Everyday urban geographies and the negotiation of Central American immigrant identities in Atlanta, Ga, USA
Yarbrough, Robert Alan
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Contemporary immigration remains significant to understanding race, racism, racialization, and race relations in the United States because of its effect on the demographic composition of places at numerous scales. This dissertation links patterns of immigrant settlement and everyday urban geographies with processes of racialization and identity (re)construction through a case study of Central American-born residents of Atlanta, GA, USA. I argue that examining and understanding residential settlement and identity negotiation among these newcomers requires delving into the complex, multiple ways in which race and processes of racialization intersect with place or socio-spatial context. Chapter two focuses on residential settlement outcomes among Central American immigrants in Atlanta, GA using Census 2000 data and a combination of segregation indices, mapping, and modeling techniques. Results suggest that the presence of non-Central American Latinos is a primary driving force behind Central American immigrant residential settlement in metropolitan Atlanta, GA. Chapter three draws on twenty-seven in-depth interviews with Central American immigrants living in Atlanta, GA to examine the process of negotiating a national identity and the pan-ethnic moniker Hispanic/Latino. Results indicate that Central American immigrants in Atlanta generally assume this Hispanic/Latino label and that they understand this identity in racial terms. The engagement with a process of racialized othering, wherein interview participants are socially positioned as similar to (or exactly the same as) Mexican-identified residents, contributes to the assumption of such a pan-ethno racial Hispanic/Latino identity. The final empirical chapter explores the degree to which this pan-ethno racial Hispanic/Latino identity gains salience for Central American immigrants in Atlanta, and the degree to which the expression such an identity shifts across the various socio-spatial contexts (i.e., home, work, worship, play, etc.) that define everyday life. Interview participants’ social interactions and thus the opportunities for the expression of national identities vis-à-vis pan-ethno racial identities (or some other identity) depend in part on socio-spatial context. Place, therefore, plays a significant role in the process of identity negotiation for these Central American-born residents of Atlanta, GA. By examining the ways in which everyday geographies affect individual identities, I hope to draw attention to the inherent instability of contemporary categories of race and ethnicity.