Fear of and anger against the other - The strange, the sick and the imaginary struggle for survival

Swen Seebach, Enrique Baleriola Escudero, Marco Maureira Velásquez, Pedro Torrejon Cano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


© 2016, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya. All rights reserved. This article wants to explore the associative relationship between epidemics, lack of hygiene and foreignness that German people, politicians and the German press have made repeatedly during the recent wave of migration from Syria to Germany. It wants to especially look at the emotions of fear, anger and the resulting hate that not only pull these two things together but that combine being a health risk and being a stranger in a way that they create a vicious circle in which one perpetuates the other and creates a condition in which one always serves as a justification for the other. We will present the relationships among fear, anger, and hate empirically by reflecting on a few interviews carried out in Germany, three press articles and people’s comments in the press, on Facebook and other social media that have surfaced after a small outbreak of scabies in a refugee camp in the Jenfelder Moorpark in Hamburg. The outbreak was neither medically meaningful nor caused by a lack of the refugees’ hygiene, but rather as a consequence of the bad hygienic conditions that were to be found in the provisional refugee camp. However, this little but crucial part of information never really entered into the wider public debate –partly because the local German press only focused on the outbreak itself rather than on its causes and partly because the current social context has created a lack of confidence in the press, from both sides of civil society. Instead of critical reflections on causes and backgrounds, the majority of commenting readers pronounced publically the hypothetical link between their fears of both foreigners and epidemics and used the story as a bond-maker, allowing them to create a collective emotional reaction with others based on their projected fears. Within this process of collective projection fear turned into anger, as a collective form to face individual fear, resulting in the sensation of a need for collective self-defence, a sensation that their Society Must be Defended (Foucault, 2003).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-24
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016


  • Anger
  • Emotions
  • Epidemics
  • Fear
  • Governmentality
  • Hygiene
  • Refugees
  • Social psychology
  • Sociology


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