Why Xenophobia?

27 Pages Posted: 9 Jul 2020 Last revised: 10 Feb 2021

See all articles by Natsu Taylor Saito

Natsu Taylor Saito

Georgia State University College of Law

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

Suggested Citation

Saito, Natsu Taylor, Why Xenophobia? (December 19, 2019). Georgia State University College of Law, Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2021-05, Berkeley La Raza Law Journal, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3645466 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3645466

Natsu Taylor Saito (Contact Author)

Georgia State University College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 4037
Atlanta, GA 30302-4037
United States

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