Xenophobia is an intense and/or irrational dislike and sometimes fear of people from other countries. It comes from the Greek words ξένος ("xenos"), meaning "foreigner," "stranger," and φόβος ("phobos"), meaning "fear." The term is typically used to describe a fear or dislike of foreigners or of people significantly different from oneself.


As with all phobias, a xenophobic person is aware of the fear, and therefore has to genuinely think or believe at some level that the target is in fact a foreigner. This arguably separates xenophobia from racism and ordinary prejudice in that someone of a different race does not necessarily have to be of a different nationality. In various contexts, the terms "xenophobia" and "racism" seem to be used interchangeably, though they can have wholly different meanings (xenophobia can be based on various aspects, racism being based solely on race and ancestry).

For xenophobia there are two main objects of the phobia. The first is a population group present within a society that is not considered part of that society. Often they are recent immigrants, but xenophobia may be directed against a group which has been present for centuries. This form of xenophobia can elicit or facilitate hostile and violent reactions, such as mass expulsion of immigrants, pogroms, or in the worst case, genocide.

The second form of xenophobia is primarily cultural, and the objects of the phobia are cultural elements which are considered alien. All cultures are subject to external influences, but cultural xenophobia is often narrowly directed, for instance at foreign loan words in a national language. It rarely leads to aggression against individual persons, but can result in political campaigns for cultural or linguistic purification. Isolationism, a general aversion of foreign affairs, is not accurately described as xenophobia.


The expression of xenophobia is not limited to specific cultures, societies, or geographical regions and has been observed in a multitude of nations across the world.


Xenophobia has been documented in Australia since British colonisation. The early settlers had an attitude of racial superiority to the aboriginal inhabitants, persons whose culture was largely unknown to them, and the laws were very liberal for the rights of any European to claim land from the crown that had traditionally been lived on by aborigines. Aboriginal inhabitation of the land was not regarded as land ownership, and the aborigines were often violently evicted. The law would often protect any European who violently defended themselves and offered little recourse to any aborigine who felt themselves wronged. Deliberate murder of aborigines would often be hidden behind claims of self defense. Aborigines were also extremely xenophobic, often murdering white settlers, and were particularly notorious with children and women.

Colonial authorities and some of the more affluent settlers attempted to target Asian immigrants, and some anti Chinese laws were passed in the 1850s. Chinese people were feared because some felt that they could possibly colonise Australia themselves, and they were for the most part, not christians. Chinese labourers also undermined wages for European labourers as they were willing to accept worse working conditions and pay. There was also a racial element. One of the earliest voices raised against the Chinese was William Westgarth, a founder of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce. Westgarth rose in Victoria's parliament in 1853 to ask "whether it was the intention of the Government to adopt any measure for the exclusion of such population", and to ensure that they "or any other inferior race" were not "chargeable to the state". Anti Chinese feeling culminated in a massacre of Chinese gold miners who had raped some European women.WW

At the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, a racial equality clause was brought forward by Japan. Australia's Prime minister Billy Hughes was opposed to this, even making threats to leave the conference if it was included. Hughes feared the impact that Japanese immigration may have in the likely event that Australian and Japan were to go to war, and one of the ramifications of the recognition would allow mass Japanese immigration to Australia.

A policy known as the White Australia policy was introduced. As the name stated, it was intended at restricting all non-white (Especially Asiatic) populations from existing inside Australia. Non-White populations were not included in the census, or permitted to vote, although persons with mixed white-aboriginal ancestry were included as part of the white population. In 1925, Prime Minister Stanley Bruce said:Fact|date=August 2008

From the early 1860s until 1969 thousands of Aboriginal children were taken by force by missionaries, church officials, police and various government authorities under an official policy to "protect" these children, a policy that would become known as the Stolen Generation. The motivation behind these removals was primarily to "Breed Out" the aboriginal characteristics in mixed race children, in order to preserve "White Purity". Australian politicians were scared that coloured populations would end in dividing Australia in the same manner that led to the American Civil War, and men that masterminded the white Australia immigration policy, such as Arthur Calwell reckoned that populations that consisted of different peoples would inevitably fail, often citing the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire as an example. It should be noted that small amounts of Asiatic persons were allowed to stay in Australia after world war 2, whilst others were forced out as undesirable citizens.

During the mid seventies, the government of Gough Whitlam removed the White Australia policy. Ironically Whitlam would also display signs of xenophobia in rejecting Vietnamese boat people who fled the communist victory.

In contemporary Australia, many university professors and other literati often argue that former prime minister John Howard politically exploited xenophobia during the Tampa incident. Others see the Cronulla riots as an example of xenophobia. Others still, on the other wing of politics, would argue that those incidents involved advertising resolve for the rule of law and provocation by the Islamic population in Sydney in terms of not condemning gang rapes of British and Irish Australian women by Islamic immigrants that often hid behind Islam and gang activities in Cronulla by Islamic youth. The issues behind xenophobia still remain controversial in Australia today.

North America

In Canada's western-most province of British Columbia, there has been a history of xenophobia towards people of Asian descent living there. In the late 19th century to the mid 20th century, people of Asian descent were considered savage and uncivilized people and racial violence occurred against members of the Chinese, Japanese, and Sikh communities during that time. For some time in Canada in the early twentieth century, a Chinese Head Tax existed, which was a discriminatory policy which forced Chinese immigrants to pay a fee in order to enter the country, which other immigrants did not have to do. In World War II, both Canada and the United States interned citizens of Japanese-descent as Japan was associated with the Axis Powers. Japanese were displayed as a vile and dangerous people in government propaganda. Japanese-American and Japanese-Canadian property was confiscated and not returned by U.S. and American authorities.

The aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks by the militant Islamic fundamentalist organization Al Qaeda have led to increased suspicion and xenophobia towards people of Middle Eastern descent or Islamic religious backgrounds. The result has been a number of arrests of wrongly accused people of Islamic descent on charges of terrorism.


Xenophobia has been exhibited across the whole Europe by its various cultures and nationalities, both against non-Europeans and other Europeans.

Northern and Northwestern Europe

In Northern and Northwestern Europe, a variety of xenophobic trends have occurred throughout its history. These xenophobic trends have largely been focused towards a xenophobia that has reflected macro-historical trends, such as between people from Northern Europe and Southern Europe, between Catholics and Protestants and anti-semitism against persons of Jewish identity.

The worst era of xenophobia in this area and in Europe as a whole was during the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler in Germany which committed mass-persecution and genocide of Jews, Roma, Slavs, homosexuals, and various other minorities as well as political opponents. By the Nuremberg Laws, German born persons of Jewish faith were no longer able to retain German citizenship and were forced to fly flags representing their Jewish identity. Over six million Jews, most of whom were from countries outside of Germany, were deliberately murdered in a pre-meditated attempt to destroy the Jewish race. During the Nazi invasion of Russia, over twenty million Russian Slavs also died, representing a pitiless attitude to those that the Nazi doctrine deemed as only worthy of existing as German slaves.

During the past fifty years, most Northern European countries have experienced both European and non European immigration to an extent that in France today, only about half of the population is descended from its 19th century sires, with the trend existing to a lesser effect in other countries like Britain and Germany, causing some displacement to the indigenous inhabitants. This has resulted in a resurgence of xenophobic nationalism at the political level in countries like Germany and France towards minorities which both countrys' governments have set out to oppose. In Germany, xenophobia and neo-nazism has risen in response to increased immigration to Germany by among others, Turkish immigrants. In France, a history of xenophobia towards France's Muslim population, almost all of whom are either first or second generation immigrants, has existed for sometime, with political parties like the National Front campaigning on xenophobic views towards Muslim people in France.

outheastern Europe (Balkans)

Southeastern Europe has been subject to degrees of xenophobia for many years and heighted xenophobia during the 20th century to present. Religious and ethnic divisions have caused antagonistic relations between the peoples of Southeastern Europe. The creation of Yugoslavia in 1918 led to escalating ethnic and religious rivalries and violence which fully exploded in World War II, when the Axis Powers backed xenophobic nationalist forces in Croatia to form an independent Croatian state which proceeded to persecute and kill hundreds of thousands of Serbs and Jews. Xenophobic nationalism amongst Serbs rose in response leading to ethnic violence against Croats and other ethnicities which Serb nationalists deemed as complicit with the destruction of Yugoslavia, such as Bosniaks and Albanians. These extreme nationalist forces were contained under the authoritarian rule of Communist dictator Joseph Broz Tito who repressed ethnic nationalism in Yugoslavia until his death in 1980. As the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia collapsed in the 1990s, xenophobic views between ethnicities who were rivals over territory began to develop. Atrocities, ethnic cleansing and genocide occurred during the Yugoslav wars between these ethnic groups, with the most atrocities being committed by military and paramilitary forces of the largest and most well-armed ethnic faction, the Serbs.Fact|date=August 2008 Serb nationalists committed atrocities as acts of revenge for long-standing historical rivalries and disputes against Croats, Bosniaks, and Albanians who they claimed were occupying Serb lands and had to be ethnically cleansed. Bosniaks, Croats and Albanians also committed atrocities against Serbs. Since the collapse of Yugoslavia, ethnic Albanians, Bosniaks, and Croats typically have a negative and sometimes hostile outlook on Serbs,Fact|date=August 2008 whose armed forces fought wars to keep Serbs united with Serbia and committed atrocities against all these groups. In turn, the primary rival to the Serb ultranationalists were Croat ultranationalists who saw Serbs as occupying Croatian lands and saw the Bosniak people as Muslim Croats who should be assimilated into Croatian culture, those who refused faced violence. Croatia has been effectively ethnically cleansed of Serbs. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the number of serious and large scale atrocities there caused the United Nations to intervene and push for the internal partition of Bosnia & Herzegovina into a Serb Republic (Republika Srpska) and a Bosniak-Croat federation (Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina). In turn, Serbs have an especially negative outlook on ethnic Albanians, Bosniaks, and Croats.Fact|date=August 2008 In Serbia, the Serbian Radical Party whose leader is associated with xenophobic nationalism and being held on trial for crimes against humanityFact|date=July 2008, is currently Serbia's largest political party.Fact|date=August 2008

United Kingdom and Ireland

The United Kingdom has had a long history of xenophobia both internally and in its previous colonial possessions. Internally, the United Kingdom has faced ethnic tensions with Irish people. Irish people were historically looked down upon in British society with stereotypes of Irish being alcoholics, violent, and irresponsible people.Fact|date=August 2008 Ireland's struggle for independence in the early 20th century and the resulting partition of the island has led to divisions between nationalists who are predominantly Catholic and unionists who are predominantly Protestant, this divide led to xenophobia between the two faiths.


From 1641 to 1853, Japan had a policy of exclusion of virtually all foreigners (not merely an avoidance of foreign relations or isolationism), known as 'national closure', or sakoku. In the early 19th century, Mito scholars advocated "jōi," the forceful expulsion of 'barbarians', though almost none existed there. By the middle of the 19th century, with outside pressure mounting, some Japanese scholars and leaders tied 'Western Learning' and 'Nativist Studies' (kokugaku) to a goal of nation building. [Wakabayashi, Bob Tadashi, "Anti-Foreignism and Western Learning in Early-Modern Japan", Council on East-Asian Studies, Harvard University, 1986. ISBN 0674040376] Nihonjinron, a widely popular type of nonfiction literature emerging in the second half of the 20th century, has been described as xenophobic, [Befu, Harumi, "Hegemony of Homogeneity", Melbourne: Trans-Pacific Press, 2001.] though most of the works in the genre lack this element.

Dominican Republic

In Dominican Republic, according to Amnesty International, the United Nations, and The Human Rights Watch, physical attacks against Haitians have increased since 1992 and reports of the lynching of Haitians surfaced as late as 2006. [ [http://www.amnestyusa.org/document.php?lang=e&id=ENGUSA20070321002 Dominican Republic: Haitian Workers Face Deportations, Rights Violations in Dominican Republic, Amnesty International Investigation Finds ] ] Homes of suspected Haitians are sometimes burned to the ground and police roundups of "Haitian looking" people are conducted on a regular basis. According to another New York Times report in 2004, grandchildren and great grandchildren of Haitians are denied birth certificates, medical care, education and social services because of their race and decendancy. [ [http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGAMR270012007 Dominican Republic: A life in transit - The plight of Haitian migrants and Dominicans of Haitian descent | Amnesty International ] ] http://www.http://utpjournals.metapress.com/content/786433623r246231/ http://www.websterfl.edu/~corbetre/haiti//misctopic/dominican/conception.htm [ [http://haitiforever.com/windowsonhaiti/esagas2.shtml Haiti: Conceptions of Haiti in the D.R ] ] In 2007 the United Nations found "profound and entrenched" racism at all levels of Dominican society, including within families. [http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=24468&Cr=haiti&Cr1=] [http://www.miamiherald.com/multimedia/news/afrolatin/part2/index.html]

Middle East

The Middle East is subject to multiple disputes along religious and ethnic lines which have involved xenophobia, especially in Egypt, Israel, the Palestinian National Authority, Cyprus, Lebanon, and Iraq. In Egypt, discrimination against the Coptic minority has only slowly decreased. In Israel and the Palestinian National Authority, continuous violence between Jews and Arabs over disputed territory has created xenophobic sentiment amongst the two sides as well as in many Muslim countries towards Israel. On the island of Cyprus, the land is divided between Greeks and Turks who both have claims on the island. Civil violence has occurred in Cyprus between Greeks and Turks.Fact|date=August 2008 In Lebanon, xenophobia has increased towards Palestinian Arab refugees who a number of Lebanese see as causing instability in their country. In Iraq, religious and ethnic tensions have exploded since the Iraq War began in 2003. Religious sectarian violence exists, as Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims have engaged in violent attacks on each other, while in the north, ethnic tensions are high between the Kurds and Arabs in northern Iraq and Turks in neighbouring Turkey. The Assyrians, a Christian minority, suffer persecutions from Arabs, Kurds and Turks. In Iran, the Baha'i Faith is not recognized, despite being larger than the recognized religious minorities.

outh Africa

South Africa has had continual problems with xenophobia, most infamously under apartheid rule by the white-minority led government during the twentieth century. Under apartheid, black South Africans were automatically second-class citizens, who could not vote, could not participate in the political affairs of the country, and were not allowed to access facilities and public places that were designated for white South African use only. The apartheid government of South Africa was belligerent to neighbouring African countries, occupying Namibia whose people demanded independence, supporting white-minority rule in the former Rhodesia (now called Zimbabwe) and waging war in Angola. Apartheid rule came to an end in the 1990s and South Africa's new constitution committed the country to creating a multicultural South Africa in which blacks and whites could live in equality, but tensions between the races remain.

A new phenomenon in South Africa has been increasing xenophobia towards foreigners by South Africa's black majority. [The Pogroms in South Africa: a crisis in citizenship, Mute Magazine, June 2008 http://www.metamute.org/en/the_pogroms_in_south_africa_a_crisis_in_citizenship] A series of attacks against foreigners in South African townships in May 2008. The attacks originated in the township of Alexandra, an impoverished suburb of Johannesburg. An influx of foreigners in recent years, most notably 2–4 million ZimbabweansFact|date=June 2008 (roughly a quarter of the population of Zimbabwe), has led to social tension. Poor local residents believe foreigners are in direct competition for jobs and living space, and many incidents of crime are also blamed on these foreigners. More than 60 foreigners were reportedly killed in the attacks with roads barricaded and police battling with the protesters. [http://multimedia.thetimes.co.za/photos/2008/05/flames-of-hate/] Former South African President Thabo Mbeki has since called on the South African National Defence Force to help the SAPS (South African Police Service) to prevent any further killings of immigrants. Xenophobic violence also spread to the Western Cape in Du Noon in Milnerton with hundreds of terrified foreigners forced to run for their lives. [http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5ihUvEf1W6SKwJXRH25EqISDY4kYw]


In Switzerland, the Swiss people voted a new parliament in 2007, giving the right-wing Swiss People's Party a consolidated grip on power. UN Human Rights are fearful of the alleged xenophobia that some say exists in Switzerland, and condemned laws that target the country's immigrants as unjust and racist. The Swiss People's Party which has the largest number of seats in the Swiss parliament and is a member of the country's coalition government, drew worldwide condemnation with an advertising campaign depicting three white sheep kicking a black sheep off a Swiss flag. The poster is, according to the United Nations, the sinister symbol of the rise of a new racism and xenophobia in the heart of one of the world's oldest independent democracies. The United Nations special rapporteur on racism, Doudou Diène, has observed that Switzerland suffers from racism, discrimination and xenophobia. The UN envoy explained that although the Swiss authorities recognised the existence of racism and xenophobia, they did not view the problem as being serious. Diène pointed out that representatives of minority communities said they experienced serious racism and discrimination. [http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/front/UN_envoy_calls_racism_in_Switzerland_a_reality.html?siteSect=105&sid=6382785&cKey=1137401626000&ty=st] [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6992670.stm] [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6980766.stm] More than half of the Swiss population are xenophobic [http://www.swissinfo.org/eng/swissinfo.html?siteSect=881&sid=6853083] and two thirds want foreigners to be better integrated, according to a survey published in June 2006 which measures the development of xenophobic and rightwing extremist attitudes. This first type of data, which was not uncontroversial, tends to support observations made by anti-racist institutions, as well as outside observers. [http://www.humanrights.ch/home/en/Switzerland/Policy/Racism/Studies/idart_4552-content.html]

Sociobiological explanation

The effects of xenophobia (dislike against the genetically dissimilar out-group and nepotistic favoritism towards the genetically similar in-group) are analyzed by many sociobiological researchers. Some see it as an innate biological response on the part of the evolved human organism in inter-group competition. In his famous book, "The Ethnic Phenomenon", Pierre L. van den Berghe, anthropological professor of the University of Washington, discusses the concepts of kin selection, ethnic nepotism, and the biologically-rooted tendency of people that are more similar genetically to behave more generously toward each other. In "Becoming Evil: How Ordinary People Commit Genocide and Mass Killing", author James Waller argues that all human beings "have an innate, evolution-produced tendency to seek proximity to familiar faces because what is unfamiliar is probably dangerous and should be avoided. More than two hundred social psychological experiments have confirmed the intimate connection between familiarity and fondness. This universal human tendency is the foundation for the behavioral expressions of ethnocentrism and xenophobia" (Oxford University Press, USA, 2002, p. 156). Frank Salter, an ethological researcher of the Max Planck Institute, deals with similar "taboo" topics in his controversial book, "On Genetic Interests: Family, Ethnicity and Humanity in An Age of Mass Migration"; this work has been praised by well-known sociobiology innovator E.O. Wilson as "a fresh and deep contribution to the sociobiology of humans." Salter posits an "innate group-descent module" in the human mind to explain the universal occurrence of ethnic nepotism. In Salter's view, favoritism towards one's own ethnicity is an evolutionarily-based "objective" value and, from a political science perspective, Salter proposes a "universal nationalism", in which all planetary ethnic-based communities or nations have the right to preserve their own heritage and distinctiveness.

See also

col1 =
* Racism by country
* Discrimination
* Ethnic cleansing
* Intercultural competence
* List of xenophobic terms
* Nationalism
col2 =
* Nativism
* Pauline Hanson
* Racism
* Anti-Turkism
* Genocide
* Xenophily
col3 =
* Xenology
* Xenophobe
* Race and crime
* Tribalism


External links

* [http://www.alipac.net Anti-immigrant xenophobia in the US]
* [http://www.glimpse.org Stories of Culture and Living in Foreign Cultures] Compiled by The Glimpse Foundation
* [http://sova-center.ru/194F418/ Nationalism and xenophobia in Russia] , SOVA Center's reports and daily updates on xenophobia in Russia

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • xenophobia — (n.) 1903, from XENO (Cf. xeno ) foreign, strange + phobia fear (see PHOBIA (Cf. phobia)). Earlier (c.1884) it meant agoraphobia …   Etymology dictionary

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  • xenophobia — [zen΄ōfō′bē ə, zen΄əfō′bē ə; zē΄nofō′bē ə, zē΄nəfō′bē ə] n. [ModL: see XENO & PHOBIA] fear or hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything foreign or strange xenophobe [zen΄ōfōb΄, zen΄əfōb΄; zē΄nofōb΄, zē΄nəfōb΄] n. xenophobic [zen΄ōfō′bik,… …   English World dictionary

  • xenophobia — Canadian Slang [zeen o foe bee a] Fear and dislike of anything that is foreign You re scared, then you must have xenophobia …   English dialects glossary

  • xenophobia — [[t]ze̱nəfo͟ʊbiə[/t]] N UNCOUNT Xenophobia is strong and unreasonable dislike or fear of people from other countries. [FORMAL] …   English dictionary

  • Xenophobia in Showa Japan — Xenophobia in Japan, including attacks against Western foreigners and their Japanese friends by ordinary citizens, rose in the 1930s under the influence of Japanese military political doctrines in the Showa period, after a long build up starting… …   Wikipedia

  • Xenophobia in South Africa — Infobox Military Conflict conflict=2008 South Africa riots partof=the history of South Africa caption=Map of South Africa date=12 May 2008 ongoing place=Gauteng, Durban, Mpumalanga South Africa result=62 people dead, several hundred injured,… …   Wikipedia

  • xenophobia — noun Etymology: New Latin Date: 1903 fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • xenophobia — xenophobic, adj. /zen euh foh bee euh, zee neuh /, n. an unreasonable fear or hatred of foreigners or strangers or of that which is foreign or strange. [1900 05; XENO + PHOBIA] * * * …   Universalium

  • xenophobia — noun a) An exaggerated or abnormal fear of strangers or foreigners. b) A strong antipathy or aversion to strangers or foreigners. Syn: xenophoby Ant: xenomania, xenophilia, xenophily, allophilia See Also: xenophob …   Wiktionary

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