identity and identity labels. Transnational ties and involvement among respondents were anchored in family relationships. Having family in their parents’ home country was the best predictor of transnational ties and involvement. However, their experiences and interaction with social structures marked by differences in skin color, class, and particular immigration histories channeled Colombian and Dominican children of immigrants into different life trajectories that reproduce racial and social class inequalities. Apparent ethnic and cultural differences disappeared in the face of socio-economic and racial structures designed to produce the appearance of cultural differences. Structural conditions such as quality of neighborhood, quality of schools, owning a home, skin color, and parents’ cultural capital were more important predictors of variance in educational achievement among respondents than the experiences of juggling multiple cultures and being children of immigrants. Marriage and having children was found to be an important context for renegotiating racial hierarchies and revisiting/cementing transnational ties to one’s culture and parents’ home country. Finally Cuban ethnologist Fernando Ortíz’ concept of ‘transculturation’ (1940) is offered as the basis for a new approach to the study of immigration, cultural contact and change that assumes a less fearful attitude and help us find ways to create inclusion and connection rather than exclusion, othering, and labeling.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Fine, Michelle
Commitee: Ayala, Jennifer, Deaux, Kay, Kasinitz, Philip, Winkel, Gary
School: City University of New York
Department: Psychology
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-B 71/11, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Social psychology, Latin American Studies, Ethnic studies
Keywords: Children of immigrants, Latin American immigrants, Mixed methods, Multiple identities, Transnational social fields, Transnational ties
Publication Number: 3426937
ISBN: 978-1-124-29362-2
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