From ‘Go back to China’ to ‘Where are you really from?’: Nationality and ethnicity talk in everyday interactions

tlang blog

In a blog post that was originally posted on the Birkbeck blog – Birkbeck Comments – TLANG team member Zhu Hua reflects on the personal significance of a question that sits at the centre of our research. 

In his open letter published in the New York Times on 9 October, Michael Luo, who was born and grew up in the US, told of his encounter with a woman who yelled at him and his family, ‘Go back to China!’, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan when they came out of a church service.  Puzzled by the event, his 7-year-old daughter asked ‘Why did she say, ‘Go back to China?’ We’re not from China.’

What Michael Luo experienced is ‘perpetual foreigner syndrome’, a problem facing many transnational individuals in everyday interactions, especially those who may look or sound different from the local majority.  Back in 2002, Frank Wu, the first…

View original post 1,139 more words

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