Over the five decades since its foundation, Ethnic and Racial Studies has provided a space for the publication of the latest research by scholars of race, ethnic relations and racism. In this Themed Issue of the journal, we have included nine papers which cover diverse aspects of the changing meanings and boundaries of race, migration and identity in the contemporary USA. Although we make no claim that the various papers share a common analytical frame or empirical focus we hope they highlight some key themes in the current scholarship and research. All the papers included here draw on original empirical research and address questions of relevance globally as well as in relation to the USA.