Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2015

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

Ethnic Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Bianca Williams

Second Advisor

Dr. Arturo Aldama

Third Advisor

Cecilia Valenzuela

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Terrenda White

Abstract

With debates on immigration occurring around the world, debates in the United States regarding race and racism surrounding police brutality, and discussions on the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia, it has become even more pertinent to understand each others backgrounds, surroundings and identities. This paper uses the sociocultural identities of African immigrant women in the United States (US) to try to understand immigration, race, racism, gender, sexism, nationality, and ethnicity in relation to transnational leadership and feminism; all of which can be examined through the identities and experiences of African women in the US.This experiential analysis uses theories on identity development among immigrant students, on transnational feminism, and servant leadership to understand a population that is under studied and a population whose identities, due to the racialized history of the United States, are broadly categorized as Black and/or African American. While race is an important social construct that shapes opportunity and life chances in the U.S, these categories tell us little about the varied ethnic identities within racial groups, which often go unrecognized and misrecognized in research surrounding the role of culture and identity in educational institutions. To critically examine these varied ethnic identities, seven African immigrant women, whom pseudonyms are used for, narrated their experiences in the US educational system. With their intersectional self-defined identities, they described ambitions to work abroad with their immigrant group or countries of origin, and discussed struggles in terms of their nationality, race, ethnicity and gender within the US context. Based on common themes that emerged across their narrations, findings indicate that the narrators perceived their intersecting identities and experiences as different from their African American peers in important ways.These differences include having transnational perspectives and understandings of the systems of oppression that exist within and outside US society. Consequently, from their experiences of being outsiders within, African immigrant women are able to self-define, develop transnational perspectives, and have agency.