10 January 2018

Why do we ask people where they’re from?

In her dissertation, PhD candidate Lotte Thissen sweeps readers up in a carnival conga line, involves them in a conversation with two men in the city centre of Roermond, and takes them on a shopping trip to a multicultural supermarket. All of this happens in Roermond. Readers soon discover that everyone can experience foreignness, irrespective of their origin or background. One of the key conclusions in this study is that we should stop asking people where they are from. This question is often motivated by outward appearances and linguistic differences and suggests that some people do not belong in a certain place. It can also be a painful experience for people who understand and/or speak the local language or dialect. This dissertation illustrates that language practices are far more diverse and unpredictable and that people are continuously involved in the process of talking in and out of place. Lotte Thissen will obtain her PhD from Maastricht University on 11 January.