Northwestern Events Calendar


You MENA I’m White? Priming Middle Eastern & North African Identity

When: Friday, January 20, 2023
12:15 PM - 2:00 PM CT

Where: Scott Hall, 212, 601 University Place, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Graduate Students

Contact: Ariel Sowers   (847) 491-7454

Group: Department of Political Science

Sponsor: Race, Ethnicity, and Politics (REP) Workshop

Category: Academic


Please join the Race, Ethnicity, and Politics Workshop as they host Darmouth College Postdoctoral Fellow Amanda d'Urso.

Abstract: In 1909, a U.S. court first ruled that those of Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) descent were classified as White (Lopez, 1997). While MENA individuals are still legally classified as White today, there are many reasons to believe that those from MENA are not seen or treated as White. They are dehumanized (Ktiely et al. 2015), victims of non-specific hate crimes (Maghbouleh 2019), conflated with and victims of Islamophobic attacks (e.g., Lajevardi 2020, Oskooii et al., 2019), and subject to government surveillance (Bayoumi 2006) and travel bans. Recent research suggests MENA individuals largely do not identify as White, rather preferring to identify as MENA (Maghbouleh et al. 2022, NCT 2015). However, MENA individuals rarely have to opportunity to self-identify with the label “MENA,” because most forms do not include MENA as an option. That is, the category of “MENA” is subsumed into the category “White.” This begs the question, do MENA individuals respond to politics differently when they are able to self-identify as MENA on a form?

I use a survey experiment to uncover the extent to which a non-White, pan-MENA identity exists and the consequences of such identity on political attitudes and beliefs. This study experimentally manipulates whether MENA identity is primed and evaluates political outcomes based on the prime, or lack thereof. That is, once primed, MENA individuals will respond in ways that fit into a MENA identity more than those who are not primed. I find that MENA individuals do identify as MENA. Moreover, when they are unable to self-identify as MENA, MENA individuals express stronger views about MENA-related issues relative to when they are able to self-identify as MENA.

Dr. Amanda Sahar d’Urso is a Guarini Dean’s Postdoctoral Fellow at Dartmouth College in the Department of Government and in the program for Quantitative Social Science. Her research details how Middle Easterners and North Africans (MENA) have been racialized throughout the 20th and 21st century, despite being legally classified as ‘White’. Her work has been published in the Journal of Race and Ethnic Politics, as well as on The Monkey Cage. Her dissertation research is supported by the APSA Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant and the Rapoport Family Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Grant. Her paper, A Boundary of White Inclusion, has won the Midwest Political Science Association’s Lucius Barker Award for best paper in race and ethnic politics for 2022.

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