Anjanette M. Chan Tack

Anjanette M. Chan Tack

Doctoral Candidate in Sociology, University of Chicago
2019-2020: Sheila Biddle Ford Foundation Fellow

Anjanette Chan Tack is a Doctoral Candidate in Sociology at the University of Chicago. Her research investigates how immigration changes racial dynamics in the United States. While at the Hutchins Center, Anjanette will be at work on her dissertation, titled: “Black”, “Brown”, or “Asian”?: How Indo-Caribbeans Negotiate Ethno-Racial Identity in New York City.

Indo-Caribbeans are West Indians of South Asian descent. They are the descendants of the girmitiyas, a population of over 3.5 million Indian indentured laborers who were brought to work on colonial plantations across the globe after the British abolished the African slave trade in 1834. Indo-Caribbeans have lived in West Indian societies for almost 200 years. During this time, Indo-Caribbeans competed, collaborated, intermarried, and interculturated with Afro-Caribbean people while maintaining many of their Indian cultural traditions. In the United States, Indo-Caribbeans have what sociologists call “ethnic options”: as racially “Indian”, but ethnically both “Indian” and “West Indian”, Indo-Caribbeans can stake claims to both “Asian” and “Black” ethnic identities.

Drawing on 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork and over 100 interviews with Indo-Caribbeans, Afro-Caribbeans, African Americans, and South Asians living in super-diverse neighborhoods in New York City, Anjanette investigates how Indo-Caribbeans’ ethnic liminality prompts these communities to renegotiate the boundaries of “Black”, “Brown”, and “Asian” racial identity. Anjanette’s work implicates gender contestations, class, caste, and the racialized politics of embodied cultural performance as important vectors shaping racial stratification at the Black/Brown/Asian interface.

While in residence as a Sheila Biddle Ford Foundation Fellow, Anjanette will draw from the Indo-Caribbean case to develop a broad theoretical account of how ethno-racially ambiguous groups in the United States construct identities and coalitions in an era of increasing demographic diversity, racial fluidity, and complex migration.