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Xenophobia (from Ancient Greek: ξένος (xénos), "strange, foreign, or alien", and φόβος (phóbos), "fear") is the fear or dislike of anything which is perceived as being foreign or strange. It is an expression which is based on the perception that a conflict exists between an in-group and an out-group and it may manifest itself in suspicion of one group's activities by members of the other group, a desire to eliminate the presence of the group which is the target of suspicion, and fear of losing a national, ethnic, or racial identity.
A 1997 review article on xenophobia holds that it is "an element of a political struggle about who has the right to be cared for by the state and society: a fight for the collective good of the modern state."
In Ancient Egypt, foreigners were conceived of through a complex xenophobic discourse. Given ancient Egypt's long history, Egyptians encountered a number of different peoples. Peoples living in present-day Greece, Sudan, and Turkey, for instance, were referred to by various names in Egyptian. According to one source, "...all the names have at the end the same hieroglyphic sign– a determinative or taxogram– indicating the word-group. This is the hieroglyph for a hilly country or the desert– indicating 'foreign land' (khaset)...By contrast, Egypt (Kemet/Black land) is written with the determinative for a town. This indicates that Egyptians regarded their part of the world as cultivated, ordered and civilized, while the other countries were not." This indicates an early example of a xenophobic attitude towards other peoples. In addition, ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics indicate xenophobic ideas about a necessity to conquer non-Egyptians, with Hittites in particular being referred to as "vile".
An early example of xenophobic sentiment in Western culture is the Ancient Greek denigration of foreigners as "barbarians", the belief that the Greek people and culture were superior to all other peoples and cultures, and the subsequent conclusion that barbarians were naturally meant to be enslaved.
Black Africans were considered especially exotic, and perhaps they were considered threateningly alien, so they are seldom if ever mentioned in Roman literature without some negative connotations. The historian Appian claims that the military commander Marcus Junius Brutus, before the battle of Philippi in 42BC, met an 'Ethiopian' outside the gates of his camp: his soldiers instantly hacked the man to pieces, taking his appearance for a bad omen—to the superstitious Roman, black was the colour of death."
The COVID-19 pandemic, which was first reported in the city of Wuhan, Hubei, China, in December 2019, has led to an increase in acts and displays of Sinophobia, as well as prejudice, xenophobia, discrimination, violence, and racism against people of East Asian and Southeast Asian descent and appearance around the world. With the spread of the pandemic and the formation of COVID-19 hotspots, such as those in Asia, Europe, and the Americas, discrimination against people from these hotspots has been reported.