Ethnic labeling among pupils with migration backgrounds 'Turks,' 'Moroccans,' and 'foreigners' in the Netherlands

P. van de Weerd*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This paper analyzes ethnic self-labeling among pupils of a secondary school in Venlo, the Netherlands. Pupils with migration backgrounds, born in the Netherlands, referred to themselves as 'Moroccan,' 'Turk' or 'foreigner,' and to others as 'Dutch'. Ascription to these ethnic categories is often understood as an expression of national (un)belonging. Based on nine months of linguistic ethnographic fieldwork, I argue that ethnic labels functioned to manage everyday interpersonal social relations and did not necessarily express feelings of (un)belonging to the nation. Rather, pupils used ethnic labels to associate social personae with particular styles and behaviors and to construct local social hierarchies. The paper contributes to the investigation of ethnic labels as signs with locally contingent meanings, which nevertheless retain indexical links with wider discourses about social categories and belonging. It furthermore emphasizes the necessity of investigating the local meanings of ethnic categories.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)162-181
Number of pages20
JournalDutch Journal of Applied Linguistics
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2020


  • classroom ethnography
  • ethnic labeling
  • ethnicity
  • membership categorization
  • race
  • RACE

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