Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Anthropology



First Committee Member

Jiemin Bao, Chair

Second Committee Member

Heidi Swank

Third Committee Member

Melvin Miranda

Fourth Committee Member

Deborah Boehm

Graduate Faculty Representative

Robert Parker

Number of Pages



This thesis looks at the bordered identities of middle class second generation Mexican Americans in Las Vegas, Nevada. Through an analysis of the borderlands or gray spaces that occur at the intersections of class practices, transnational relationships and ethnic identities, participants’ bordered identities were found to be reinforced, contested, and generally negotiated. Participants’ identities are flexible; their expressed identities change in relation to context or situation. In the United States, Mexicans and Latinos more generally have been subjected to racial and ethnic oppression since the Mexican American war ended in 1848.This long history of discrimination has maintained perceptions that all Mexicans are lower/working class. Furthermore, the relationship between Mexico and the United States has led those in Mexico to perceive Mexicans in the United States as privileged. Many also see Mexicans in or from the United States as having an elevated status. Therefore, depending upon which context or location participants are in, their class identities are perceived differently. Ethnic identities are also seen differently depending upon context. When participants are in the United States, they are seen as Mexican, Mexican American or Latino but excluded from simply using the term American. They are questioned about theirlegal status, assumed to be immigrants, and perceived as lower/working class. In contrast, when in Mexico, participants are not able to identify solely as Mexican. They are told they are American because they bring with them cultural customs from the United States, as well as privileges from being born there. Through middle class practices of higher education and transnational travel, participants come into these borderlands where their identities are reinforced, contested, and negotiated. Participants are not passive recipients of identity labels. However, common perceptions of who they can or cannot be influence how they assert their bordered identities.


Children of immigrants; Identity (Psychology); Mexican Americans; Middle classes; Race discrimination; Second generation; Social status; Transnational


Race and Ethnicity | Social and Cultural Anthropology

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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