Racialization with and without race: the case of transient Indians in Hong Kong

Title: Racialization with and without race: the case of transient Indians in Hong Kong

Speaker: Dr. Venera R. Khalikova and Ms. Priyanka Sen (Department of Anthropology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong)

Date: Friday, 14 January 2022

Time: 1-2:30 pm

Mode: In-person and online

Venue: NAH114

Zoom Meeting Link: https://cuhk.zoom.us/j/95286194354

Meeting ID: 952 8619 4354

Passcode: 029480


Racialization is a type of differentiation that biologizes social difference: people supposedly belonging to different races are seen as possessing distinct, unalterable biology. As a semiotic process, racialization occurs when people interpret signs (skin color, eye shape, voice quality) as self-evident cues that “differentiate human types on a primordial, genetic basis” (Chun and Lo 2015). As we argue in this talk, racialization happens both with and without the invocation of “race.” Drawing on over 40 semi-structured interviews with white-collar migrant Indians in Hong Kong, we show the entanglement and frequent slippage between the notions of race, ethnicity, nationality, class, “background,” and “culture” that can be directed both towards oneself and others. Building on Faye Harrison’s (2019) exposition of “racism without race,” we examine how Indians talk and are talked about in terms of irreconcilable, “virtually heritable social differences” even when the word “race” is absent. At the same time, we also show the strategies of escaping or redirecting racialization. While it is common to think of race as unalterable reality one is born with, we show how Indians understand difference as a situational and relational process available to negotiation within the local and global economic and political hierarchies. Specifically, we showcase the role of class markers, gender, language/accent, romantic partners, and Hong Kong’s spatiality. 


Dr. Venera R. Khalikova is a Lecturer at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. She is a cultural anthropologist whose research explores the acts and articulation of identity, nationalism, and citizenship in two distinct contexts: alternative medicine and transnational migration. Her current project, funded by the Direct Grants for Research in 2020 and 2021, is focused on diverse experiences and meanings of belonging among Indians in Hong Kong. Khalikova holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Pittsburgh, USA. 

Priyanka Sen is a Hong Kong-based writer, researcher, and artist, from Kolkata, India. She graduated from Oberlin College with a B.A. in English and International Politics, specializing in decolonial literature and feminist social movements. She has worked under Dr. Venera Khalikova (CUHKANT) as a Juniour Research Assistant in 2021.

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