Kimberly McClain DaCosta, an assistant professor of African and African American studies and of social studies at Harvard University, is interested in the intersection of cultural ideas about race and family. She is currently writing a book about efforts to create multiracial collective identity in the United States, based on interviews and fieldwork with members of organizations for interracial families and people of mixed descent.
As a Radcliffe Institute fellow, DaCosta will explore the role of the marketplace in shaping racial identities. Specifically, she is interested in how marketers are using the Census 2000 data on race, which for the first time includes multiple race responses. She contends that marketers will make recognizable a multiracial market by conducting and using the research available on statistical populations. Marketing industry newsletters, magazines, and industry reports mine the census data to discover untapped markets. Their language suggests that these populations exist as coherent groups, which the marketer as “ethnographer” (an increasingly popular term used within the industry to describe its research efforts) need only uncover and bring to the marketplace. What this portrayal leaves out, of course, is the extent to which the cultures that marketers claim to represent are in fact their own creations. Through interviews with and observations of marketing industry professionals and analyses of ad campaigns, DaCosta hopes to show the race-making capacities of the market.
DaCosta received her doctorate in sociology from the University of California at Berkeley. She was a Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy fellow at Yale University and is a recipient of a fellowship from the Advertiser’s Educational Foundation.