Date of Award

Summer 2019

Document Type

Open Access Thesis



First Advisor

Sherina Feliciano-Santos


Women of the African diaspora living in the United States undergo a process of racialization that is informed by both their physical attributes and linguistic decisions. Fieldwork conducted in a Dominican beauty salon in Atlanta, GA during the summer of 2018 provided the data that is analyzed to explore the relationship between Dominican and Black women through the lens of hair care. Dominican stylists who spoke predominantly Spanish were able to provide services to Black women who spoke predominantly English using a combination of verbal and non-verbal communication. While previous scholarship on Dominicans in the United States has been overwhelmingly conducted in the Northeast (Bailey 2000; Marte 2011; Torres-Saillant 1998) and demonstrated tension between Dominicans and other ethnic groups (Duany 1998), this thesis addresses how U.S. Black and Dominican women in the South find commonality through hair care despite cultural and linguistic differences. By adhering to the multiple scales of migration relevant to the subjects of this project, I argue that questions of identity are inherently linked to not only space and place but that these factors are inextricably informed by language, race, and ethnicity. Beauty salons have been studied as safe spaces for women to learn about womanhood (Candelario 2000). In the multicultural atmosphere created at this particular beauty salon, it is clear that in conjunction with womanness, racialized hair care behavior is also being learned in the salon. Ideologies surrounding race and language were often in tension with each other as U.S. Black and Dominican women both drew upon phenotypic attributes and linguistic competence when constructing arguments for racial group inclusion or exclusion. This work aims to contribute to scholarship on Dominicans living in the United States and their relationship with U.S. Blacks when intentionally opening a business in a historically Black ethnic enclave by examining aspects of identity used to form alignment or distance between the two groups.


© 2019, Amber Teresa Domingue

Included in

Anthropology Commons