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Psychology of Xenophobia
What causes xenophobia? Only worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, the worldwide “epidemic” of xenophobia, or fear of strangers and foreigners, makes it even more crucial than ever before to study this phenomenon, its characteristics, manifestations across history, and theories of its causes. Researchers have hypothesized that xenophobic attitudes and behaviors are often triggered by a fear that foreigners are a threat to one’s community or national identity. Decades of research on minority communities has also documented how stress associated with stigma, intimidation, and discrimination is detrimental to physical and mental well-being. In this seminar, we question hypotheses about xenophobic attitudes, and will explore the extent to which communities experience different psychological impacts from xenophobia. We will begin by taking a closer look at Executive Order 13769, dubbed the “Muslim Ban,” which previously suspended the entry of citizens from multiple Muslim-majority countries and banned the entry of Syrian refugees indefinitely. Though overturned by the current administration, the “Muslim Ban” coincided with the highest level of hate crimes against Muslims in America and its ripples continue to be felt by Muslim communities today. While the topic of Islamophobia will take center stage in this class, students will also lead discussions on other forms of xenophobia in order to better grasp the psychology of xenophobia and its societal ramifications. A combination of group discussions, talks by guest speakers, and field trips to community partners will provide students with different perspectives and a deeper understanding of these topics.