Xenophobia vs. Intercultural Dialogue

Guest PostsXenophobia vs. Intercultural Dialogue by Anastasia A. Karakitsou

https://wronghands1.com/2016/07/01/xenophobic-world-map/
Figure 1: From Atkinson, 2016.

The Psychology of Xenophobia

The term xenophobia comes from the Greek words for foreigner/ stranger (xenos) and fear (phobia) and is pretty self-explanatory: it describes the condition where I fear anything that is foreign to me (and anything that is foreign to the likes of me). Xenophobia, analysed in its roots as the age-old “fear of the unknown”, naturally generates apprehension and anxiety in the human mind (or soul, depending on your beliefs), because fear is an all-too-powerful emotion. Evolutionarily speaking, fear has been a crucial survival tool for our ancestors, as it alerted them to the surrounding dangers by activating their fight or flight response. This is why xeno-phobia encourages social discrimination and prejudice towards a specific group labelled as “fear-inducing,” i.e., as a threat to our national identity, to our racial purity, to our law and order, etc. Spurred by powerful and primeval fear, initial discrimination and prejudice may well escalate to hatred and actual, physical violence; psychologically speaking, fear is, for the most of us, too overpowering to manage and reason with.

The question is who is in the position to label x, y, z social group as a threat.

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