from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Xenophobia or xenophobia (from the Greek ξενοφοβία "fear of the foreign", from ξένος xénos "foreign", "stranger" and φοβία phobía "fear", "fear") is an attitude that people from another cultural area , from another people , from another region or from another community . The rejection is justified with social , religious , economic , cultural or linguistic differences . A threat is seen in these differences. Xenophobia is often a manifestation of nationalism , racism or regionalism . It promotes the unequal treatment and disadvantage of strangers in society.

Not only foreigners are exposed to xenophobia. The term xenophobia is therefore used less often.

Concept history

The term xenophobia was used in French in 1901 in Anatole Frances Roman Monsieur Bergeret à Paris and in 1906 as a key word in Albert Dauzat's French dictionary Nouveau Larousse illustré . In connection with the Dreyfus affair , the writer described the anti-Semitic demagogues as misoxènes, xénophobes, xénoctones et xénophages .

Explanatory models

Social psychological explanatory models

Social Psychologically seen is the hostility towards " strangers " a negatively connoted public image created to a superior self-image to generate. Whereby it is primarily about homogeneously constructed collective and not individual identity constructions. Scientific, media, political and other actors in society are involved in the processes of constructing images about supposedly “strangers” or “others” .

In social psychology , discriminatory behaviors are considered with the term xenophobia under social and psychological aspects.

  • Rebelling self-submission

As an explanatory model for the occurrence of xenophobia, Nora Räthzel created the term "rebellious self-submission". She describes a phenomenon as rebellious self-submission in which resistance to social exclusion is not directed against its perpetrator, but in the form of a scapegoat against an uninvolved third party in the form of the other, the stranger. This substitute act ultimately serves to subjugate oneself to the conditions one is trying to combat.

Evolutionary explanatory model

In terms of evolutionary biology , xenophobia is considered to be a likely survival legacy from the animal-human transition field. Human societies (of all sizes, i.e. already hunting groups or early agricultural villages or tribes), like their predecessors (e.g. chimpanzees ) , claim territories in order to secure the resources they contain for survival . When resources are scarce, they strive to expand these territories at the expense of other societies and, conversely, to ward off advances by other societies. From this competition, distrust of other societies develops, i.e. xenophobia. Other models explain xenophobia as a result of the feeling of disgust, which once evolved to ward off disease risks.

Psychological explanatory model

In terms of individual psychology , the - much older - term "xenophobia" is primarily supported by a latent shyness or fear of the toddlers of the unfamiliar or foreign (" strangers "). It is shaped differently socially in different cultures, for example in Germany as a " black man ". Accordingly, later in life it can be deepened, ideologized or fought against (with oneself and / or others). There is no scientific evidence that it can be completely “discarded”.

In psychology , pathologically excessive xenophobia is a form of anxiety disorder .

Economic explanatory model

As Joseph Henrich pointed out following Adam Smith and Montesquieu and on the basis of ethnological studies, xenophobia declines in a society as it is permeated by the market economy . Henrich explains this by saying that in a market economy it is worthwhile to get on well with strangers, since they are potential customers or business partners. In a world without markets, on the other hand, only those who have good personal relationships can survive.

Legitimating explanatory models

The term xenophobia is sometimes used in different ways to legitimize racism and discrimination as a result of biological, cultural or economic conditions:

  • Examples of biological explanatory models: Animal species defend their own "territory" against intruders. The extent to which human xenophobia is a matter of biological determinants, behavior acquired through socialization or, within a narrow framework, free decisions is controversial. What is perceived (and rejected) as “foreign” in a specific case demonstrably depends primarily on historical-cultural factors.
  • Examples of economic explanatory models: Xenophobia occurs more and more in countries where the number of unemployed is rising. That is, the higher the unemployment rate in a population, the higher the rate of xenophobic tendencies. This thesis is proven by numerous empirical studies and is considered scientifically verified (valid) in the sense of an intersubjective verifiability.

The ethologist Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt interprets the defense of the alien or what is perceived as alien as well as the historically different demarcation of groups as an anthropological requirement to maintain a stabilizing group norm. Norms make “behavior predictable, bring order to the community and thus convey security”. Eibesfeldt refers to the formative function of cultural norms:

“The group norm is expressed in language, customs, clothing, body decorations and many other everyday occurrences. The material and spiritual culture is aligned with it. Culture proves to be formative here and defines us as second nature insofar as the treasure of traditional customs does not allow us too much freedom of movement. "

For the culturalising explanatory model, all social action is culturally reshaped, i. H. collective distance and hostility is an acquired basic mood ( see also the mentality of a society). Nevertheless, claims are made that so-called "tribal societies", but also rural societies with landowner structures, whose traditions are based heavily on fixed rules , tend to be reluctant to negative towards new citizens. Often the same societies are portrayed as extremely hospitable; Commercial cultures (such as ancient Greece - cf. Homer , Herodotus or Aeschylus ) are seen in these constructions as having little prejudice . The prevailing religion also has a great influence on the observable attitude towards "strangers". A comparatively slow social change favors xenophobic reactions. According to Pierre Bourdieu , the more complex society is, the greater the chance of reducing xenophobia.

What these explanatory models have in common is that historical and social construction processes for images of oneself and others are not examined, but are accepted as quasi-natural conditions.


It is assumed that experiences of racist exclusion ( everyday racism ) can contribute to the development of mental illnesses and that social support and solidarity can counteract this. An EU study concluded that exclusion and discrimination contribute to the emergence of violence.

According to a study from 1994, racism is the main cause of psychosomatic illnesses in Germany among migrants, refugees and their children.

Spread of xenophobic attitudes in the German-speaking area

In the European Values Study was EU -wide the proportion of the local population, indicating no immigrants or foreign to want as neighbors workers collected. Of the 257 surveyed regions, this share was the third highest in the Upper Palatinate with 51% and the highest in Carinthia with 55% (EU average 15.4%).


In the " Mitte Study " from 2015, the approval of xenophobic and anti-Semitic statements in individual German federal states was examined. 33.1% of Bavarians agreed with xenophobic statements. This is the highest approval rate among western German federal states (average: 20%) and the second highest nationwide (national average: 24.3%). The highest level of agreement with xenophobic statements was in the state of Saxony-Anhalt (42.2%). In addition, of all federal states in Bavaria, the approval rate for anti-Semitic statements is the highest at 12.6% (national average: 8.4%).


An essential characteristic of the propaganda in the First World War was that, in order to motivate the own population of the participating countries to do military service, xenophobic prejudices and patriotic symbols were used.

Conceptual criticism

At a workshop of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees in 2013, the use of the term “xenophobia ” was criticized by the “ Racism ” working group : “The determination of foreignness and being foreign is arbitrary and arbitrary. The term contains an element of exclusion because it pretends that the people against whom the hostile attitude is directed are strangers - that is, not part of our society, that they do not belong to it. In reality, however, an act is not committed because the victim has a certain quality or origin, but because the perpetrator has a certain attitude. In the media, the word is almost always used when it comes to racially motivated crimes. So it's mostly about racism. "

Christoph Butterwegge explains that the term suggests that a personal aversion to “the other” is innate. This would ignore a socio-psychological “labeling and stigmatization process” and thus suggest a quasi-causal, natural explanation for violence and exclusion.

Journalist Peter Maxwill at Spiegel Online expressed a similar criticism in 2018 by criticizing the fact that the terms xenophobia and xenophobia are mostly used blurred in the media discourse and that hostility especially towards people from the Middle East, Africans and Roma does not occur however, for example towards French or Poles, who are also foreigners. The term racism would therefore have to be used to describe the phenomenon more precisely, especially since the nationality of the person concerned - as a definition criterion of a national or foreigner - usually does not play a role for the perpetrators.

See also



Web links

Commons : Xenophobia  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: xenophobia  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: xenophobia  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Xenophobia  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Corinna Kleinert: Xenophobia: Attitudes of young Germans to migrants. VS Verlag, 2004, ISBN 3-531-14202-X , p. 82.
  2. See also Rudolf Sponsel: Analysis of the ideological battle term "xenophobic". Internet publication for general and integrative psychotherapy. Retrieved June 12, 2020.
  3. Xénophobe . In: La Base Historique du Vocabulaire Français (BHVF)
  4. Damir Skenderovic: Xenophobia. In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland .
  5. Annita Kalpaka, Nora Räthzel (ed.): The difficulty of not being racist. Dreisam Verlag, Cologne 1994, ISBN 3-89607-022-3 .
  6. Bert Hölldobler: The fear of the foreign: The evolutionary biological roots of xenophobia. In: Tele-Akademie. SWR 3, May 11, 2003.
  7. ^ Valerie Curtis: Review. Why disgust matters . In: Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B . tape 366 , October 31, 2011, p. 3478–3490 , doi : 10.1098 / rstb.2011.0165 (English, full text [PDF; 219 kB ; accessed on October 27, 2015]).
  8. strangers reaction in COD Encyclopedia of Psychology
  9. The fear of the stranger slumbers in everyone . Welt Online , October 8, 2015; Interview with Borwin Bandelow by Franziska Höhnl
  10. Polygamy doesn't work well in modern societies . In: Zeitmagazin . February 2, 2020, p. 31-36 .
  11. Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt: The biology of human behavior - outline of human ethology. Blank Media, Vierkirchen 2004, ISBN 3-937501-01-0 , pp. 409 ff. And 443.
  12. a b Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt: The biology of human behavior - outline of human ethology. Blank Media, Vierkirchen 2004, ISBN 3-937501-01-0 , p. 409.
  13. Meryam Schouler-Ocak in conversation with Dieter Kassel: "Even thoughts of suicide" through racial exclusion. Deutschlandradio Kultur, February 8, 2012, accessed on July 23, 2016 .
  14. EU study: Exclusion and discrimination lead to violence, not religion. MiGAZIN , October 28, 2010, accessed July 23, 2016 .
  15. Rose Baaba Folsen: Effects of Racial Violence. In: Psychologie und Gesellschaftskritik 18, No. 2. SSOAR, 1994, accessed July 24, 2016 .
  16. ^ EVS: European Values ​​Study Longitudinal Data File 1981-2008 (EVS 1981-2008) . GESIS Data Archive, 2015, doi : 10.4232 / 1.12253 ( gesis.org [accessed June 7, 2019]).
  17. ^ Emanuela Marrocu, Raffaele Paci: Education or Creativity: What Matters Most for Economic Performance? In: Economic Geography . tape 88 , no. 4 , October 2012, p. 369-401 , doi : 10.1111 / j.1944-8287.2012.01161.x ( wiley.com [accessed June 7, 2019]).
  18. ^ Sarah Kanning: xenophobic attitudes in Bavaria widespread . In: sueddeutsche.de . April 6, 2015, ISSN  0174-4917 ( sueddeutsche.de [accessed June 12, 2019]).
  19. Study: Bavaria is the second strongest country in terms of xenophobia . Welt Online , April 7, 2015; June 12, 2019
  20. Documentation of the workshop “New Terms for the Immigration Society” on April 29th and 30th, 2013 in Nuremberg . (PDF) New German media makers / Federal Office for Migration and Refugees , p. 46
  21. Christoph Butterwegge: Globalism, neoliberalism and right-wing extremism . S. 2 ( kolabor.de [PDF]).
  22. Peter Maxwill: Hate for which there are no words . Spiegel Online , November 17, 2018; accessed on November 19, 2018.
  23. Antje Weber: The Pegide in us . In: sueddeutsche.de . 2016, ISSN  0174-4917 ( sueddeutsche.de [accessed on February 23, 2018]).