Department of Ethnic Studies - College of Letters and Science - University of California, Berkeley

People / Graduate Students


Fantasia Painter

Indigenous/Immigrant intersection, Race and the Law, Criminality, US-Mexico Border, Race & Space

Bio & Research Interests

My interdisciplinary research uses historiography and ethnography to interrogate the ways Native Americans and Mexican immigrants[1]  are relationally racialized and gendered through discourse and practice in and around the O’odham communities of Arizona. In particular I examine these processes and histories through the lens of illegal and legal practices – including, criminality, arrest, and law-making—to ask how distinctions of race, gender, nationality, and ethnicity are made, unmade, and confused throughout the history of the U.S. Southwest and in the present. My dissertation is tentatively titled, The Limits of the Nation: Race and Indigeneity in the Southwest.

I am a 4th year PhD student in Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley and a new Researcher for the Native/Immigrant/Refugee: Crossings Research Initiative in the Center for Race & Gender (CRG). I am also a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellow, a Joseph A. Meyers Center for Research on Native American Issues Fellow, and a member of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community (SRP-MIC).  

Hailing from a food desert and actual desert in O’odham territory (Arizona) and by way of Columbia University in New York, I have an unmitigated love for California produce. I also have a black “Rez-cue” cat / writing-sidekick named Mo. 


[1] Mexican national, Mexican-American, and “illegal immigrants” are insidiously conflated and flattened in the National imaginary. Mai Ngai identifies this process as the racial production of “illegal alien” and “alien citizen.”  My use here of Mexican immigrant signals this categorical construction whose multiplicity remains opaque in processes of racialization.


Rosemary Joyce (Anthropology)
Beth Piatote
Thomas Biolsi
Raúl Coronado