Contact with the foreigner: a study of intergroup contact with foreign nationals as constructed by black South Africans in Umlazi, G section post 2015 xenophobic attacks.
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In intergroup contact literature, the contact hypothesis has been proven to be an effective prejudice reduction tool when contact occurs under optimal conditions (for example: Pettigrew and Troop, 2006). However, research on this theory has continually focused on experimentally manipulated conditions of contact, resulting in research that is decontextualised and that fails to take into account the complex realities of contact in situations of conflict. In this study, intergroup contact was understood as a natural phenomenon and the focus was on understanding how group members constructed contact encounters in a context where issues such as conflict and intergroup violence were lived experiences. This study was conducted in Umlazi, KwaZulu-Natal, an area that was largely affected during the 2015 xenophobic attacks in South Africa. Working models of contact were drawn upon as an analytical framework for this study, in order to gain an understanding of how local residents constructed and made sense of their encounters with foreigners. Observations during the study revealed that local residents largely constructed intergroup contact as an exploitative process on local residents as foreigners were said to be constantly exploiting and taking advantage of local residents. Such a belief of contact allowed local residents to avoid encounters with foreigners; but also allowed group members to render actions, such as violence, towards foreigners as intelligible due to the threat foreigners posed to group members.