27 Pages Posted: 9 Jul 2020 Last revised: 10 Feb 2021
Date Written: December 19, 2019
Xenophobia is deeply entwined with racism but nevertheless maintains a life of its own. Focusing on the structural drivers of xenophobia in the United States, this essay asks what xenophobia accomplishes that racism alone does not. It posits that while xenophobia serves many purposes, one of its most significant functions is to legitimize the very existence of the settler colonial state. Beyond that, it empowers the state by (1) galvanizing a "national" response that can counteract the internal divisions promoted by racialization, (2) sanctioning the use of raw power against racialized Others in ways not otherwise considered acceptable, (3) facilitating the construction of enemies more sophisticated than racism usually permits, and (4) diverting attention from the real costs and consequences of empire. By reinforcing state structures in these ways, xenophobia may further the interests not only of those who envision the United States as an explicitly racial project but also those who strive for an assimilationist, "post-racial" future.
Keywords: xenophobia, racism, settler colonial studies, colonialism, discrimination
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