Award Date

12-2010

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Anthropology

Department

Anthropology

First Committee Member

Jiemin Bao, Chair

Second Committee Member

Heidi Swank

Third Committee Member

Daniel Benyshek

Graduate Faculty Representative

Anthony Ferri

Number of Pages

321

Abstract

Conventional terminology and conventional boundaries, in regard to ethnicity, are no longer applicable to the ever shifting population of the United States. In specific, the various degrees of White ethnic identity does not easily transition into convenient all encompassing categories such as Caucasian or more simply, White. Whiteness studies have been at the forefront of this critique, most recently asserting that White ethnic identity is heavily influenced by context. However, although many studies are now recognizing the impact of multiple layers of White ethnic identity (along the lines of gender, locale, socioeconomic level etc.) many still neglect to identify a divide amongst White ethnic groups in terms of skin color and other physical attributes. Michel Foucault’s biopower construct establishes an intricate means for which to discern differences not only amongst, but within White ethnic groups, such as Italian Americans. I examine White ethnicity among Las Vegas Italian Americans to demonstrate that there are ways in which White ethnic groups differentiate themselves by physical attributes in relation to ethnicity (anatomo-politics) as well as how class differences are also marked within the physical realm. Data collection consists of interviews, cultural domain analysis, participant observation and surveys in order to address the element of selfdefinition or agency within the research population. In order to situate the structural elements (bio-politics) my study requires an in depth examination and critique of the United States Census categories, a structural element that imposes the racial categories of White and Caucasian onto the population. I also explore, through interviews and cultural domain analysis, the disparity between Northern/Southern Italian and Italian American culture, and how this divide is manifest within the physical realm. The contribution to anthropological inquiry this study provides is to devise an alternate means to explore the meaning behind the state constructs evident in such simplistically derived categories of Caucasian or White.

Keywords

Ethnic identity; Ethnicity; Italian Americans; Nevada – Las Vegas; Social classes; Whiteness studies; Whites — Race identity – Study and teaching

Disciplines

American Studies | Ethnic Studies | Social and Cultural Anthropology

Language

English


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