Racial queer : multiracial college students at the intersection of identity, education and agency
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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.