Of Fear and Strangers A History of Xenophobia George Makari

Publication date:
24 Aug 2021
Yale University Press
368 pages: 235 x 156mm
40 b-w illus.
Sales territories:
World excluding the U.S., its territories and dependencies,the Philippines and Canada

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Over the last few years, it has been impossible to ignore the steady resurgence of xenophobia. The European migrant crisis and immigration from Central America to the United States have placed Western advocates of globalization on the defensive, and a ‘New Xenophobia’ seems to have emerged out of nowhere.
In this fascinating study, George Makari traces the history of xenophobia from its origins to the present day. Often perceived as an ancient word for a timeless problem, ‘xenophobia’ was in fact only coined a century ago, tied to heated and formative Western debates over nationalism, globalization, race and immigration. From Richard Wright to Sigmund Freud, Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, writers and thinkers have long grappled with this most dangerous of phobias. Drawing on their work, Makari demonstrates how we can better understand the problem that is so crucial to our troubled times.

George Makari is a psychiatrist, historian, and author, most recently of Soul Machine: The Invention of the Modern Mind. He is Director of the DeWitt Wallace Institute and Professor of Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College.

"Riveting…Makari brings an impressive range of reading to bear, wearing his learning lightly…All the material is enthralling."—New York Times Editor’s Choice

"We may be inclined to believe that xenophobia is embedded in the human DNA — that it has existed since the dawn of human life. But psychiatrist and author George Makari suggests otherwise…[he] argues that xenophobia is a recent concept. As a social construct, xenophobia is a product of the modern era, arising under the conditions of intercultural mixing that have marked globalization. Makari traces the term from its first appearance in print to the ways it has been deployed in recent years, particularly since global social upheavals such as the fall of the Soviet Union, the economic crisis of 2008, and the mass displacement of refugees due to war and conflict."—Washington Post


"Makari…tells a compelling story of racial and ethnic animosity"—Wall Street Journal

“This important study by psychiatrist and historian Makari does not pull its punches.”—Martin Chilton, The Independent

‘Drawing on philosophy, psychology, sociology, and other disciplines, George Makari's beautiful writing delivers a strikingly original history using words and phrases as clues to be examined: xenophobia, stranger-anxiety, fear of others, and so on. A sheer delight to read, this book is a gift for all.’ – Zia Haider Rahman, author of In the Light of What We Know

‘George Makari shows that xenophobia is as relevant today as it was when this word first originated, and that so much of our hatred is often rooted in fear of outsiders, this notion of inside and outside groups that we create.  As we see a rise of identity politics across the world, it becomes imperative to understand this fear, how political discourses and agendas feed into it, and what we can do about it. This insightful, timely and cogently argued book puts current global politics into perspective.’ – Pragya Agarwal, author of Sway: Unravelling Unconscious Bias 

‘With elegance and passionate conviction, George Makari deconstructs one of the ugliest problems of our time: a fear and hatred of strangers, foreigners, anyone perceived to place his loyalties with another group.  With penetrating insight, he reveals the history of a grave weakness that is one of the wildest threats against coherent democracy and human kindness.’ – Andrew Solomon, former president of PEN, and author of Far From the Tree

‘[With] astonishing range and lucid erudition, George Makari has again given us an intellectual history that illustrates how little we know about the ideas that animate and rule our world.’ – Anthony Walton, author of Mississippi: An American Journey