An Emerging Reactive Ethnicity Among Latinxs in Tennessee

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Integration, Identity, Latinx, U.S. South


The burgeoning Latinx communities in the U.S. South provide rich case studies for examining the identity formation and group consciousness of children of Latin American immigrants. This paper explores the identities and sense of belonging of 1.5- and second-generation Latinxs who have come of age in Tennessee, a Southern state that has experienced a surge in immigration from Latin America in recent decades. In-depth interviews with Latinxs who have grown up in Tennessee reveal how these individuals contemplate their identities in relation to questions of belonging to (and within) U.S. society. A shift toward developing a reactive ethnicity is evident as Latinxs convey how perceived interpersonal discrimination coupled with recent national and local anti-immigrant policies drive ethnic group solidarity. These factors influence individual life choices and encourage participation in social and political activism. Such reactions will have long-term ramifications for local Southern societies.


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Author Biography

James Chaney, Middle Tennessee State University

Dr. Chaney is a geographer who specializes in immigrant and refugee populations in the American South. His scholarly interests include cultural geography, Latin America, transnational approaches to migration scholarship, ethnicity, and human trafficking. His most recent research project explores the sense of place and reactive ethnicity of Tennessee's Latinx population.

Dr. Chaney is an advocate for community engagement. Before coming to MTSU, he was an associate director of a nonprofit organization that worked to empower Latin American immigrants in New Orleans, Louisiana. Dr. Chaney has also served on the Board of Directors for Free For Life International, an anti-trafficking organization based in Nashville, Tennessee, where he co-led their trafficking prevention programs in Latin America.


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How to Cite

Chaney, J. (2022). An Emerging Reactive Ethnicity Among Latinxs in Tennessee. Journal of Ethnic and Cultural Studies, 9(2), 1–19.



Original Manuscript
Received 2021-11-14
Accepted 2022-03-01
Published 2022-04-06