Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Ed Psychology and Research


Educational Psychology

Committee Member

Yeh Hsueh

Committee Member

Laurie MacGillivray


This narrative inquiry examined how ethnic identity is conceptualized in the stories of Saudi women students living and studying in the United States. This was done using theorists from the field of ethnic identity and enculturation research, as well as postcolonial feminist critique to address various layers of marginality and power relations. Participants included seven women enrolled as international students in graduate programs at two northeastern U.S. universities. Unstructured life-story interviews of 2 to 2.5 hrs. were conducted to elicit narratives of how the women positioned themselves ethnically and how they were positioned by their surrounding while living in the suburbs of the metropolitan city Gamuston and attending East Atlantic University and Gariana University (pseudonyms). The rhizoanalytic approach of "plugging in" (Jackson & Mazzei, 2012) theorists into the women's narratives was used to interrogate the intricate workings of ethnic identity positionalities in the socio-cultural, gender, and geopolitical contexts that inform them. Each woman's restoried narrative is presented individually, and chunks of interview data are interrogated by "plugging in" the concepts of marginality (Spivak, 1990), catachresis (Spivak, 1993/2009), and multidimensionality of power relations (Sandoval, 2000).Findings suggest that the women inhabited various contexts that inform their shifting and situated ethnic identities, ranging from relational, linguistic, and geographical, to transnational, generational, economic, and religious. The narratives illustrated the complexities of how the women positioned themselves within/in, between, and apart from Saudi cultures, and how they negotiated their Saudi, Arab, and gender identities. There were also various instances in which the women encountered and resisted being ethnicized and essentialized by their local environment. When examined through a postcolonial feminist lens, it became evident that ethnic identity, as well as power relations informed and influenced by both performance of ethnicity and assumptions about ethnicity, is extremely complex and multi-dimensional. Despite the women's agency and their choices to study in the U.S., their experiences were also situated in the niches of larger neo-imperialist constraints. This became particularly apparent in overly militarized spaces, in Western media portrayal of Arab/Muslim cultures and people, and in structural arrangements within educational institutions.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.