Components of Intergroup Hostility

Kiernan, John Michael (2012) Components of Intergroup Hostility. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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A two-phase project investigated expressions of inter-group hostility across a real-world context identified as displaying prior and on-going manifestations of conflict. The views of white-British community members were accessed to explore how issues around problematic relations with a juxtaposed population of British South Asians were constructed, explained and interpreted. Following a review of theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of inter-group hostility, the initial phase of the study applied thematic analysis to a series of open-ended semi-structured interviews with 21 respondents. From this a range of perceived contributory factors (‘components’) to the generation and maintenance of inter-group hostility were identified. Observations were also made about how issues around the inter-group relationship were differentially evaluated from both lesser/non-hostile and more overtly hostile perspectives. Phase two then used material generated from these analyses to produce context-specific survey measures to enable the assessment of patterns of the relative importance attributed to various components of perceived influence on inter-group hostility by 205 participants from the same community.
Findings from both phases were discussed in relation to the range of theoretical perspectives initially outlined, particularly the relative importance attributed to different contributory components in this specific social context. These most notably related to various forms of perceived threat (Riek et al., 2006; Runcimann, 1966; Sherif, 1966; Stephan & Stephan, 2000; Tajfel & Turner, 1986). The importance of in-group consensus and social facilitation were also highlighted in relation to accounts from more hostile perspectives (Bobo, 2008), particularly in terms of limits to the availability of explanatory resources and interpretive repertoires in such accounts (Wetherell & Potter, 1992). Perceptions of the out-group as being problematically different and receiving preferential treatment were also identified as sources of animosity from more hostile perspectives. Lesser/non-hostile perspectives were notable for identifying external forces (e.g., media and political influence, general social deprivation in the area) as the factors most responsible for inter-group hostility. This research makes contributions to existing knowledge in a number of ways: 1.) By incorporating a broader, multidimensional and more holistic synthesis of potential contributory elements to inter-group hostility than has been previously attempted. 2.) By placing greater emphasis on the contextual nature of specific inter-group conflicts across different situations. 3.) From the investigation of a specifically British context of inter-group hostility, and the role played by perceived threat in this particular intergroup dynamic. That these contributions were accomplished using in-depth qualitative analysis, which acknowledge the importance of consensual understandings of social reality and incorporate participants’ own subjective interpretations, also represents a strength. Suggestions for future research are also discussed.

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