being outed as a foreigner

I am a philosopher working in the United States. It often happens that I am at an academic event and, in the middle of a conversation about philosophy, someone asks me, intrigued I guess by my strong accent, “where are you from?”, as if it was somehow relevant in that context. I feel uncomfortable when this happens, even though I know that my interlocutor is just trying to be nice. I never know how to answer. When I reveal my country of origin, the conversation usually shifts to reports about vacations trips or remote relatives who are somehow remotely related to my country of origin. Or even worse: I am forced to talk about my country, as if I am an authority in its culinary customs or have any wisdom about the political scene in there. When I am discussing philosophy I don’t want to be reminded of my country of origin. It is not that I feel ashamed of my origin; it is rather that I prefer to choose when I want to talk about that country and about the fact that I am a foreigner. In academic events, I would rather be a philosopher, not a foreigner.

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