Sunday, 3 May 2020

Prejudice. A Tripartite Conception.

Three components of prejudice are often mentioned: ignorance (arriving at a conclusion before considering facts), hostility (derogatory and hostile attitudes), externalisation (directed at others). Akhtar (2007) proposes an expanded definition since "this conventional tripod" is found "a bit wobbly".

Ignorance and ignoring are the centrepiece of prejudice's definition, however, the author argues, what constitutes a fact remains unclear "in these days of post-modern relativism" asking the question whether we should "restrict ourselves to external reality" or if "the facts in the internal, psychic reality matter as well". Limiting oneself to the former, though, does not mean that we are kept from using revisionist strategies and that sociopolitical interests "readily put a spin on available information to create suitable facts".
Hostility is true of most prejudices but they do not necessarily have to be negative and "naïve idealization is as much a manifestation of prejudice as is ignorant devaluation".
Externalisation of badness are projective mechanisms but they can also involve attitudes about oneself, i.e. turning the target of prejudice into the self (Akhtar, 2007).
Then there are the characterologically narcissistic situations of self-glorification in which a fatal denial of one's blemishes, hostility, and exploitativeness is evident. This too constitutes judgment withouth knowing the facts, though the facts here are mostly intrapsychic ones. On a large group level too, self-glorification occurs as a result of "robbing" a hated group of its good qualities and claiming them for oneself. Also involved here is a negation of the problematic aspects of one's own history. (...) One thing becomes clear in the end. Prejudice can be as easily directed at oneself as it is against others. This pertains to beoth its positive and negative forms, and is applicable to both individuals and groups.
This brief epistemological excursion demonstrates that prejudice can (1) occur in the presence of knowledge, (2) involve good feelings, and (3) be direced at oneself. 
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- Akhtar, S. (2007). From Unmentalized Xenophobia to Messianic Sadism: Some Reflections on the Phenomenology of Prejudice. In H. Parens, A. Mahfouz, S. W. Twemlow, & D. E. Scharff (eds.). The future of prejudice. Psychoanalysis and the prevention of prejudice (7-19). Lanham & Plymouth: Jason Aronson.
- photograph by Bruce Gilden (New Orleans Mardi Gras, 1982) via