Lucy Nicholas
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Positive regard for difference without identity
in The politics of identity
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The contact hypothesis has been the go-to social psychology concept for promoting better relations between unequal social groups since its inception in the context of ‘racial’ de-segregation in the USA. The idea that contact between groups reduces prejudice has been applied to a range of dominant / subordinate social groups such as ethnic groups, homo/heterosexuals, cis and trans people. This chapter will question whether the aims and premises of contact theory are still useful in the context of increasingly subtle and systemic biases and inequalities, and whether and how it might be usefully extended to relations between more complex identities than simple pre-defined oppositional ‘in’ and ‘out’ groups. To do so, it considers some examples of intergroup othering using case studies pertaining to backlashes against gender, sexual and ethnic diversity in the contemporary Australian context. This chapter proposes the fruitful combination of queer ethics, post-tolerance political theory and the social psychology concept of ‘allophilia’ (love for the other) to move towards fostering ‘positive regard’ as an alternative way to tackle prejudice. It suggests that queer ethics can lend a convincing strategy here, which I call ‘reading queerly’, that is, being able to approach an other with an openness that neither homogenises nor subordinates difference.

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The politics of identity

Place, space and discourse

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