Era[c]ing diversity: A critical rhetorical approach to race and the new citizen

Theresa Louise Donovan, University of Texas at El Paso


Era[c]ing Diversity is guided by a broad question of inquiry regarding the formation and reformation of subjectivity through the filling out of “blank” forms such as the application for naturalization. This dissertation examines how the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service uses and distributes race, and how subjects participate in the social reproduction of the dominant ideology to create a society where individuals think: I am White; He/she is Black, or Asian, or Native American etc. Era[c]ing Diversity examines how the N-400 constructs the new citizen and the ways that permanent legal residents of Mexican origin disrupt or reify this construct. Specifically, Era[c]ing Diversity argues that the application for naturalization provides for a restrictive view of race in the United States, and that the design of the Form N-400 and the ethno-racial questions within it persuade applicants (immigrants from Mexico) to identify as White even if they have never done so previously. This investigation strives to understand the link between discourse and society and employs a critical rhetorical approach that integrates the three levels of social organization: macro, meso, and micro. This three-part research project consists of an analysis of the historically situated racial projects (Omi and Winant) that have transformed the racial categories on the application for naturalization in the past century, a “textual” analysis of the current application for naturalization using theories of visual rhetoric and ethnographic-oriented methods (non-participant observation, questionnaires, and video interviews) to understand how permanent legal residents of Mexican ancestry negotiate the application with a focus on the racial construction of the “new” U.S. citizen in this process. Finally, Era[c]ing Diversity considers the implications of race as presented by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service and the effects of the participation and negotiation of the social reproduction of this racial discourse by this community in U.S. society.

Subject Area

Ethnic studies|Rhetoric

Recommended Citation

Donovan, Theresa Louise, "Era[c]ing diversity: A critical rhetorical approach to race and the new citizen" (2011). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI3457750.