Using the Master’s Tools to Dismantle the Master’s House: White Women’s Gendered and Racialized Citizenship, Pro-Immigrants’ Rights Advocacy, and White Privilege in the Borderlands

Document
Description

This dissertation examines pro-immigrants' rights activism and advocacy among middle-class White women in and around Phoenix, Arizona, in order to analyze these activists' understandings and enactments of their racialized and

This dissertation examines pro-immigrants' rights activism and advocacy among middle-class White women in and around Phoenix, Arizona, in order to analyze these activists' understandings and enactments of their racialized and gendered citizenship. This project contributes a wealth of qualitative data regarding the operation of race, gender, class, (dis)ability, sexuality, and community in the daily lives and activism of White women pro-immigrants' rights advocates, collected largely through formal and informal interviewing in conjunction with in-depth participant observation. Using a feminist, intersectional analytical lens, and drawing upon critical race studies, Whiteness studies, and citizenship theory, this dissertation ultimately finds that White women face thornily difficult ethical questions about how to wield the rights entailed in their citizenship and their White privilege on behalf of marginalized Latinx non-citizens. This project ultimately argues that the material realities and racial consequences of being a White woman participating in (im)migrants’ rights work in the borderlands means living with the contradiction that one’s specific and intersectionally mediated status as a White woman citizen contributes to and further reifies the gendered system of White supremacy that functions to the direct detriment of the (im)migrants one seeks to assist, while simultaneously endowing one with the advantages and privileges of Whiteness, which together furnish the social capital necessary to challenge that same system of their behalf. The dissertation contends that White women committed to pro-(im)migrants’ rights advocacy and antiracism writ large must reckon with the source of their gendered and racialized citizenship and interrogate to what complicated and unforeseen ends they wield the Master’s tools against the Master’s house. In doing so, the project makes the case that White women's lives, as well as their experiences of citizenship and activism, are inherently and fundamentally intersectional and should be analyzed as such by scholars in Women's and Gender Studies.