Physical Appearance, Identity and the Micro-Politics of Racial Ambiguity


Physical Appearance, Identity and the Micro-Politics of Racial Ambiguity


Jennifer Patrice Sims

Department of Sociology, University of Wisconsin-Madison


My name is Jenn and I’m a postgraduate student conducting thesis research in London this summer. When choosing a research topic, I decided to examine a frequent interaction that I have– that of being asked “where are you from?” or “what race are you?” Sometimes I give a standard summary (Black, White, Native American), other times I make the asker play a guessing game, and still other times (especially if I don’t feel like being bothered that day) I give a cheeky response and change the subject. I’ve also noticed that, depending on where I am or how I wear my hair, make up or if I have a tan, the questions and places I get asked if I’m from change.


I have already spoken with a few of you about your similar experiences and have received such rich and wonderful stories that I have decided to extend my data collection another two weeks. If you, or someone you know, is a mixed race adult (18+) in the London area and often receive questions about where you’re from please consider meeting me for a brief chat over tea or coffee, my treat. My email address is and my mobile is +44 (0) 77330 73854.

~ Jenn


Interviews will be approximately one hour and in the location of one’s choosing.  If you are interested in taking part in the study or would like more information, please contact Jenn Sims at: or call/text +44 (0) 77330 73854 between 08 June 2011 and 13 July 2011.