Selected Articles

Who Is an Indian Child?  Institutional Context, Tribal Sovereignty, and Race-Making in Fragmented States 
American Sociological Review - Published Article

Despite growing interest in state race-making, we know little about how race-making plays out in the everyday practice of policy governance. To address this gap, I examine the implementation of the Indian Child Welfare Act (1978), which sought to end generations of state policies that denied tribal sovereignty and forcibly removed Native children from their tribes. ICWA’s protections extend to children based on tribal citizenship, not racial status. Marshalling 40 years of archival data from the government agencies charged with ICWA enforcement, I analyze how ICWA implementers determine a child’s Indian status. I find that authorities routinely eschew the requirement to treat Indian as a citizenship category, re-defining it as a race. Yet whether and how state actors racialize Indianness varies by the institutional contexts in which they work. Comparing state child welfare agencies, state courts, and federal courts, I identify three institutional characteristics that organize race-making practices: evidentiary standards, record-keeping requirements, and incentive structures. These characteristics influence whether state decision-makers operationalize “Indian” as a racial category and the cognitive and ideological processes that undergird their classifications. I also demonstrate that changes in these institutional characteristics yield concomitant shifts in whether and how state agents engage in racialization.

The Effects of the Body on Immigrant Incorporation:  Identity, Mobility, and Transnationalism
Social Problems  - Published Article, Open Access

This article integrates insights from the sociology of the body and the sociology of immigration to examine the role of the body in the immigrant incorporation process. Drawing on three years of participant observation in a West African immigrant community, I show how immigrants from a predominantly agrarian society must adapt and retrain their bodies, often under great pressure, to meet the demands of American social institutions. Immigrants’ ability to move their bodies in socially prescribed ways affects three crucial aspects of the incorporation process: identity formation, economic mobility, and transnational practices. Immigrants who struggle to execute the host society’s normative bodily movements (1) interpret their bodily challenges as evidence of their outsider identity, (2) struggle to acquire the material resources necessary to achieve more traditionally studied forms of economic incorporation, and (3) face limitations in their ability to maintain transnational networks even as those networks play an increasingly important social role in the face of their blocked mobility. These findings indicate that bodily incorporation is a critical precursor to full incorporation into the host society.

*Winner, American Sociological Association Body and Embodiment Best Article Award

American Federalism and Racial Formation in Contemporary Immigration Policy: A Processual Analysis of Alabama’s HB56
Ethnic and Racial Studies (with Jennifer Jones) Published Article, Open Access

Racialization scholarship identifies the state as a primary site of racial formation. Most of this research envisions the state as a uniform entity, with race-making occurring at a single level of political action. Analysing Latino racialization in immigration debates in Alabama, we argue that state-driven racialization occurs at multiple levels of governance. Although Alabama’s 2011 HB56 is widely recognized as state-enforced Latino racialization, we find that the bill resulted from mutually reinforcing racialization practices and policies that played out at multiple levels of immigration governance. These findings not only present a revisionist history of HB56, they suggest that any account of states and racialization requires a nuanced and complex understanding of the state, its institutional structure, and its operations. Individual state institutions may do different work as race makers, but race-making efforts by federal, state, and local actors interact to produce both racialized subjects and racial hierarchies.

*Honorable Mention, American Sociological Association Latino/a Sociology Best Article Award

Rethinking Panethnicity and the Race-Immigration Divide:  An Ethno-Racialization Model of Group Formation
Sociology of Race and Ethnicity (with Jennifer Jones) - Published Article

Although demographic shifts continue to spark interest in the racially transformative effects of immigration, researchers routinely lament the lack of dialogue between race and immigration scholarship. We use recent research on panethnicity to illustrate the conceptual divides that exist between the two subfields. Panethnicity research has shed new light on the formation of group identities and political mobilization, but we contend that it is problematically divorced from research on racialization. Panethnicity scholars largely view racialization and panethnic group formation as separate processes, with the latter sequentially following the former. In this article, we argue that this analytical distinction both reflects and reifies the divide between race and immigration research and yields an incomplete understanding of the group formation process. We propose an ethnoracialization model to show how the concept of panethnicity can be reconfigured to develop a robust account of group formation and to bridge the much-lamented divide between race and immigration research.

Racialized Conflicts and Policy Spillover Effects: The Role of Race in the Contemporary U.S. Welfare State
American Journal of Sociology - Published Article, Open Access, Methodological Appendix

This article introduces a racialized conflict theory to explain how racial divisions structure welfare state development in the absence of de jure discrimination. The author explains the effect of racial divisions on policy outcomes as the result of the attitudinal, cultural, and political spillover effects of prevailing conflicts in a social field. Using a paired-case comparison and analysis of multiple data sources, the author applies this theory to analyze Georgias and Alabamas surprisingly divergent welfare reforms in the 1990s. Results support the racialized conflict theory and suggest important revisions to prevailing theories about the sociopolitical effects of contemporary racial divides. 

*Winner, American Sociological Association Political Sociology Best Article Award

Race, Legality and the Social Policy Consequences of Anti-Immigration Mobilization
American Sociological Review - Published Article, Open Access, Supplemental Materials

With the dramatic rise in the U.S. Hispanic population, scholars have struggled to explain how race affects welfare state development beyond the Black-White divide. This article uses a comparative analysis of welfare reforms in California and Arizona to examine how anti-Hispanic stereotypes affect social policy formation. Drawing on interviews, archival materials, and newspaper content analysis, I find that animus toward Hispanics is mobilized through two collective action frames: a legality frame and a racial frame. The legality frame lauds the contributions of documented noncitizens while demonizing illegal immigrants. The racial frame celebrates the moral worth of White citizens and uses explicit racial language to deride Hispanics as undeserving. These subtle differences in racialization and worth attribution create divergent political opportunities for welfare policy. When advocates employ the legality frame, they create openings for rights claims by documented noncitizens. Use of the racial frame, however, dampens cross-racial mobilization and effective claims-making for expansive welfare policies. These findings help to explain why the relationship between race and welfare policy is less predictable for Hispanics than for Blacks. They also reveal surprising ways in which race and immigration affect contemporary politics and political mobilization.

*Winner, American Sociological Association International Migration Section Louis Wirth Outstanding Article Award

Refugees, Rights, and Race: How Legal Status Shapes Immigrants' Relationship with the State
Social Problems - Published Article, Open Access

Drawing on three years of participant observation in a Liberian immigrant community, this article examines the role of legal refugee status in immigrants’ daily encounters with the state. Using the literature on immigrant incorporation, claims making, and citizenship, it argues that refugee status profoundly shapes individuals’ views and expectations of their host government as well as their interactions with the medical, educational, and social service institutions they encounter. The refugees in this study use their refugee status to make claims for legal and social citizenship and to distance themselves from native-born blacks. In doing so, they validate their own position vis-à-vis the state and in the American ethno-racial hierarchy. The findings presented demonstrate how refugee status operates as a symbolic and interpretive resource used to negotiate the structural realities of the welfare state and American race relations. These results stress the importance of studying immigrant incorporation from a micro perspective and suggest mechanisms for the adaptational advantages for refugees reported in existing research.

*Spotlighted in Contexts

Contact Information:

Hana Brown
Associate Professor
Department of Sociology
Wake Forest University


04D Kirby Hall
(336) 758-3540

Mailing Address:
Department of Sociology
1834 Wake Forest Rd.
PO Box 7808
Winston-Salem, NC