Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Ambar Basu, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Mahuya Pal, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Frederick Steier, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Nathan Johnson, Ph.D.


culture centered approach, health disparities, identification, people without papers, rhetoric, undocumented immigrants, structural limitations, subaltern, solidarity


This project examines how undocumented immigrants in the United States communicate health and illness, specifically focusing on health narratives of undocumented immigrants in the South Florida region. In order to do this, I conducted 27 field interviews with undocumented immigrants living in South Florida to gain understanding of how this group meets health and wellness needs. Conversations revolved around prominent themes that highlighted the role of communication that produce stigma towards this group; the complexity of a costly bureaucratic health system, and the fears participants experience that stems from the possibility of deportation. Additionally, participants detailed the role of their cultural community in helping them survive in the U.S. and meet their health needs. I use a culture-centered (CCA) approach to draw attention to how these marginalized individuals are forced to navigate the U.S. health system through resistive ways due to the restrictions associated with access (Dutta 2004, p.534). The CCA approach was productive for this project due to its theoretical focus on highlighting participants as the voice of authority and truth with regards to their marginalized position. Along with CCA, reflexivity as a theory and method was foundational for attempting to build solidarity between researcher and participants, which is a central aim of the culture-centered approach (Basu & Dutta, 2011). Given a lack of narrative-driven research in this context, along with the historic and contemporary imbalance of the U.S. health system, there is a need for a humanist approach to understanding and documenting the experiences of undocumented immigrants and the way they make decisions when faced with health-related choices.

Included in

Communication Commons