Social Movement Framing and the Reproduction of Inequality: Immigrant Restrictionists Constructing Virtual Selves on the Internet

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Title: Social Movement Framing and the Reproduction of Inequality: Immigrant Restrictionists Constructing Virtual Selves on the Internet
Author: Bloch, Katrina Rebecca
Advisors: Jeffrey Leiter, Committee Member
Steve McDonald, Committee Member
Richard Della Fave, Committee Member
Michael Schwalbe, Committee Member
Michael Schulman, Committee Chair
Abstract: This study analyzes the websites and discussion forums of immigrant restrictionist groups. The research combines the literature on social movement framing and theories of the generic processes of inequality. The research questions include: (1) How are the emotional framings of an organization’s website and discussion forums similar and how are they different? (2) How do the organizations use gendered symbols in their social movement frames, and (3) How do the immigrant restrictionist organizations construct a Latino/citizen binary? In total, 91 websites and 200 threads from three discussion forums are included in the study. To answer the first research question, I focus on the website and discussion forum for the organization, Americans for Legal Immigration (ALIPAC). The results suggest that the main website presents a guise of rationality, while participants of the discussion forum openly discuss emotions. In particular, participants privilege powerful emotions. To examine the second and third research questions, I analyze all the websites and forum threads. The organizations and forum participants portray immigrants as part of an invasion that threatens the sovereignty of the nation. Many of the groups and forum members claim to rely on legal distinctions between immigrants, but they often conflate Latinos with immigrants. Further, immigrant restrictionists discuss Latinos as if they are a homogenous group, as opposed to individuals with different national heritage and class backgrounds. In contrast, immigrant restrictionists portray themselves as soldiers who are protecting the nation and mothers who are protecting their children. Immigrant restrictionists also argue that politicians and corporations are greedy, but they fail to challenge the system at large. Instead of advocating a larger redistribution of wealth that would provide more stability for the working and middle class, immigrant restrictionists attempt to maintain the rights and privileges that they perceive illegal immigrants to threaten. Immigrant restrictionists reinforce an achievement ideology, whereby hard work should lead to success. However, group members argue that immigrants receive special privileges for breaking the law, while citizens are unable to achieve success through hard work. The immigrant restrictionists make sense of their position by drawing on widely held and available meanings related to race and gender. These ideologies influence their construction of an ideal national identity, a white male. The dissertation adds to the sociological literature in three ways. First, it combines the scholarship on social movement framing and the generic processes of inequality. The social movement frames draw from and reinforce group distinctions that legitimate the reproduction of inequality. Secondly, the study contributes to the understudied importance of emotional framing and gendered frames within social movement theory. Immigrant restrictionists privilege emotions associated with men, such as rationality, power, and pride. Further, the gendered symbols of soldiers and mothers are emotionally powerful symbols within the United States, because of ideals regarding what it means to be a man or woman. Finally, I show how the emotional framing is important for legitimating inequality. The immigrant restrictionists have identity stakes in being race neutral, but simultaneously say things that marginalize racial minorities. Thus, relying on claims of rationality, using specific discourses (e.g. anchor baby vs. infant), and using stigma transference are ways in which the group members engage in emotional framing activities that allow them to maintain positive self-appraisals despite contradictions in their social movement frames.
Date: 2009-09-14
Degree: PhD
Discipline: Sociology

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