Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Lisa Flores

Second Advisor

Lawrence Frey

Third Advisor

Karma Chávez

Fourth Advisor

David Boromisza-Habashi

Fifth Advisor

Marlia Banning

Abstract

The influences of inclusion and exclusion shape the landscape of the United States in profound ways, contouring the nation’s conditions of belonging to privilege some and to marginalize others. The question of how these instances of belonging and marginalization are discursively constructed served as the foundation of this project. This dissertation engages with the discursivity and materiality of belonging, tracing vernacular contributions to, and experiences with, these constructions.

To address questions about national belonging, I turned to two online social movement groups that had initiated parallel online campaigns to rally for the rights of marginalized individuals. The Center for Community Change initiated the We Are America campaign to collect and showcase voices of migrant individuals, and the Courage Campaign organized and featured the voices of members and/or allies of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender/queer (LGBT/Q) community. Both groups solicited, organized, and curated websites where members of their respective communities could upload videos of themselves speaking about challenges that they have faced as marginalized community members and their desire to belong within dominant U.S. culture. Investing the vernacular narratives of their populations with value, the Courage Campaign and the Center for Community Change bring cultural strangers into conversation with other U.S. national community members, constituting discursive moments for examining contributions that each group makes to understanding of belonging.

As this dissertation argues, discourses of national belonging balance and construct a set of tensions in the United States that give rise to hierarchies of inclusion that shape the cultural landscape, as represented in tensions of (in)visibility, (in)dependence, and (in)valuability. These tensions necessarily engage with U.S. investments in whiteness, heteronormativity, and neoliberalism. By creating and reinforcing a norm for U.S. citizenship that locates the ideal U.S. citizen as being white, reproductively and monogamously heterosexual, and as a valuable laboring body, I argue that neoliberalism works to protect white U.S. Americans and to scapegoat others.