Minority understandings of the dynamics to intergroup contact encounters: British Muslims' (sometimes ambivalent) experiences of representing their group to others

Nick Hopkins, Ronni Michelle Greenwood, Maisha Birchall

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    18 Citations (Scopus)


    Much contact research overlooks how minorities understand and experience their interactions and encounters with majorities. However, there is good reason to believe that minority group members may have different understandings of such encounters. The present article seeks to address these understandings through considering the experiences of British Muslims. We explore the dynamics of Islamophobia and the potential role of contact in reducing anti-Muslim stereotyping. We then consider the importance minorities may give to the recognition of group difference and the issues this raises for successful contact (e.g., the establishment and communication of respect). In turn, we explore the issue of minority group members acting as ambassadors for their group in intergroup encounters. In particular, we consider minority group members' understandings of the pleasures and burdens associated with this role. We report qualitative data based on interviews with 28 Muslim activists. These data are analysed to explore the complexities and ambivalences involved in representing one's group to others. We highlight the importance of attending to minority group members' experiences of majority/minority power relations and suggest that minority group members may find contact encounters (broadly construed) frustrating because they are often positioned as an exemplar or representative of their group on terms that are not their own but those of the majority. We suggest that this may have implications for the degree to which minorities feel their identities are recognised and respected.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)679-701
    Number of pages23
    JournalSouth African Journal of Psychology
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2007

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