A word already in use in Europe from at least the 14th century with multiple meanings related to the status of being outside, not familiar, or different (OED), “foreign” likewise has multiple meanings within the field of Asian American studies, including “not American,” “outsider,” “noncitizen,” or “alien.” The term is deeply embedded in U.S. racial formations specifically relating to Asian Americans, and as such often slips between connotations of nation, citizenship status, race, and cultural difference.

“Foreign” may more generally refer to that which is outside the borders of a nation. In the United States, the word “foreign” was written into the Articles of Confederation (ratified 1781) to indicate countries outside the states’ established borders. While the Revolutionary War was still being fought, the United States established an Office of Foreign Affairs in 1780.

The word “foreign” in the United States also indicates the status of not having …

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