A startling work of historical sleuthing and synthesis, Of Fear and Strangers reveals the forgotten histories of xenophobia—and what they mean for us today.
By 2016, it was impossible to ignore an international resurgence of xenophobia. What had happened? Looking for clues, psychiatrist and historian George Makari started out in search of the idea’s origins. To his astonishment, he discovered an unfolding series of never-told stories. While a fear and hatred of strangers may be ancient, he found that the notion of a dangerous bias called “xenophobia” arose not so long ago.
Coined by late nineteenth-century doctors and political commentators and popularized by an eccentric stenographer, xenophobia emerged alongside Western nationalism, colonialism, mass migration, and genocide. In this groundbreaking work, the author investigates these forces alongside the writings of figures such as Joseph Conrad, Albert Camus, and Richard Wright, and innovators like Walter Lippmann, Sigmund Freud, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and Frantz Fanon. In the end, Of Fear and Strangers pulls together the most critical contributions, to help us comprehend the “New Xenophobia” we now face.
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“Makari makes an airtight case that an enhanced understanding of the concept ‘xenophobia’ can serve as a skeleton key that will help unlock many of the psychic terrors currently haunting our cognitive processes and social worlds.”
Anthony Walton, author of Mississippi: An American Journey
“[A] compelling story of racial and ethnic animosity.”
— Wall Street Journal
“By shedding light on the trajectory of xenophobia during its 150-year history, this skillfully written account helps point us towards ways to combat it.”
— Washington Post
“A fascinating if powerfully disturbing series of examples of stranger hatred (and exploitation) alongside the internal dissent such encounters have always prompted…All the material is enthralling."
— New York Times Book Review
“The author focuses less on its origins than on when the concept was labeled ‘phobic’—that is, when it became widely condemned…A timely and thorough investigation of a cultural plague.”
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Elegantly written, erudite, and often intriguing.”,
— Publishers Weekly
“Examines xenophobia from ancient times to the present.”
— Library Journal
“An innovative look at the idea of xenophobia.”
— Henry Louis Gates, Jr., New York Times bestselling author
“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, New York Times bestselling author
A New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice of the Week
A Bloomberg News Pick of Best Books of the Year
Cowinner of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Nonfiction
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About George Makari
George Makari is a psychiatrist, historian, and author of the award-winning book Of Fear and Strangers, as well as Revolution in Mind: The Creation of Psychoanalysis. He is director of the DeWitt Wallace Institute and professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College.
About Paul Heitsch
After producing, directing, and engineering spoken word recordings for over twenty years, Paul Heitsch began narrating audiobooks in 2011, and has recorded many bestselling titles as both himself and under a pseudonym. A classically trained pianist, Paul is also a composer and sound designer, and is currently the director of music for the James Madison University School of Theatre and Dance, and an adjunct instructor for the JMU School of Music. He and his family live in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley region of Virginia (although Chicago will always be his hometown).