Date of Completion


Embargo Period



race, biracial Amerians, multiracial families, social capital, immigration, romance

Major Advisor

Bandana Purkayastha

Associate Advisor

Ronald L. Taylor

Associate Advisor

Davita Silfen Glasberg

Associate Advisor

Marysol Asencio

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


Social science has examined the experiences of the burgeoning bi/multiracial population within the scope of three core areas: racial identity (Funderburg 1994; Kilson 2001; Rockquemore and Brunsma 2008; Renn 2004; Root 1996), social psychological well-being (Bracey et al. 2004; Campbell and Eggerling-Boek 2006; Cheng and Lively 2010; Binning et al. 2009) and family racial socialization (DaCosta 2007; Dalmage 2000; Samuels 2009; Socha and Diggs 1999; Twine 2010). In my dissertation, I shift the theoretical focus from identity and well-being to the conceptual development of how race—embedded with assumptions, understandings and histories—shapes bi/multiracial Americans’ everyday social interactions with white and black Americans. Through 60 in-depth, semi-structured, life story interviews, I found that the majority of my participants reported interacting differently during encounters with whites and blacks or when in predominately white settings versus predominately black settings as a means to establish racial in-group membership. In an effort to analyze these interactional patterns, I offer the concept of “racial capital” to call attention to the repertoire of racial resources (i.e. knowledge, experiences, meaning and language) that biracial Americans draw upon to negotiate racial boundaries in a highly racialized society. While past research on bi/multiracials has created conceptual frameworks for racial identity trends as well as social psychological development, these studies have not systematically considered how everyday interactions unfold, and how bi/multiracials draw upon a unique racialized “tool kit” (Swidler 1986) to work within and around racial boundaries. Furthermore, while racism scholars have discussed the negotiation of racial boundaries for other populations that do not neatly fit into racial categories, such as second generation South Asian Americans (Purkayastha 2005), these processes have not been systematically addressed in the bi/multiracial population. Through the narratives of my respondents, I fill this gap in the literature.