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Xenophobia
LEON MOOSAVI

Xenophobia refers to a tendency to distrust, dislike, or be frightened of those people who are considered as foreign, strange, or different. The etymology stems from the Greek words xenos and phobos, which literally suggests an irrational fear of strangers. However, this literal understanding is not always expedient, because xenophobia may be irrational but could also have a rational basis, fear may be involved but it may not, and the targets of xenophobia may constitute strangers but at the same time they may have been rooted locally for a long time. Ultimately, xenophobia is an aversion to those whom one considers as originating and belonging elsewhere. It is a helpful term for understanding tensions that can exist between people, and has much in common with terms like racism, ethnocentrism, and prejudice. However, it is crucial to distinguish xenophobia from racism in particular as the two are often confused (Yakushko 2009: 4749). Whereas racism is a negative attitude toward those who have a different physical appearance from oneself, xenophobia is about having a similar negative attitude toward those who are considered to have originated in a different place from oneself. Racism and xenophobia are often used interchangeably because they often coalesce, operate concurrently, and are characterized by a loathing of mixture between peoples and cultures that are imagined to be pristine. There is a long presence of xenophobia in world history. Ancient records of interactions between tribes, nations, and empires show hostile competition as normal and disdain toward the Other as widespread. There have been numerous conflicts between groups of people, with countless examples of efforts of one people attempting to dominate and enslave other

peoples purely on account of them being seen as inherently different from us. For centuries, xenophobia has caused but has also been used to justify conquest, colonization, and subjugation. The contemporary period is characterized by the onset of globalization, which has involved an increasing interconnectedness of people from a variety of backgrounds coming together and cooperating. This may have reduced levels of xenophobia by allowing people to mingle with, and appreciate, people whose origins are elsewhere (Hjerm & Nagayoshi 2011: 827). However, increased contact may also lead to more opportunities for animosity, especially when some reminisce about a homogenous time gone by (Soyombo 2008: 99). All modern societies are multicultural nowadays, especially capital cities, but while it is clear that migration and mobility are at an all-time high, there is still much debate about whether contact may reduce or increase xenophobia. The prevalence of attitudes like xenophobia is hard to quantify, but various research studies have suggested that it is still a significant phenomenon. For instance, Mabel Berezin has argued in Xenophobia and the new nationalisms that contemporary Europe is intolerant at best and racist at worst (Berezin 2006: 273). Alongside many other commentators, she suggests that Western societies are currently engulfed in a pandemic of xenophobia that specifically targets Muslims, labeling them as outsiders who are not welcome (Berezin 2006: 276; Gndz 2010; Williams 2010: 112). Comparisons have been made to the treatment of Jews a century ago. However, this is not to say that the rise of Islamophobia means that anti-Semitism no longer exists. Indeed, aversion to Muslims and Jews, both forms of xenophobia, can and does exist simultaneously. This highlights the way in which xenophobia can be targeted toward multiple outsiders at the same time. Yet, that is not to say that a xenophobe will detest all outsiders or

The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Globalization, First Edition. Edited by George Ritzer. 2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Published 2013 by Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

2 foreigners, as they may feel comfortable with some and not others (Hjerm & Nagayoshi 2011: 818). For instance, in Britain, Australians may be welcomed whereas Somalians may not. This differential treatment may be partly explained by acknowledging the hierarchy of difference, often subscribed to, whereby certain outsiders are more similar to us than other outsiders. Yet, the picture can be further complicated in that those with xenophobic views may be especially intolerant toward certain aspects of an Other. For example, they may dislike some cultural beliefs of outsiders but may indulge in recipes that originate from the same people, or they may reject the men of a supposed Other but be willing to be intimate with the women, or they may refuse to live on the same street as outsiders but be willing to utilize their labor, and so on. In other words, xenophobia can be inconsistent by having different dimensions that may target some groups but not others, or even some parts of groups but not others. Xenophobia has often been associated with Western societies, particularly European societies where claims about being an indigenous inhabitant who has a right to challenge nonindigenous peoples is more compelling than it is in places like North America and Australia. However, there is a growing awareness that xenophobia can also be found in many other societies, and various studies have been conducted which highlight this (Crush & Ramachandran 2010). It is therefore incorrect to characterize one particular group as having exclusivity over xenophobia, because it appears that all collectivities can hold negative views of those whom they consider as different from them. Thus, local contexts of xenophobia must be understood, because targets of xenophobia differ in different places, usually relating to particular geographical and historical circumstances. Furthermore, it is even the case that the victims of xenophobia can themselves victimize other groups with xenophobic attitudes. In short, all groups have groups that they consider as the Other, and even those who are Othered will likely have their own Other. For example, Arabs may dislike Persians, Persians may dislike Kurds, Kurds may dislike Arabs, and so on. It is also important to recognize that xenophobia can be present among majority populations who wield power over vulnerable minority populations, but also can be present among those who are smaller in number than the group being targeted (Soyombo 2008: 8889). For instance, in societies with small indigenous populations with a large migrant workforce, such as in the United Arab Emirates, the minority elite may hold xenophobic views toward the mainly Filipino or Indian workforce. It is this universal nature of xenophobia which has led some to suggest that a xenophobic attitude is part of human nature, driven by innate sentiments that exist within all humans. This has been argued by Chad Joseph McEvoy (2002) in a controversial paper in which he suggests that it is natural to prefer those we consider as the same as us and to distance ourselves from those whom we consider as different, when we consider human behavior in evolutionary terms. People who subscribe to this perspective may compare xenophobia to patriotism, a type of pride, love, or sense of affinity that one has with ones own people. Patriotism has a more favorable connotation than xenophobia does, probably because patriotism refers to positive self-impressions whereas xenophobia refers to negative impressions of others. This subtle difference needs to be grasped, even if some try to conflate the two terms. It is also worth considering here the elective affinity that xenophobia may have with nationalism (Yakushko 2009: 4445). This exists because if one believes oneself to be a member of a group of people who belong in a land that has borders in other words, a nation and one subsequently glorifies this nation, as those who accept nations often do, it can lead to a dislike of those who are not considered as members of the same nation. The relatively recent invention of the modern nation-state, with reified borders and ontological certainty, may thus invoke more xenophobia as people increasingly take for granted their membership in a group to which some are not admitted

3 (Billig 1995; Anderson 2006). This can also involve a very routine exclusion in the form of immigration policy and border controls which every country implements to exclude undesirables. In The logic of xenophobia, Jens Rydgren (2004) has argued that xenophobia can be an entirely rational and logical response if a person is convinced that outsiders pose a significant threat. For example, a xenophobic attitude is understandable if a person is convinced that outsiders will bring disease, plunder resources, or generate general disorder (Hjerm & Nagayoshi 2011: 816). Such a view may be based on a historical recollection of the harm that a group generated in the past. So a native Australian with a xenophobic attitude toward European immigrants may hold such a view because of vivid memories and/or experience of harm caused by the outsider. Thus, when assessing xenophobia, it is helpful to be aware of the background which fuels the aversion. This may be incontestable if based on factual harm caused, but it may also be more commonly based on an unfounded hysteria, in which case we may expect the xenophobic view to be overcome by educating the xenophobe about why the presence of outsiders may be harmless and even beneficial for society. To challenge the idea that xenophobia is inevitable because of biology or rationality, one may consider whether it would exist if it were not for the role of certain social actors in promoting xenophobia for their own ends. Entertainment and news media have been accused of generating xenophobia by portraying foreigners, immigrants, and their descendants in sensationalized and disparaging terms. Indeed, one commentator suggests that news media are filled with stories in which recent immigrants are denigrated, belittled, and discriminated against (Yakushko 2009: 37). Emphasis has also been placed on the rhetoric used by politicians who have used those who are perceived as outsiders as scapegoats in order that they may acquire political support for being perceived to be challenging a serious threat. This is often associated with the Far Right but can also form part of mainstream political discourse (Gndz 2010: 43). The relationship between Far Right xenophobia and mainstream rhetoric has been explored by Rydgren (2003), who suggests that across Europe, Far Right politicians have seized the initiative and steered the general public and mainstream politicians to an increasingly xenophobic discourse. Political xenophobia may be more pronounced during crises such as economic downturns where those who are not considered as truly belonging among us can be conveniently blamed for high inflation or lack of jobs (Yakushko 2009: 45; Hjerm & Nagayoshi 2011: 818, 833). More broadly, the proliferation of capitalism as the predominant organizing system of society may provide fertile ground for xenophobia to manifest, since it is the pursuit of accumulating capital that is prioritized above everything else, meaning that outsiders may be seen as an unwanted strain on resources. There is still uncertainty, though, as to whether media and politicians generate xenophobia through their representations, or whether a general xenophobic sentiment already existing in society leads to the media and politicians regurgitating common perceptions (Berezin 2006: 278). The answer may be a combination of the two whereby publics, media, and politicians create, sustain, and encourage each other to (re)produce xenophobic discourse in society. As is the case with racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of prejudice, xenophobia does not always remain merely an attitude but can result in tangible consequences. When a prejudicial attitude is acted upon, we refer to it as discrimination. Those who hold xenophobic views may therefore neglect, mistreat, or even harm those whom they consider as outsiders. This may be mundane and superficial, such as ignoring them, it may be subtle but consequential, such as choosing not to employ them, or it may be blatant and aggressive, such as being violent toward them. In its most extreme forms, if xenophobia is institutionalized, it can result in forced deportations, ethnic cleansing, and genocide, all of which are serious breaches of

4 human rights. Victims of xenophobia may therefore suffer, be distressed, encounter depression, and even attempt suicide (Yakushko 2009: 5051). Thus, despite some people considering xenophobia to be human nature orrational, it is commonplace for it to be condemned as an aberration and an undesirable attitude. This is why it is commonplace for societies to have laws prohibiting and therefore implicitly condemning xenophobia. This is often done on ethical grounds since xenophobia is widely considered as immoral, but xenophobia may also be discouraged on economic and political grounds as it may prevent trade and collaboration. Yet, democratic societies that value free speech and a plurality of perspectives find themselves faced with difficult questions about whether xenophobic political parties or views should be made illegal for inciting hatred or whether they should be tolerated as legitimate viewpoints (Brems 2002). Although xenophobia certainly exists and is unlikely ever to be entirely eradicated, it would be wrong to characterize humanity as always enacting xenophobia. Throughout history and up until today, people who recognize others as being different from them have cooperated and befriended one another, perhaps more than they have clashed with oneanother. Much hospitality has been exchanged over the centuries, people have mixed and merged, and hybridity has flourished. Multiculturalism, if understood as the coexistence of people with different backgrounds, beliefs, and behaviors, has dominated many societies around the world. There is some optimism, then, that xenophobia is not inevitable, but rather, it is harmony between different peoples that is more usual. SEE ALSO: Cultural imperialism; Diaspora; Empire; Ethnic cleansing; Ethnicity; Eurocentricism; Genocide; Imagined communities; Immigrants, adaptation; Indigenous peoples; Mass migration; Migration control; Multiculturalism; National identity; Nationalism; Orientalism; Race; Racism.
REFERENCES Anderson, B. (2006) Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. Verso, London. Berezin, M. (2006) Xenophobia and the new nationalisms. In G. Delanty & K. Kumar (eds.) The Sage Handbook of Nations and Nationalism. Sage, London, pp. 273294. Billig, M. (1995) Banal Nationalism. Sage, London. Brems, E. (2002) State regulation of xenophobia versus individual freedoms: the European view. Journal of Human Rights, 1 (4), 481500. Crush, J. & Ramachandran, S. (2010) Xenophobia, international migration and development. Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, 11 (2), 209228. Gndz, Z. Y. (2010) The European Union at 50 xenophobia, islamophobia and the rise of the Radical Right. Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, 30 (1), 3547. Hjerm, M. & Nagayoshi, K. (2011) The composition of the minority population as a threat: can real economic and cultural threats explain xenophobia? International Sociology, 26 (6), 815843. McEvoy, C. J. (2002) A consideration of human xenophobia and ethnocentrism from a sociobiological perspective. Human Rights Review, 3 (3), 3949. Rydgren, J. (2003) Meso-level reasons for racism and xenophobia: some converging and diverging effects of Radical Right populism in France and Sweden. European Journal of Social Theory, 6 (1), 4568. Rydgren, J. (2004) The logic of xenophobia. Rationality and Society, 16 (2), 123148. Soyombo, O. (2008) Xenophobia in contemporary society: a sociological analysis. IFE Psychologia, 16 (2), 87106. Williams, M. H. (2010) Can leopards change their spots? Between xenophobia and transethnic populism among West European Far Right parties. Nationalism and Ethnic Politics, 16 (1), 111134. Yakushko, O. (2009) Xenophobia: understanding the roots and consequences of negative attitudes toward immigrants. The Counseling Psychologist, 37 (1), 3666. FURTHER READING Olowu, A. A. (ed.) (2008) IFE Psychologia, 16 (2), Special Issue: Xenophobia.