The Latino/A immigrant myth and the (Im)possibility of realizing communal appreciation

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In this chapter I examine my interpersonal experiences as a Latino immigrant negotiating a predominantly white cultural space. I apply semiotics theory to analyze my time as a graduate student of color at a predominantly white institution (PWI) and city. I discuss how my body and some of its most “repulsive” emanations (i.e., my phenotypic traits and accent) act as signifiers and the discourse of “threat” acts as a signified that together form a sign that many whites “read” as “Latinos/as as a Threat” in everyday interactions. I reframe the communication theory of identity to propose ideas for transformative dialogue, to further understanding of intergroup relations, and to help realize communal appreciation. As soon as the adversaries are in the ring, the public is overwhelmed with the obviousness of the roles. As in the theatre, each physical type expresses to excess the part which has been assigned to the contestant. Thauvin, a fifty-year-old with an obese and sagging body… displays in his flesh the characters of baseness… The physique of the wrestlers therefore constitutes a basic sign, which like a seed contains the whole fight. (Barthes, 1972, p. 17).

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Communicating Prejudice: An Appreciative Inquiry Approach

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