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Video: Sociologist Jennifer Jones on changing race relations, immigration, and state politics

Author: Todd Boruff

 

“The ways in which racial politics have emerged and the kinds of coalitions that emerge or don't between racial groups seems to have a major impact into what kinds of policies states pursue.” 

— Jennifer Jones

Jennifer Jones is an assistant professor of sociology and a faculty fellow at the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame. Her research uses qualitative methods to explore increasing migration, the growing multiracial population, and shifting social relations between and within racial groups.


Video Transcript

I consider myself primarily a race scholar, trying to understand how race structures our social world, how race relations are changing, and what race means in particular for politics and inequality.

I'm interested in the role of immigration and changing race and race relations in terms of broad demographics but also how that's reshaping how people think about one another. I think about the new multi-racial population, so what does it mean that we count multi-racials as a group? That there are now more and more people who are identifying as being part of multiple racial groups and what that says about our understanding of race. And then I think about race relations in particular, so what happens within groups to make racial boundaries real? How do groups relate to one another and how does that reflect back on the construction of those racial groups?

To the extent that we care about what politics look like, we need to pay more attention to what happens at the state level, because often that's where all the action is. Living in California and living in Indiana and living in Illinois and living in North Carolina as an immigrant, especially an undocumented immigrant, can be a widely variable experience and way beyond your normal differences between states. When we have states that seemed very similar in terms of demographic change, in terms of the wealth of the state, and we have different kinds of immigration policies, what explains that? And what I'm finding is that it actually has a lot to do with race. So the ways in which racial politics have emerged and the kinds of coalitions that emerge or don't between racial groups seems to have a major impact into what kinds of policies states pursue. I'm hoping the work that I'm doing now will lend some insight into sort of other kinds of broad patterns.

Notre Dame has turned out to be a great place for me. In sociology, we have a nice balanced department in terms of research methods. We have strengths and religion and culture and in education, and race and immigration intersect with those areas quite a bit. I'm a faculty fellow in the Institute for Latino Studies, and Latinos are the largest growing demographic in the United States, and that matters for all kinds of areas of life and inquiry. And so Notre Dame is a little bit ahead of the game in that they've invested heavily in creating and supporting an institute and center that is thinking about the role of Latinos in the United States and supporting people who are doing work to try to understand those processes. And so I'm interested in the implications of these processes for voting patterns, for social justice policies, for who gets represented in Congress and those kinds of outcomes as well.