"They say Butch go catch him" : a study of imagined intergroup contact as constructed by informal settlers as abject partners in contact.
The imagined contact hypothesis has provided strong empirical evidence that positive mental simulations of intergroup encounters result in the same mediation benefits of direct intergroup contact (e.g. Turner, Crisp & Lambert, 2007). However, research on imagined intergroup contact has remained laboratory based with researchers providing predetermined imaginings of intergroup encounters. This methodology has resulted in literature that is devoid of participant’s own constructions of imagined intergroup encounters. The main focus of the study was to explore how imagined intergroup contact is constructed by groups in real life contexts where issues such as racism and segregation are lived experiences. This study focused on the informal settlement of Nhlalakahle, which was constructed on open land in Northdale. The plight for basic resources has resulted in a racialized conflict between the residents of Nhlalakahle and suburban Northdale. The study drew on working models of contact as an analytical framework for understanding how imagined intergroup contact is constructed by groups in situations of inequality where they suffer the effects of being in the lower rungs of societal hierarchy. The study reported that intergroup contact was largely constructed as a threatening experience for ingroup members. Working models of contact with racist outgroup members were frequently used to advance discourses of victimisation and abuse where probable intergroup encounters would result in the abuse of ingroup members. Such working models of imagined contact allowed the informal residents to evade the prospect of intergroup encounters with Northdale residents. These working models of contact also justified ingroup members to informally segregate themselves as intergroup contact with Northdale residents would prove to be detrimental for Nhlalakahle residents.