What is Ethnic Ambiguity?

Racial ambiguity is often defined as physical appearances that defy easy categorization within traditional racial categories, but my research focuses on ethnic ambiguity: Uncertainty or inexactness of an individual’s ethnic background or identity based upon that individual’s appearance, name, location, cultural values, behaviors, beliefs, and tendencies that cross or defy categories.

About Me


I am a clinical psychologist with over 10 years of experience providing mental health therapy to clients and patients of all backgrounds. My Ph.D. research – and ongoing work – focuses on the phenomenon of ethnic ambiguity: what it means to be ethnically ambiguous and the experiences of those who are ethnically ambiguous in our global, interconnected, and multicultural world.

“What are you?”

Racial Identity

Racial identity is both how one identifies themselves internally and how they present themselves externally, typically based upon racial labels present in our collective societal constructs.


Guessing, assumptions, confusion, questions, changeability… Ambiguity is the lack of consistency in descriptive classification – the quality of being open to more than one interpretation; inexactness.

Ethnic Identity

One’s ethnic identity is a multifaceted construct, built over time and made up of explorations, values, behaviors, and beliefs of a particular ethnic group or groups and one’s commitments and attachments to those groups.

Studying Ethnic Ambiguity

What am I? Perceptions and Experiences

“I can’t remember a time where people didn’t ask me what I was. ‘Well, I am A PERSON, like YOU.'”

Research Participant

“As a baby, people used to ask my parents if I was adopted because I just didn’t look like them. I looked completely Asian.”

Research Participant


Recent Articles

Participate in the Ethnic Ambiguity study

I’m always interested in gathering more information, experiences, and perspectives from ethnically ambiguous people. If you would like to contribute to ongoing research, the ethnic ambiguity survey is available online by clicking here: