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"Almost like a constant tug of war": Exploring discursive negotiations of identity frames, identity gaps, and critical incidents experienced by multiethnic/racial individuals

Audra K Nuru, University of Nebraska - Lincoln

Abstract

This dissertation examines how the intersections of ethnic and racial identities are negotiated through social interactions in families, communities and in larger society. The population of individuals with parents from different ethnic or racial backgrounds has grown considerably in the U.S. during recent decades, reaching over 9 million in 2010, and is projected to continue growing exponentially. I argue that individuals from multiple ethnic/racial heritages encounter unique experiences in our wider monoethnic cultural environment that differ from those experienced by monoethnic/racial individuals. In consideration of these distinct encounters, I used reports of critical incidents experienced by multiethnic/racial individuals to qualitatively analyze recalled interactions that were perceived by participants to have led to marked understandings of self in terms of their ethnicity/race. ^ Data consisted of 43 in-depth interviews with individuals descending from two or more ethnic/racial backgrounds, of which at least one had to be non-European. Using the Communication Theory of Identity, 11 manifestations of multiethnic/racial identities were explored across four conceptual frames. Moreover, three specific identity gaps were identified (personal-enacted, personal-enacted-relational, and personal-enacted-communal) and four discursive strategies (acquiescence, circumvention, passing, and dismissal) used to negotiate identity gaps were explored. Finally, participant reports indicated five supra-types of critical incidents that informed processes of meaning-making across five discernible stages of development. As a result of this research, I offer the first conceptual model of multiethnic/racial development that places communication as a central component. Findings from the present study provide insight into the ways in which multiethnic/racial identities emerge, shift, and are revised through communication with others. Specifically, findings draw attention to how discourse functions to define and construct multiethnic/racial identities, and how multiethnic/racial individuals negotiate meanings of selves from salient social interactions.^

Subject Area

Speech Communication|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies|Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies

Recommended Citation

Nuru, Audra K, ""Almost like a constant tug of war": Exploring discursive negotiations of identity frames, identity gaps, and critical incidents experienced by multiethnic/racial individuals" (2014). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3637689.
http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/dissertations/AAI3637689

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