Cooking Up Inequality: An Ethnographic Study of Racial Hierarchies in Miami's Restaurant Industry
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Global and Sociocultural Studies
First Advisor's Name
Andrea J. Queeley
First Advisor's Committee Title
Second Advisor's Name
Second Advisor's Committee Title
Third Advisor's Name
Third Advisor's Committee Title
Fourth Advisor's Name
Fourth Advisor's Committee Title
race, racism, foodways, labor, gender, intersectionality, whiteness
Date of Defense
Racial inequality is a significant problem in the US Restaurant Industry. In Miami, a tropical tourist destination with a majority Latinx population, restaurants serve as a site of multiculturalism, and are promoted by officials as a place where visitors can enjoy ethnic food and culture. However, these same locations of diversity are also spaces where whiteness is normalized as superior and racial hierarchies ensue. Previous studies have documented racism in the restaurant industry but fail to address the intersectional complexities that arise when race is layered with gender, class, nationality, language, and sexual orientation.
Drawing from a 13-month ethnographic study of restaurant workers in Miami, this dissertation examines the shifting dynamics of racial hierarchies within a majority Latinx workforce. Using interviews, focus groups, participant observation and cultural domain analysis, this dissertation details the lived racial experiences of workers in Miami’s restaurant industry. In my discussion and analysis of these experiences, I argue that in Miami’s restaurant industry, US racial categories of Black and White, have been expanded into a ternary system of Black, White and what I refer to as “White Adjacency”; those whose intersectional position within the racial hierarchy gives them proximity to the power and privilege of whiteness.
Findings from this study also suggest a shift in the racial marking of restaurant jobs in Miami, as ethnocentric Black women are increasingly placed in front of the house, guest facing positions as “Maître Divas” who also serve as the face of the restaurant. This dissertation research contributes to the Anthropology of Race, and Critical Race Theory with an analysis of whiteness and intersectionality in Latinx restaurant labor.
Williams, Judith C., "Cooking Up Inequality: An Ethnographic Study of Racial Hierarchies in Miami's Restaurant Industry" (2021). FIU Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 4617.
Available for download on Friday, March 31, 2023
Food Studies Commons, Inequality and Stratification Commons, Race and Ethnicity Commons, Social and Cultural Anthropology Commons
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