Everyday dehumanization: Negative contact, humiliation, and the lived experience of being treated as ‘less than human’

Murray, Amy Jo; Durrheim, Kevin and Dixon, John (2022). Everyday dehumanization: Negative contact, humiliation, and the lived experience of being treated as ‘less than human’. British Journal of Social Psychology (Early Access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/bjso.12524

Abstract

Developing work on the nature and consequences of negative intergroup contact, this study explores its potential role in sustaining everyday experiences of dehumanisation; that is, experiences in which participants report feeling deprived of full human status. As a case study, we explore domestic service relations in a neighbourhood of Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, analysing interviews (n=22) conducted with Black domestic workers and their families (n=64 participants in total) about their day-to-day interactions with Indian employers. Drawing on thematic analysis of accounts of paid domestic labour and food-sharing practices, we argue that negative contact experiences may cumulatively engender a sense of dehumanization and associated feelings of humiliation: a response marked by intertwined constructions of shame and injustice. Implications for understanding wider problems of intergroup conflict and political solidarity are discussed and avenues for future research proposed.

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