Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



In this exploratory qualitative study, I analyze the impression management strategies utilized by individuals in Black-white interracial relationships. More specifically, I investigate how individuals in these relationships manage their stigmatized location, and how these strategies are linked to their social locations. Based on interviews with 22 individuals, I demonstrate how one's presentation of self is a dynamic and contextual process situated in a complex web of positionality, socio-political constructs, institutions, and racial frames. Moreover, I articulate how individuals in these relationships have distinct experiences shaped most notably by their privileges (whiteness) and marginalization (blackness).

First, I conceptualize the various types of stigma these individuals faced. I then describe the different ways individuals navigate their stigmatized locations via facework, paying keen attention to the ways that their social locations influenced their chosen strategies. Finally, I explore participants’ use of impression management both within their interviews with me, and with their partners. In their interviews, participants laid claims to present their relationships and themselves in a flattering light. Yet, when analyzed alongside their experiences, I find that these claims were not true. Accordingly, I theorize the discrepancies present, and the implications on the relationship. Ultimately, I find that Black partners shoulder a disproportionate amount of strain both in public spaces as well as within their relationships.

My research reiterates the pervasiveness of race, racism, and antiblackness, both in public and private affairs. I document the various ways that Black partners are marginalized and the implications for the well-being of Black partners. More broadly, I critique the precarious state of Black-white race relationships, and how race still matters. I find that impression management is enacted in order to not disrupt the social order. Yet the very strategies employed to maintain social order, especially for Black partners, can result in the perpetuation of constraining narratives that maintain race-based relations of power. My findings underscore the need for a more intricate sociological theory that can capture how individuals in these relationships navigate stigma, but also how inequities and privilege can manifest within the couple dyad, and the implications for oneself and identity development.



Committee Chair

Sarah Becker

Available for download on Thursday, April 17, 2031