The High Plains Society
Applied Anthropology

Edge Dancers: Mixed Heritage Indentity, Transculturalization, and Public Policy and Practice in Health and Human Services

H. Rika Houston and Mikel Hogan

This study uses grounded theory to explore the lived experiences of mixed heritage individuals through the anthropological framework of transculturalization. Qualitative data resulting from depth interviews of mixed heritage informants are utilized to identify three commonalities in the life experiences of these “edge dancers:” alienation, complexity, and celebration. Results also indicate that mixed heritage individuals use creative agency to “own” their respective identities and strategically manipulate their environments as they perform the social “dance” of identity negotiation that spans their entire lives. We propose a dynamic, emic agency model of mixed heritage identity construction followed by conclusions about how our study and model informs and expands our understanding of cultural change and transculturalization in the anthropological context. From an applied anthropological perspective, we also discuss the implications that this study and the proposed model have for enhancing public policy and practice in health and human services. [mixed heritage identity, transculturalization, cultural change, grounded theory, edge dancers, agency, public policy and practice, health and human services]

The Applied Anthropologist, No. 2, Vol. 29, 2009, pp 143 - 170

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