“Those foreigners ruin everything here”: Interactional functions of ethnic labelling among pupils in the Netherlands

Pomme van de Weerd*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This paper contributes to a deeper understanding of ethnic labelling practices by examining their interactional functions among secondary school pupils in Venlo, the Netherlands. Pupils with migration backgrounds often labelled themselves and others "Turk," "Moroccan," or "foreigner," and labelled others "Dutch." The paper highlights that ethnic labelling can be understood not only as identity construction, but also as interactional work. I build on membership categorization analysis (MCA), complemented by conversation analysis (CA), to analyse how pupils' use of ethnic labels evoked an expert role which altered interactants' power positions; and how, often, pupils engaged in jocular mockery with ethnic labels and in that way mitigated the effects of exclusionary and stigmatizing discourses about people with migration backgrounds. Finally, I argue that pupils' labelling practices had locally occasioned meanings and functions, but that they ultimately reflect wider-spread systems of categorization and marginalization of people with migration backgrounds in the Netherlands.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)244-262
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Sociolinguistics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019


  • classroom ethnography
  • conversation analysis
  • ethnicity
  • labelling
  • membership categorization analysis

Cite this