top of page

THE GLOBAL RISE OF XENOPHOBIA / Vol. 88, No. 4 (Winter 2021)

Arien Mack, Editor

This essay draws on phenomenological and psychoanalytical insights to explore, comparatively, manifestations of evil during the twentieth-century totalitarianism and the post-truth present. The regimes of Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump, and Alexander Lukashenko provide contemporary examples. Special attention is paid to the genre of performative confession in Stalinist times and in the present. Authors mentioned include: Anne Applebaum, Hannah Arendt, Anton Chekhov, Nathan Englander, Sigmund Freud, René Girard, Jan Tomasz Gross, Irena Grudzińska Gross, Robert Hamerton-Kelly, Edmund Husserl, Leszek Kołakowski, Ivan Krastev, Marcin Król, Stanisław Jerzy Lec, Claude Levi-Strauss, Czesław Miłosz, Jan Patočka, Tadeusz Słobodzianek, and Tomas Venclova.

An entrenched fear of immigrants has shaped America from the colonial era to the present. This essay examines American xenophobia to identify some of its defining features. Xenophobia has been built upon the nation’s history of white settler colonialism and slavery. It has become part of the systemic racism and other forms of bigotry and discrimination that have defined American society. It has adapted to and shaped successive migrations and settlement of peoples from around the world. It has endured because it helps the country’s most important institutions function and thrive: American capitalism, American democracy, and American global leadership.

The global rise of xenophobia can hardly be detached from the global rise of populism. We define populism as the ideological instrument for the political program of morally unconstrained collective egoism. We show how this challenges liberal democracy, attempting to replace its legal-rational legitimacy basis with substantive-rational legitimacy. Collective egoism is explained in the context of the social psychology of populism. Then, we use the examples of two populist leaders—Viktor Orbán and Donald Trump—to illustrate the elements of populism. We conclude with a few thoughts about the inefficiency of fighting populism from a dogmatic liberal point of view.

The article discusses the resurgence of nationalism in Polish political life today.

Antisemitism is a continuous and present problem in Germany, as opinion polls, crime statistics, and the experience of Jews show. While the violent attack on a Halle synagogue in 2019 illustrates how anti-Muslim racism and antisemitism are intertwined, in contemporary discourse the two phenomena are often pitted against each other. This is also because current German debates about antisemitism are inevitably linked to migration, and the Israel-Palestinian conflict, as well as struggles over the role of Holocaust remembrance. Attempts at joint campaigning are often overshadowed by competition for victimhood and debates around an “imported antisemitism.”

This paper builds on Georg Simmel’s definition of the stranger to examine Muslims’ twofold position as outsiders and insiders within European societies. This specific status has triggered two distinct fears: xenophobia and Islamophobia. Both are at work in the current political treatment of Islam and Muslims and reinforce each other, independently of the legal, national, and social status of the concerned persons. Additionally Muslims are not only strangers but also enemies within the Western European societies. This perception of the enemy has expanded to Muslims in the United States since 9/11.

The Kurds, as the world’s largest stateless nation, are subjected to extreme violence, discrimination, hostility, and racism in contemporary Turkey. I formulate this around the concept of Turkish supremacy and explain how this supremacy is historically rooted, institutionally reinforced, and socially reproduced in the racist habitus of Turkey. Kurdophobia is integral to Turkish supremacy, which needs to invoke racism against Kurds to sustain its position.

The global rise in xenophobia has emboldened China to enact genocidal policies against Uyghurs to secure the Uyghur region for economic goals. While the ways racism and xenophobia transpire in China differ from those in the West, they are effective in maintaining a status quo where minorities are oppressed. Some issues that provide insight into xenophobia and structural racism in Uyghur and Chinese society are education policies, economic disparities, and incarceration rates. China’s legalization and promotion of racism, encouragement of Han dominance, and implementation of xenophobic policies in the Uyghur region are a trigger point of the current Uyghur genocide.

This essay looks at India after the National Democratic Alliance returned to power in 2019. It focuses on the NDA’s second term, when vast changes to the country’s democratic framework were initiated and the Citizenship Amendment Act was passed, making xenophobia official. The dissenting role of what Gramsci termed the “organic intellectual”—a figure not of the intelligentsia, but in blue- or white-collar employment—is of special interest; so are the anti-CAA mass protests. The essay explores the cultural resources that allowed such expressions of resistance, going back to poetry, the Bhakti movement, and the importance given to rationality in protest by Indian religious and philosophical thinking.


bottom of page