(I). My current research project entails exploring race beyond the back-white binary, in the South African context. The project explores coloured South Africans’ racial identities and racial positioning. Moreover, I am interested in whether coloureds’ in-between and limbo position, which was cultivated during the apartheid government, persists today. I use a mixed-methodological approach to answer my research questions. I first explore primary legal sources to assess the South African nation-state’s role in the construction (during apartheid) and maintenance (post-apartheid) of a position of racial limbo of coloureds. Next, I analyze two waves of the Southern African Barometer to determine whether coloureds’ precarious and between position is reflected in generalized attitudes and perceptions of deprivation. Finally, I analyze qualitative interviews to explore the phenomenology of what it means to be coloured today, with particular interest in whether they themselves perceive, what I call, racial limbo. The project contributes an understanding of how social positioning can have significant implications for groups’ experience, but also how group boundaries are characterized by greater variation for those positioned in limbo. The project stems from my dissertation work and has been expanded to my first book project.
(II). A sustained research emphasis of mine is to create measurements of race that are more inclusive and valid for capturing racialized experiences. For instance, I used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to examine the mental health consequences of incongruent expressed or observed racial identification over time, and consider whether skin color moderates the direct effect of racial identity and health (recently published in Sociological Perspectives). Results from this study demonstrate that American Indians with inconsistent observed racial identifications experience a mental health disadvantage. I am also working on a similar project that examines inconsistent racial classifications, but now in a Brazilian community sample, that captured race measured in multiple forms. Finally, I am developing a multidimensional measure of racial identification—derived from latent class analysis —to determine whether I can find evidence of intra-racial subgroups.
(III). Health disparities by race and other social statuses. As a research assistant at the Center for Research on Health Disparities (CRHD) while at Vanderbilt, I became curious about differential exposure and vulnerability to social stress, and the mental and physical health consequences of social stress.Part of my research agenda explored how trust is linked to willingness to use psychiatric drugs. In a paper published in Sociological Spectrum my collaborators and I found that mistrust in physicians and mistrust in psychiatric medication was inversely related to willingness but this varied by education. Similarly, a recently published at the Journal for the National Medical Association continues our exploration of psychiatric medication and mistrust but this time explores racial disparities in willingness. In addition, I have just published, at Social Science and Medicine – Population Health, a collaborative piece that explores disparities in physiological dysregulation (i.e., allostatic load) by race and skin color. I am now exploring whether there are positive returns to psychological wellbeing among Latino undocumented youth who transition to temporary legal status.