Date of Award

August 2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Anjana Mudambi

Committee Members

Sarah Riforgiate, Lia Wolock


autoethnography, browning, critical, deportation, Mexicanness, mixed-race


With an estimated 4.5 million U.S. citizen children live in families in which one or both parents are undocumented (Pew Hispanic Research Center, 2013, as cited in Gulbas & Zayas 2017), and with apprehensions (arrests) and deportations tripling within five years from 2002 to 2007 (Passel et al., 2020), there is an entire generation of people like myself whose parent(s) have been detained and deported. I use my story of witnessing my dad’s detention and deportation as a central narrative of how I perform my mixed-race identity. To further explore this phenomenon, I used my own experience through critical autoethnographic research to examine the role of browning in my white-passing, mixed-race Mexican identity. In this project, I reflected upon three different experiences in my life where browning was manifested. I discuss browning as marking those outside of citizenship normativity and belonging as threats and browning is not inherently tied to or constituted within the brown body; it is a discursive process that conveys a sense of national insecurity when norms of citizenships are challenged (Lugo-Lugo & Bloodsworth-Lugo, 2010; Mudambi, 2015 ). In other words, browning happens in spaces where white citizenship is dominant and centered. The browning of my identity with my family was exemplified through social interactions living in rural Wisconsin as well as through witnessing discourses about “illegal” immigration on news media, which were influences that led to the browning of my identity. Through this critical autoethnographic study, I contribute to the notion of browning within communication by showing the fluidity of this racialization and that it is not always necessarily connected to a brown body. The external browning labeled me as an outside threat to citizenship, which then influenced my internalized browning of identity, meaning I was starting to associate my own Otherness as “illegal.” I also discussed how the disclosure of my dad’s deportation resulted in my browning, which made me even more insecure about how and to whom I disclose this deportation to. I further internalized this browning by rejecting certain cultural characteristics in my public identity performance. By assimilating to whiteness, I protected myself from the browning of my identity in public spaces and exploited my privilege of whiteness. In the following analysis, I embodied the experience of negotiating between my racial identities while living in rural Wisconsin.

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