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G. Cristina Mora Award Statement

The 2010 ASA Dissertation Awards Committee reviewed about twenty dissertations. The high quality of these dissertations and their variety in terms of topics and approaches indicate that the discipline is thriving.We selected De Muchos, Uno: The Institutionalization of Latino Panethnicity, 1960-1990 by Griselda Cristina Mora (Princeton University) as the winner of the American Sociological Association’s Dissertation Award for 2010.Paul DiMaggio of Princeton University served as her dissertation advisor and Miguel Centeno, King-to Yeung, and Robert Wuthnow rounded out her dissertation committee, which she describes as “heavy hitting.”

Dr. Mora’s dissertation tackles a problem in racial formations in its historical specificity – how has the idea been institutionalized “that Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans and other Latino subgroups share common cultural propensities, and form part of a panethnic collective . . . in America.” To answer this question she used a multimethod approach focusing on archival data; interviews with media executives, government officials, and civil rights activists; and press reports.The result, in her hands, is a nuanced, informative, and coherent explanation of this racial formation.

Much of the past literature in racial formations prioritizes the role of the state in the construction of racial categories.Mora questions this prioritization in the case of the construction of Hispanic Americans. She contends that, at least in this case, ethnic leaders took an active role in creating and institutionalizing official racial categories. The dissertation demonstrates that the construction of the new category, “Hispanic,” entailed extensive negotiation and cooperation between ethnic leaders and state actors.

Historically, she focuses on the United States during the period from 1960 to 1990.At the beginning of this period there were large populations of Mexican Americans in the Southwest, Puerto Rican Americans in the Northeast, and Cuban Americans clustered in Florida. Three ethnic minorities which if combined in some form might provide and enhance “claims making” ability.Her dissertation shows that diverse groups including: the Census Bureau, media specializing in Spanish language programs, and social movement leaders aided the racial formation of Hispanic Americans, because it in different ways served their purposes.

Social movement leaders and media executives aided the U.S. Census Bureau in carrying out the enumeration of “Hispanics,” which helped justify the Bureau’s inclusion of this category.In turn this helped to legitimate the development of panethnic organizations and their claims for resources and policies changes.The identification and enumeration of Hispanic Americans as a group helped the media to convince advertisers that the market segment of “Hispanics” was large and that large numbers of people self-identified as Hispanic.The U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics interest focused on data collection and statistical measurement that is reliable and replicable.They were interested in producing valid and reliable data for policy-making.This larger self-identified grouping of previously smaller and dispersed groups fit well into their needs. Mora maintains that it is too simple to say that the government in some sense imposed this racial formation on these groups.These government agencies instead participated in shaping the institutionalization of this racial formation along with these other interest groups.A pivotal example involved the negotiations about whether the term Hispanic was to be used as an ethnic and racial category.

Mora notes that her dissertation involves three studies. The first examines the evolution of the National Council of La Raza and how it evolved from a Chicano to “Hispanic” social movement organization in large part to gain leverage with state and corporate funding agencies. The second focuses on the U.S. Census Bureau and how it negotiated statistical principles with pressures from Latino political leaders to create a “Hispanic” data category for the 1980 census. The third examines how Univision Communications Corporation, evolved from a Southwestern Spanish-language television network that focused on Mexican-Americans, into a national, “Hispanic” network, employing census data to create the idea of a “Hispanic market."

Dr. Moral has woven together these studies to create an important piece of research. It is an impressive, informative, and compelling story of the racial formation – Hispanic Americans. We are pleased to make this award to Dr. Mora; it is richly deserved.