Xenophobia

Article

November 30, 2021

Xenophobia is “hostility to what is foreign”, more precisely towards a group of people or an individual considered foreign to his own group (endogroup). Mainly motivated by the fear of the unknown and of losing one's own identity, it is determined according to nationality, geographical origin, ethnicity, presumed race (in particular according to skin color or face), culture or religion, real or supposed, of its victims, influenced by popular beliefs. It can be manifested by the exaltation of the culture of its in-group, through certain forms of nationalism for example, and the denigration, the rejection or even the destruction of the culture of the foreign group (s), or the verbal or physical attacks of the members. of this group, to ensure the presumed purity of the identity of the in-group. Xenophobic attitudes are considered a violation of human rights and condemned, as such, along with racist and discriminatory attitudes, by the laws of certain countries, generally since the end of the 20th century. The Vienna Declaration and Program of Action accepted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993 indicates that eradicating such behavior is a priority task for the international community and urges all governments to take effective measures to address them. prevent and fight them.

Origin of the word and meanings

Made up of two Greek roots, from ancient Greek (xenos, "foreigner", and phobos, "rejection, fear"), the word xenophobia is a neologism that appeared in the French language at the beginning of the 20th century, it is a feminine noun derived from the “xenophobic” neologism, the invention of which is attributed to Anatole France, in 1901. In relation to the Dreyfus Affair, this writer denounces the demagogues by associating them with: “misoxenes, xenophobes, xenoctones and xenophages”. This “xenophobic” term appears for the first time in a dictionary, the Nouveau Larousse Illustré, in 1906. Twenty years later, in his famous pamphlet “La trison des clercs” (1927), Julien Benda speaks of xenophobia as a aspect of patriotism: “Another trait of the character that patriotism takes on in the modern cleric: xenophobia. The hatred of man for the "man outside" […], his proscription, his contempt for what is not "from his home" ... " The word "xenophobia" is used by the Académie Française for the eighth edition of its Dictionary (1935) with the following definition: "State of mind, feeling of one who is xenophobic". This definition by reference to emotions or behaviors, whether individual or collective, corresponds to the most common meaning and is found in most dictionaries in 2009: TLF / “Hostility manifested towards foreigners, of what is foreign. "; CNRTL / "show hostility towards foreigners, what comes from abroad". The large terminological dictionary of the Office Québécois de la Langue Française offers two entries for the term "xenophobia": one in sociology ("Unfavorable prejudice against foreigners. Note: Xenophobia is based on stereotypes, generalizations unfounded, born of rumors, misunderstandings, different customs. ”) and the other in psychology (“ Hostility towards strangers, of social origin, and not pathological ”). Both definitions emphasize the social rather than psychological character of such beliefs or emotions. This reflects an evolution of the signified which oscillates between the designation of an irrational trait of the mind and that of a social phenomenon or between a rather psychological common sense and a sociological conceptualization still embryonic.

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