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Article

Elise Holland, Michelle Stratemeyer, and Nick Haslam

Intergroup metaphors represent human groups as nonhuman entities, such as animals, objects, plants, or forces of nature. These metaphors are abundant, diverse in meanings, and frequently but not invariably derogatory. Intergroup metaphors may be explicitly represented in language or implicitly represented as nonconscious mental associations. Research and theory on dehumanization offer a useful perspective on these metaphors, and show that likening outgroups to animals is a particularly common phenomenon. Frequently, groups are metaphorically compared to disgusting or degrading animals during times of conflict, but people also tend to view members of outgroups as subtly more animal-like or primitive than their own group even in the absence of conflict. Depending on the use of intergroup metaphors in the contexts of race, gender, social class, immigration, mental illness, and terrorism, intergroup metaphors can have damaging consequences for intergroup relations. Metaphors that represent some people as subhuman entities can diminish empathy and compassion for their suffering. Metaphors that represent certain groups as bestial or diabolical can enable violence, including support for harsh treatment by the state. Some metaphors not only promote violence and discrimination but also help people to legitimize violent behavior and injustice after the fact. Metaphors therefore offer an intriguing insight into the nature of intergroup relations, and how these relations are colored not only by positive or negative attitudes but also by dehumanizing perceptions.

Article

Ma.Àngels Viladot

Intergroup communication in Spain focuses mainly on the interactions between the Spanish state and the coexisting national minorities. Spain is a state divided into autonomous communities, three of which—Catalonia, Galicia, and Basque Country—are denominated historic communities, having their own languages that coexist co-officially with Castilian, the official language of Spain. Because national identities are not fixed, but mutable in the face of political, economic, and social circumstances, the dynamics established between Spain and these historic communities are a recurring theme of study and analysis. However, research conducted from the perspective of intergroup communication is very scarce. The mutability of national identities is explicitly stated in an alarming way in the current highly conflictive intergroup communication between the Spanish state and Catalonia. This autonomous community has progressed from a cultural claim in the 19th century to a pact-based ethnopolitical vindication from the 1980s until the beginning of the 21st century. However, the Spanish state, from its stance as a unique and essentialist nation, is facing a Catalonia that claims recognition as a nation and a strong self-government. These demands have led to a strong polarization between the parties, to such an extent that the conflictive escalation has led Catalonia to consider secession. Intergroup communication between Spain and the historic communities is strongly influenced by the historic circumstances of upheavals and defeats suffered because of the application of the power of the Spanish majority, willing to renounce to its richness of cultural and linguistic variability in exchange for the unity of a single Spain, and because of the ethnolinguistic vitalities of the historic minorities. Each historic community has a different ethnolinguistic vitality, as well as different feelings of injustice and legitimacy about its situation. Galicia has suffered a strong ethnolinguistic assimilation into the Spanish group of Castilian speakers, and in the Basque Country, a highly significant part of the population now feels as Basque as Spanish, while the demands for separatism are decreasing. On the other hand, Catalan-speaking communities—some ten million people—even with variations among them, have a high relative ethnolinguistic vitality and, driven by feelings of injustice, they act with strategies of competence and communicative divergence, to which the Spanish state is responding, with both strategies of silence and a strong normative enforcement. These differences in the balance of power between Spain and the historic communities have been one of the main factors that have motivated different levels in intergroup communication. These conflicts will require imaginative solutions that allow the national group to achieve their aspirations and to overcome the Catalonia-Spain confrontation, a struggle that began more than 300 years ago. Some solutions are being proposed today, for example, to achieve a European federalism in which Europe is structured in layers, governed by principles of subsidiarity.

Article

Located in the Asia Pacific region, Asia and Australasia have established a long and close relationship over the past centuries. Asian immigrants play a key role in the development and maintenance of this relationship between the two continents. As Australia not only occupies 86% of the Australasia region but also has a long history of receiving Asian immigrants, dating back to the 18th century, research on intergroup communication between Asian immigrants and host nationals tends to be concentrated in Australia. Under the early White Australia Policy, restrictions on Asian immigrants were imposed to protect the White Australia. This reflected the values and attitudes at the time when many Australians considered Asia as a threat and defined themselves as separate from it. Since the removal of this policy in 1973, particularly in the past four decades, there has been a substantial boom of Asian immigration to Australia. They transformed Australia’s economy, society, culture, and more importantly, Australians’ attitudes toward Asia and Asians. Asian immigrants are therefore central to the study of intergroup communication in Australasia.

Article

Jessica Gasiorek

People can adjust their communication in a variety of ways for different contexts, audiences, and purposes. Although these adjustments often improve or facilitate interaction—that is, make it smoother, better, or easier—sometimes they do not. “Nonaccommodation” is a concept drawn from communication accommodation theory (CAT) and refers to adjustments in communication behavior associated with disaffiliation, expressing dissimilarity and/or obscuring information. Nonaccommodation can be defined and described in terms of either speakers’ or listeners’ experiences; it may also be intentional or unintentional on the part of a speaker. Researchers have studied nonaccommodation in terms of both its objective behavioral manifestations (e.g., linguistic divergence) and the subjective perceptions that relate to those behavioral manifestations (e.g., psychological divergence; over- and underaccommodation). Responding to nonaccommodation effectively can be challenging, and what constitutes the “best” or “most appropriate” response often depends on contextual factors and interactants’ goals. In line with the functions of accommodation described in CAT, nonaccommodation can influence communication effectiveness as well as the nature of interpersonal and intergroup relations. Generally, nonaccommodation hinders shared understanding and increases perceptions of social distance between individuals and their social groups. Often it is also associated with less positive evaluations of the people and groups involved, as well as lower levels of relational solidarity. Nonaccommodation occurs frequently across a wide variety of societally significant contexts, including intergenerational, medical/healthcare, police–civilian, family, and educational interactions. As such, it represents an important area for both theoretical and applied research.

Article

Benjamin King Smith, Martin Ehala, and Howard Giles

Group vitality is a widely invoked construct in the study of minority language maintenance and interethnic relations. Per the original framework introduced 40 years ago, the more vitality an ethnolinguistic group perceives itself to have, the more likely that it will thrive as a collective entity in an intergroup context. Consequently, research adopting this paradigm—herein termed vitality theory—has studied ways in which objective and subjective group vitality has manifested itself in the endurance of ethnolinguistic groups. The notion of objective vitality includes the factors of demographics, institutional support, and status that characterize the strength of a group in comparison to others present in an intergroup setting. Contrastively, subjective vitality was introduced to highlight how groups may cognitively and affectively perceive these same factors. A large body of empirical research has been conducted within the vitality theory framework that has resulted in several stages of development. Evidence has shown that while the components of objective vitality (demographics, institutional support, status) do not typically manifest themselves as distinct components in the structure of subjective vitality, they do form a single component reflecting the perceived strength of the group. In addition, several other social psychological factors, such as perception of the legitimacy of intergroup relations, the level of ethnocentrism, and perception of intergroup distance, were incorporated into models of subjective vitality. Relatedly, these factors are shaped into group members’ discourse of vitality, which is a highly dialogical process of negotiation of subjective vitality of the groups engaged in intergroup contact. The vitality framework has been usefully invoked beyond ethnolinguistic groups, embracing several intergroup settings including age, gender, and sexual orientation. Vitality, which has provoked some controversy in the literature, has also been widely adopted by very different approaches as an umbrella term to denote the long-term sustainability of a group. Scholars in linguistics, sociology, psychology, education, anthropology, and beyond have contributed much to the concept, helping to educate and raise awareness as to why languages die out and the effects of such languages dying out.

Article

Andrea Carnaghi and Mauro Bianchi

Intergroup relations shape group members’ linguistic choices, and group members’ language molds the quality of intergroup relations. Indeed, intergroup relations are often connoted by conflict, asymmetrical status, and prejudice, and the quality of intergroup relations dramatically affects the manner in which people speak about individual members and groups as a whole. Conversely, the language people rely on to address individual members and groups contributes to maintain—and in certain cases even enhances—intergroup conflict and discrimination. Among the different forms of biased language and derogatory group labels are epithets, short tags that convey negative attitudes, and dehumanizing representations of the members or groups they address. Racial slurs, homophobic epithets, and sexist labels can be interpreted by addressing the perspective of the users, the audience, and the victim. Taking into account the user perspective, derogatory group labels express discriminatory and negative attitudes toward specific groups and communicate that the targeted individual is deviating from what is normatively expected. As far as the audience is concerned, the incidental overhearing of these labels affects the cognitive accessibility of semantic knowledge associated with the targeted group, influences the perception of the targeted individual, and strengthens intergroup biases. Finally, being the victim of these labels can negatively affect the well-being of the targeted individual by eliciting negative affect, self-directed prejudice, and worries of non-conformity. The discussion and analysis of the relation between intergroup dynamics and labeling provide the reader with crucial information to handle the current debate on politically correct speech.

Article

In understanding crowd psychology and its explanation of conflict and violence, there are different theoretical approaches that turn on different understandings of communication processes. There are three models of communication in the crowd worth reviewing: classic, normative, and dynamic. Classic models suggest that crowd members are influenced by an idea of emotion presented to them. Normative models suggest that influence is constrained by what is seen as consonant with group norms. And, finally, dynamic models examine how that which becomes normative in the group depends upon intergroup relations. The last of these approaches can explain the patterned, socially meaningful and yet changing nature of crowd action. Crowd action, itself, is a form of communication because it serves to shape the social understandings of participants as well as the social understandings of those beyond the crowd. It is argued that the nature and centrality of crowds contribute to the understanding and creating of social relations in society.

Article

Lauren Keblusek and Howard Giles

Forms of dress, ranging from runway fashions and sports jerseys to traditional cultural apparel and religious garb, are central to contemporary social life and are intimately connected to issues of personal and social identity, communicating to others who we are or who we would like to be. Given this, dress style is a subject worthy of serious scholarly inquiry, particularly within the field of intergroup communication. Dress style—as well as other bodily accoutrements—has received some attention in disciplines across the social sciences, but has received less attention among those studying intergroup relations and communication. Prominent intergroup communication theories, such as social identity, uncertainty identity, and communication accommodation theories, teach us that clothing choices can reflect actual or desired group affiliations, demarcating group boundaries, shaping and reinforcing social identities, and influencing our perceptions of others. Dress style can also stem from a desire to reduce identity uncertainty, serving as a conduit for personal expression and self-discovery. Overall, intergroup dynamics play a prominent role in shaping dress style and body adornment practices across the globe.

Article

Thomas E. Ford, Christopher J. Breeden, Emma C. O'Connor, and Noely C. Banos

Humor fundamentally trivializes its topic and invites people to think about it playfully and non-seriously. Intergroup humor, humor that disparages a social group or its representatives thus disguises expressions of prejudice in a cloak of fun and frivolity, affording it the appearance of social acceptability. As a result, disparagement humor represents a pervasive mechanism for communicating prejudice particularly since society has become increasingly sensitive to expressions of prejudice and other forms of offensive speech. Indeed, disparagement humor is perhaps more readily available to us now in the digital age than ever before. Because of its disguise of social acceptability, disparagement humor serves unique paradoxical functions in intergroup settings. It can function as a social “lubricant” and as a social “abrasive.” Disparagement humor directed at social out-groups functions as a social abrasive by threatening the social identity of members of the targeted group, by transmitting negative stereotypes and prejudice, by intensifying prejudice in the service of social dominance motives, and by fostering the release of prejudice against targeted out-groups. It simultaneously serves as a social lubricant for members of the in-group (the non-disparaged group) by enhancing personal and social identities. Finally, it can be co-opted by members of oppressed groups to serve social lubricant functions, including the subversion of prejudice, provided audiences understand and appreciate the subversive intent.

Article

The focus of intergroup communication research in the Baltic countries is on interethnic relations. All three countries have Russian-speaking urban minorities whose process of integration with Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian majorities has been extensively studied. During the Soviet era when the Russian-speaking communities in the Baltic countries were formed, they enjoyed majority status and privileges. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, there was a status reversal as Russian speakers become minorities in the newly emerged national states. The integration of once monolingual Russian-speaking communities has been the major social challenge for the Baltic states, particularly for Estonia and Latvia where they constitute about 30% of the population. Besides the Russian-speaking minorities, each of the Baltic countries has also one other significant minority. In Estonia it is Võro, a linguistically closely related group to Estonians; in Latvia it is Latgalians, closely related to Latvians; and in Lithuania, it is the Polish minority. Unlike the Russian-speaking urban minorities of fairly recent origin, the other minorities are largely rural and native in their territories. The intergroup communication between the majorities and Russian-speaking minorities in the Baltic countries has often analyzed by a triadic nexus consisting of the minority, the nationalizing state, and the external homeland (Russia). In recent analyses, the European Union (through its institutions) has often been added as an additional player. The intergroup communication between the majorities and the Russian-speaking communities is strongly affected by conflicting collective memories over 20th-century history. While the titular nations see the Soviet time as occupation, the Russian speakers prefer to see the positive role of the Soviet Union in defeating Hitler and reconstructing the countries’ economy. These differences have resulted in some symbolic violence such as relocation of the Bronze Soldier monument in Estonia and the riots that it provoked. Recent annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation and the role of the Ukrainian Russian speakers in the secessionist war in the Eastern Ukraine have raised fears that Russia is trying to use its influence over its compatriots in the Baltic countries for similar ends. At the same time, the native minorities of Võro and Latgalians are going through emancipation and have demanded more recognition. This movement is seen by some among the Estonian and Latvian majorities as attempts to weaken the national communities that are already in trouble with integrating the Russian speakers. In Lithuania, some historical disagreements exist also between the Lithuanians and Polish, since the area of their settlement around capital Vilnius used to be part of Poland before World War II. The Baltic setting is particularly interesting for intergroup communication purposes, since the three countries have several historical parallels: the Russian-speaking communities have fairly similar origin, but different size and prominence, as do the titular groups. These differences in the power balance between the majority and minority have been one of the major factors that have motivated different rhetoric by the nationalizing states, which has resulted in noticeably different outcomes in each setting.

Article

The contextual theory of interethnic communication is an interdisciplinary theory that provides a comprehensive and interdisciplinary account of the associative and dissociative communication behaviors of individual communicators when interacting with ethnically dissimilar others. Integrating a wide range of salient issues, concepts, theories, and related research findings across disciplinary lines of inquiry across social sciences, the theory offers a multidimensional and multifaceted model explaining a full spectrum of interethnic decoding and encoding communication behaviors from highly dissociative to highly associative. Grounded in an open-systems perspective, the interethnic behavior and the context surrounding the behavior are conceived as co-constituting the basic interethnic communication system, operating simultaneously in a dynamic interplay. In varying degrees of salience and significance, all contextual forces are regarded in Kim’s theory to operate in any given interethnic communication event, potentially influencing, and being influenced by the nature of individual communication behaviors of association and dissociation. The theory identifies eight key contextual factors of the communicator (identity inclusivity/exclusivity and identity security/insecurity), the situation (ethnic proximity/distance, shared/separate goal structure, and personal network integration), and the environment (institutional equity/inequity, relative ingroup strength, and environmental stress). Eight theorems are proposed for empirical tests, linking each contextual factor with associative/dissociative behavior. Together, the eight theorems explain the dynamic and reciprocal behavior-context interface in interethnic communication. The theory also provides a conceptual blueprint for conducting case studies on specific interethnic communication events, and suggests pragmatic insights into ways to strengthen the social fabric of an ethnically diverse society from the ground up.