Mis-taken identity: being and not being Asian, African and British

Murji, Karim (2008). Mis-taken identity: being and not being Asian, African and British. Migrations & Identities, 1(2) pp. 17–32.


This article offers an auto/biographical approach to understanding the links between transnational migration, citizenship and identity. It explores the relationship between fixed and fluid identities in the lives of migrants through consideration of a puzzle about essentialised identities in the form of 'roots' against more plastic identities in the form of 'routes'. Both the appeal of and some problems with this dichotomy are discussed. Drawing on personal and familial auto/biography, the paper delves into the identities of East African Asians and their capacity to both be and not be African, Asian or British at different times and places. The key argument is that felt and ascribed identities operate in uneven ways that are not reducible to matters of personal choice or structural determination. The context of the discussion and the examples used are intended to underline the key intervention this article aims to make – the enduring significance of being racially or ethnically marked as Asian as the process by which identity is, or can be, reduced into a singular form.

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