In this groundbreaking collection, scholars explore Victorian xenophobia as a rhetorical strategy that transforms “foreign” people, bodies, and objects into perceived invaders with the dangerous power to alter the social fabric of the nation and the identity of the English. Essays in the collected edition look across the cultural landscape of the nineteenth century to trace the myriad tensions that gave rise to fear and loathing of immigrants, aliens, and ethnic/racial/religious others. This volume introduces new ways of reading the fear and loathing of all that was foreign in nineteenth-century British culture, and, in doing so, it captures nuances that often fall beyond the scope of current theoretical models. “Xenophobia” not only offers a distinctive theoretical lens through which to read the nineteenth century; it also advances and enriches our understanding of other critical approaches to the study of difference. Bringing together scholarship from art history, history, literary studies, cultural studies, women’s studies, Jewish studies, and postcolonial studies, Fear, Loathing, and Victorian Xenophobia seeks to open a rich and provocative dialogue on the global dimensions of xenophobia during the nineteenth century.
In A Forgetful Nation, the renowned postcolonialism scholar Ali Behdad turns his attention to the United States. Offering a timely critique of immigration and nationalism, Behdad takes on an idea central to American national mythology: that the United States is “a nation of immigrants,” welcoming and generous to foreigners. He argues that Americans’ treatment of immigrants and foreigners has long fluctuated between hospitality and hostility, and that this deep-seated ambivalence is fundamental to the construction of national identity. Building on the insights of Freud, Nietzsche, Foucault, and Derrida, he develops a theory of the historical amnesia that enables the United States to disavow a past and present built on the exclusion of others.
Behdad shows how political, cultural, and legal texts have articulated American anxiety about immigration from the Federalist period to the present day. He reads texts both well-known—J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur’s Letters from an American Farmer, Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, and Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass—and lesser-known—such as the writings of nineteenth-century nativists and of public health officials at Ellis Island. In the process, he highlights what is obscured by narratives and texts celebrating the United States as an open-armed haven for everyone: the country’s violent beginnings, including its conquest of Native Americans, brutal exploitation of enslaved Africans, and colonialist annexation of French and Mexican territories; a recurring and fierce strand of nativism; the need for a docile labor force; and the harsh discipline meted out to immigrant “aliens” today, particularly along the Mexican border.
Writing in the beginning of the 1980s, Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe explored possibilities for a new socialist strategy to capitalize on the period’s fragmented political and social conditions. Two and a half decades later, Ferruh Yilmaz acknowledges that the populist Far Right—not the socialist movement—has demonstrated greater facility in adopting successful hegemonic strategies along new structural lines Laclau and Mouffe imagined. Right-wing hegemonic strategy, Yilmaz argues, has led to the reconfiguration of internal fault lines in European societies.
Yilmaz’s primary case study is Danish immigration discourse, but his argument contextualizes his study in terms of questions of current concern across Europe, where right-wing groups that were long on the fringes of “legitimate” politics have managed to make significant gains with populations traditionally aligned with the Left. Specifically, Yilmaz argues that sociopolitical space has been transformed in the last three decades such that group classification has been destabilized to emphasize cultural rather than economic attributes.
According to this point-of-view, traditional European social and political splits are jettisoned for new “cultural” alliances pulling the political spectrum to the right, against the “corrosive” presence of Muslim immigrants, whose own social and political variety is flattened into an illusion of alien sameness.
On a spectrum of hostility towards migrants, South Africa ranks at the top, Germany in the middle and Canada at the bottom. South African xenophobic violence by impoverished slum dwellers is directed against fellow Africans. “Foreign” Africans are blamed for a high crime rate and most other maladies of an imagined liberation.
Why would a society that liberated itself in the name of human rights turn against people who escaped human rights violations or unlivable conditions at home? What happened to the expected African solidarity? Why do former victims become victimizers?
With porous borders, South Africa is incapable of upholding the blurred distinction between endangered refugees and economic migrants. Imagined Liberation asks what xenophobic societies can learn from other immigrant societies, such as Canada, that avoided the backlash against multiculturalism in Europe. Heribert Adam and Kogila Moodley stress an innovative teaching of political literacy that makes citizens aware as to why they hate.
Scholarly, objective, insightful, and analytical, Jews, Turks, and Other Strangers studies the causes of prejudice against Jews, foreign workers, refugees, and emigrant Germans in contemporary Germany. Using survey material and quantitative analyses, Legge convincingly challenges the notion that German xenophobia is rooted in economic causes. Instead, he sees a more complex foundation for German prejudice, particularly in a reunified Germany where perceptions of the "other" sometimes vary widely between east and west, a product of a traditional racism rooted in the German past. By clarifying the foundations of xenophobia in a new German state, Legge offers a clear and disturbing picture of a conflicted country and a prejudice that not only affects Jews but also fuels a larger, anti-foreign sentiment.