Date of Completion


Embargo Period



race, Puerto Ricans, space, Hartford, racial threat

Major Advisor

Matthew W. Hughey

Associate Advisor

Marysol Asencio

Associate Advisor

Daisy Reyes

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


The “ethnic competition model” (Bonacich 1972; Cunningham and Phillips 2007; Medrano 1994, Olzak 1989, 1992; Van Dyke and Soule 2002) provides a theoretical explanation for the struggles over political and economic resources between ethnic groups. Previous research on ethnic competition has found that threats emerge in highly competitive markets where different ethnic groups overlap or are perceived to overlap in a specific sector of the labor market in which workers are thought to compete for job within a zero-sum relationship (Cunningham and Phillips 2007; Medrano 1994, Olzak 1989, 1992; Van Dyke and Soule 2002). As a consequence, ethnic competition theory provides a powerful explanation for how variation in ethnic mobilization relates to intergroup struggles over scarce resources. However, the tendency to capture such relationships at the aggregate level, through macro-level proxies of intergroup competition, offers little insight into the processes through which ethnic grievances mobilize into contentious action.

This dissertation seeks to understand the relationship between identity formation and racial threat (perceived or real) their mechanisms and processes, the role of power, racial interests (material or ideological), and inequality. To answer these research questions, I conducted 43 unstructured interviews and a 2-year participant. I give an overall description of the space in which Puerto Ricans live in Hartford, relying completely on the ethnographic data. I seek to show how spaces and people are physically arranged. I lay out the ways in which participants made sense of their Puerto Rican identity, how they constructed, and defined Puerto

Ricanness. I argue that this is a process of differentiation from other Latinos and other racial groups to establish a Puerto Rican distinctiveness. Discussions of racial difference serve as a stepping-stone towards boundary making, which enables ethnic and racial competition. I argue that Puerto Ricans view themselves as “Puerto Rican first and Latino second,” enabling them to understand their interests as distinct from the pan-ethnic group Latino. Finally, I develop the distinction between the white space in a city that is considered to be a space dominated by people of color.

Available for download on Monday, April 08, 2024