Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Latin American, Iberian and Latino Cultures


Cecelia Cutler

Committee Members

José del Valle

Miki Makihara

Subject Categories

African American Studies | Bilingual, Multilingual, and Multicultural Education | Language and Literacy Education | Latina/o Studies | Modern Languages | Spanish Linguistics


African-American, Spanish, ethnicity, transracial, race, language


Transracialization is not a biological term connoting the change of one’s skin tone to become a member of a different race. Its definition has its roots in racialization—the ideological process that describes how one assembles ideas about groups based on their race and decides, for example, what a ‘Black’ person is and how ‘Black’ people speak. Thus, transracialization is a linguistic term that describes the political and sociocultural act of recontextualizing one’s phenotype with the use of language, and in so doing, upending the observers’ stereotypical expectations of who one is (Alim 2016). This dissertation deals with how Spanish influences and transforms the identity of minoritized groups like African-Americans in the U.S. context. I define the term ‘Afro-Americano’ as a/an Black/African-American who has lived a Hispanic/Latinx experience in the United States, most notably demonstrated by a proficiency in the Spanish language and affiliation and/or participation in the cultural practices of one or more Hispanic/Latinx cultures. This study interviewed and analyzed African-Americans (in both multi ethnic urban communities as well as on social media platforms like YouTube) who are modifying definitive racial labels and boundaries by becoming pedagogues of Spanish, speaking the language in their homes, communities, schools and jobs. The main questions that the project seeks to answer are; 1. How do daily interactions in conversational Spanish shape the lives of African-Americans? 2. How do these speakers perceive themselves in relation to Hispanics and other African-Americans and vice-versa? 3. Do Afro-Americanos consciously use their Black bodies in service of a transraced identity and if so, how? and 4. How does racialization manifest and become challenged at the racio/ethno/linguistic 3-way intersection between Blackness, African-American ethnicity, and the Spanish language. The four major themes that emerged in the analysis as crucial to understanding African-Americans who occupy transracialized identities are: motivation in Spanish language acquisition, the ‘shocked’ reactions of interlocutors, the mechanics of transracialization and the repertoire of identities, and Afro-Americanismo as an agent of social and political change.