By 2016, it was impossible to ignore an international resurgence of
xenophobia. What had happened? Looking for clues, psychiatrist and
historian George Makari started out in search of the idea's
origins. To his astonishment, he discovered an unfolding series of
never-told stories. While a fear and hatred of strangers may be
ancient, he found that the notion of a dangerous bias called
"xenophobia" arose not so long ago. Coined by
late-nineteenth-century doctors and political commentators and
popularized by an eccentric stenographer, xenophobia emerged
alongside Western nationalism, colonialism, mass migration, and
genocide. Makari chronicles the concept's rise, from its
popularization and perverse misuse to its spread as an ethical
principle in the wake of a series of calamites that culminated in
the Holocaust, and its sudden reappearance in the twenty-first
century. He investigates xenophobia's evolution through the
writings of figures such as Joseph Conrad, Albert Camus, and
Richard Wright, and innovators like Walter Lippmann, Sigmund Freud,
Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and Frantz Fanon. Weaving
together history, philosophy, and psychology, Makari offers
insights into varied, related ideas such as the conditioned
response, the stereotype, projection, the Authoritarian
Personality, the Other, and institutional bias. Masterful,
original, and elegantly written, Of Fear and Strangers offers us a
unifying paradigm by which we might more clearly comprehend how
irrational anxiety and contests over identity sweep up groups and
lead to the dark headlines of division so prevalent today.
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