Holding Disillusionment at Bay: Latino/a Immigrants and Working Class North Carolinians Expose and Reinforce the American Dream's Discrepancies

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Title: Holding Disillusionment at Bay: Latino/a Immigrants and Working Class North Carolinians Expose and Reinforce the American Dream's Discrepancies
Author: Hyde, Katherine Ann
Advisors: Donald Tomaskovic-Devey, Committee Member
Barbara Risman, Committee Co-Chair
L. Richard Della Fave, Committee Member
Jeffrey Leiter, Committee Co-Chair
Abstract: This dissertation examines how a group of twenty-eight working class people in North Carolina, including African Americans, whites and Latino/a immigrants, cope with the discrepancy between the American dream's promises and premises and their own reality. I analyze interview data focusing on participants' inward and outward looking emotion management. With the former, participants cope by developing a 'grin and bear it' stance regarding challenges and limited opportunities. They shift their attitude in order to shut off or dull the impact of an unpleasant thought or feeling. They also use 'I can do it' pep-talks to muster up a general willingness or readiness to deal with whatever comes their way. With outward looking emotion management, participants cope by venting frustration. They 'other' fellow working class people, targeting slackers and beneficiaries of preferential treatment, who fail to abide by the meritocratic principles of the dream. I argue that participants' emotion work is driven by their practical, emotional and cognitive needs and reveals ambivalence toward the American dream ideology. They neither wholeheartedly buy into the dream, nor do they actively criticize the ideology. Their emotion management is bound up in the logic of the dream; it represents a response to the dream, it takes place within the dream's logic, and, in the end reinforces the dream. I discuss the helpful and hurtful implications of participants' emotion management and suggest that the short-term gains are outweighed by such long-term costs as perpetuating inter-ethnic hostility and misunderstanding and inhibiting solidarity among oppressed people. I emphasize that participants' power-evasive emotion work deflects attention away from the ideology itself, the economic system to which the ideology is tied, and the elite agents of this system. My findings point to a need for more research on the emotional and cognitive costs of abandoning the dream's framework and the conditions under which oppressed people may develop an alternative framework for understanding and responding to their life's difficulties.
Date: 2002-11-14
Degree: PhD
Discipline: Sociology
URI: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.16/3372


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