A Tale of Two Cities: Language, Race, and Identity in Holyoke, Massachusetts

Sunny Trivedi, Purdue University


Holyoke, Massachusetts is not traditionally seen as a hub for immigrant experience. To the contrary, there is a rich history of diverse groups occupying Holyoke. For the purposes of this thesis, I focus on two pan-ethnoracial groups: Puerto Ricans and Indians. On the one hand, Puerto Ricans, a Latinx subgroup, comprise the majority of the downtown population of Holyoke, which is the site of the highest concentration of Puerto Ricans outside of the island. On the other hand, Indians, a South Asian subgroup, have very little visibility in the larger community fabric. Additionally, South Asians are undertheorized in the context of the east coast, and particularly in Massachusetts. Yet, despite these differences, both the Puerto Rican and Indian diasporas create their identity vis-à-vis the other. I analyze the sociolinguistic and sociocultural experiences of these two groups through a comparative, community-based examination. Through analyzing the experiences of two pan-ethnoracial groups simultaneously and in relation to each other and whiteness, I seek to bypass the white/black racial imaginary in the U.S. context. My analysis is sharpened by paying attention to the ways ethnoracial and linguistic identities come to be enacted, reproduced, and transformed in the context of mass mediatization of language and identity. Examining the construction of identity in a comparative manner of two groups who are represented varyingly in popular media and everyday discourse illuminates the profound erasures that happen when experiences of a particular group are homogenized. A theoretical lens on language adds to complexity of the analysis, as it is often a group boundary marker and through which differences are perceived.




Khabeer, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Cultural anthropology|Epistemology|Sociolinguistics|Language

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