Linguistic hostility, social exclusion, and the agency of African migrants in Hong Kong

Jiapei GU*, Janet HO

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


Long an immigrant society, whether Hong Kong welcomes ethnic minorities remains debatable. Combining Wesselmann and colleagues’ (2016) social exclusion framework, raciolinguistics, and interview data, this study investigates the social exclusion experience of Hong Kong's African economic and student migrants. The findings show that African immigrants who lack linguistic capacity are ostracised in different areas of life. Impolite language usage stigmatises them as poor and ghost-like and stereotypes them as refugees. Taking a raciolinguistic perspective, however, this study finds that race, rather than language, is the root cause of social exclusion. Lastly, the study shows that African migrants manifest agency in ameliorating marginalisation through various activities, revealing the bidirectional nature of social exclusion. Overall, this study empirically enriches the current understanding of Africans’ social exclusion experiences in Hong Kong through the lens of language. It theoretically contributes to the current discussion on raciolinguistics by extending it to the Asian context. (Social exclusion, Hong Kong, African immigrants, verbal rejection, non-verbal rejection, racism, raciolinguistics)
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages24
JournalLanguage in Society
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 May 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © The Author(s), 2024. Published by Cambridge University Press.


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