Doctoral Dissertation Research/Winders: Latino (Im)migration to the Upper South

Grants and Contracts Details


This research analyzes a new chapter in understandings of race and ethnicity in the US South, through an examination of Hispanic migration to Nashville, Tennessee, and Lexington, Kentucky. These are two mid-size southern cities that have experienced rapid Hispanic population increases in the last decade and dramatic changes in the local labor force's racial and ethnic composition. Although many US regions are experiencing Hispanic migration, this growth has particularly strong implications in the US South, where historically, a black-white racial binary has organized social, economic, and political interactions and large-scale voluntary in-migration has not been common. To investigate these implications, this study proceeds through two phases that together provide a broad overview of Hispanic migration to each city and more detailed case studies of this migration. First, it examines how Hispanic migration to Lexington and Nashville has developed and how Hispanics are entering local labor markets through sectors such as construction and agriculture. These initial research questions will be answered through content analyses of each city's major newspapers and public documents on Hispanic communities, analyses of recent census data, and interviews with spokespersons of local immigrant service providers. Second, the research shifts scales to local worksites that have recently become dependent on Hispanic labor. In case studies of these worksites, it addresses how the growing number of Hispanics at Lexington and Nashville worksites is affecting workplace practices and social relations. This research question will be addressed through participant observation and interviews with Hispanic workers and their non-Hispanic co-workers and supervisors concerning daily workplace practices and social interactions. The project will use data from these interviews to investigate how ethnicity and race differentiate workplace experiences for workers and supervisors and what workplace changes the increase in Hispanic labor has necessitated. Workplace comparisons will be made both within and between Nashville and Lexington, to assess the impacts of factors, such as worksite gender and ethnic integration and each city's broader management of Hispanic migration, on social interactions between and among workers and supervisors. This study will make three theoretical contributions to geographical scholarship through these case studies. First, in a national context, it will provide a point of comparison for broader immigration research organized in a bi-coastal pattern that privileges large gateway cities and, thus, will reflect the changing geographies of Hispanic migration to and within the US. Second, the study will examine changes in racial identities and race relations within the US South outside the racial dualism that has long dominated such studies and at the very onset of Hispanic migration to the region. Finally, through detailed case studies of racial and ethnic interactions at Lexington and Nashville workplaces, the research will add a qualitative richness to studies of immigration to the US upper South, a part of the United States off the maps of most immigration studies but clearly visible to more and more Hispanic men and women. In addition to these theoretical contributions, this research will have broader societal impacts, particularly within Kentucky and Tennessee. It has created opportunities for collaborations, such as joint survey initiatives and database sharing, with various immigrant-service organizations. These and other partnerships will allow much broader dissemination of results, through avenues including public presentations and progress reports within each city. In this way, the Hispanic communities on which the research is based and the groups that work with them will benefit from the research in which they participated. As a Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement award, this award also will provide support to enable a promising student to establish a strong independent research career.
Effective start/end date4/1/039/30/05


  • National Science Foundation: $8,556.00


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