X is for Xenophobia

X is for XenophobiaToday the A to Z Challenge continues! I’ll be posting about one letter/word on every weekday in April. Don’t want the barrage of posts? Sign up for my newsletter and I’ll let you know when I start doing new stuff next month!

X is for Xenophobia.

I spent a great many days pondering my X word before finally settling on xenophobia. Xenophobia is the intense and irrational fear of people from other countries and cultures. It’s a word that is uncomfortably relevant thanks to the horrific mess we’re calling the American election campaign. I think we’re all well aware of this campaign though and I don’t think I have anything new to add. So I’m going to take your attention away from the horrors of our world and discuss how xenophobia can be an interesting story tool.

The most obvious way to use a xenophobic culture is to throw an outsider in and see whether they get killed or they can actually build a halfway decent relationship with these people. The second most obvious way is to send somebody out of a xenophobic culture and have them learn the world isn’t such a bad place after all.

It’s obvious from these storylines that most modern writers are uncomfortable with xenophobia, which is a good thing, but there’s a lot of interesting potential in candidly exploring xenophobia from an insider’s point of view. Most xenophobic cultures actively train their youth to perpetuate the cycle of fear and hatred. Think of all the times when aboriginal people or people of colour were called savages and much worse by white historians, preachers and teachers.

A xenophobic culture often has many more interesting things about it than the xenophobia itself, many processes used to control their people. 1984 is the obvious example of excellent fiction that really explores how a culture like this works. It’s pretty scary stuff, which means it’s fertile ground for a great many stories.

Have you read any other interesting books about xenophobic cultures? Let me know about them in the comments below!