VIEWPOINT Grasping the Fear: How Xenophobia Intersects with Climatephobia and Robotphobia and how their Co-production Creates Feelings of Abandonment, Self-pity and Destruction


  • Karsten Paerregaard



Immigration, Misperceptions, Canada, Innumeracy, Undocumented Immigrants


The aim of this article is to discuss an issue that has been on my mind for several years: the fear that fuels the rightist populist movements in Europe and America. As we all know, xenophobia is at the heart of the political rhetoric of Lega in Italy, Vox in Spain, Rassemplement National in France, UKIP in UK, Die Freiheitspartei in Austria, Alternative für Deutschland in Germany, Vlaams Belang in Belgium, Partij voor de Vrijheid in Holland, the nationalist parties of Eastern Europe and the Nordic countries, and, of course, the Republican Party led by President Trump in the US. In Europe, anti-Muslim sentiments have become a driver of rightist populism in many countries, and in America, Mexicans and other Latino groups are recurring targets of Trump’s many tweets. But even though I agree that xenophobia is crucial to the surge of populism in the Western world, I believe other equally important sentiments of fear co-produce the image of foreigners as a threat. Two such elements are the threats that a future climate disaster and the introduction of AI (artificial intelligence) represent to our lives and livelihoods.


Art, David. 2011. Inside the Radical Right: The Development of Anti-Immigration Parties in Western Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bonikowski, Bart; Daphene Halikiopoulou; Eric Kaufmann & Matthijs Rooduijn. 2019. Populism and Nationalism in Comparative Perspective: A Scholarly Exchange. Nations and Nationalism, 25(1): 58-81.

Burke, Michael; Rommel Salvador; Kristin Crhis-Crove & Suzanne Chan-Serafin. 2011. The Dread Factor. How Hazards and Safety Training Influence Learning and Performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 96(1): 46-70.

Case, Anne. 2015. "Deaths of Despair" are Killing America's White Working Class. Quartz Ideas, Dec 30.

Charakbarty, Diseph. 2017. The Politics of Climate Change is More than the Politics of Capitalism. Theory, Culture, Society, 34 (2-3): 25-37.

de Vreese, Claes H.; Frank Esser; Toril Alberg; Carsten Reinemann & James Stanyer. 2018. Populism as an Expression of Political Communication: A New Style Perspective. The International Journal of Press/Politics, 23(4): 423-438.

Dekker, Fabian; Anna Salomons & Jeroen van der Waal. 2017. Fear of Robots at Work: The Role of Economic Self-interest. Socio-Economic Review, 15(3): 539-562.

Erikson, Henrik and Martin Salzmann-Erikson. 2016. Future Challenges of Robotics and Artificial Intelligence in Nursing. What Can We Learn from Monsters in Popular Culture? The Permanente Journal, 20(3): 15-243.

Fella, Stefano and Ruzza, Carlo. 2009. Re-Inventing the Italian Right: Territorial Politics, Populism and 'Post-Fascism'. London: Routledge.

Foster, John Belamy. 2017. Trump and Climate Catastrophe. Monthly Review (Review of the Month), 68(9):

Goodliffe, Gabriel. 2012. The Resurgence of the Radical Right in France. From Boulangisme to the Front National. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hamstra, Brittany. 2018. Will These Nurse Robots Take over Your Job? Don't Freak out just yet. Nurse.Org, Feb 27.

Hulme, Mike. 2009. Why We Disagree about Climate. Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Laclau, Ernesto. 2005. On Populist Reason. London: Verso.

Latour, Bruno. 2017. The New Climate. Harper's Magazine, May.

Masco, Joseph. 2010. Bad Weather. On Planetary Crisis. Social Studies of Science, 40(1): 7-40.

Müller, Jan-Werner. 2017. What is Populism? Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Povinelli, Elisabeth. 2011. Economies of Abandonment: Social Belonging and Endurance in Late Liberalism. Chapel Hill: Duke University Press.

Richardson, Kathleen. 2015. An Anthropology of Robots and AI. Annihilation Anxiety and Machines. London: Routledge.

Skocpol, Theda and Vanesa Williamson. 2012. The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Sprinkle, Tim. 2018. Do Robots Deserve Legal Rights? ASME, Jan 19.

Szollosy, Michael. 2017. Freud, Frankenstein and Our Fear of Robots. Projection in Our Cultural Perception of Technology. AI & Society 32(3): 433-439.

Thielking, Megan. 2017. Life Expectancy in the US is Falling - and Drug Overdose Deaths are Soaring. Scientific American (Health), Dec 27.

Wallace-Wells, David. 2017. The Uninhabitable Earth. Famine, Economic Collapse, a Sun that Cooks Us: What Climate Change Could Wreck - Sooner than You Think. New York (Intelligencer), July 10.




How to Cite

Paerregaard, K. (2019). VIEWPOINT Grasping the Fear: How Xenophobia Intersects with Climatephobia and Robotphobia and how their Co-production Creates Feelings of Abandonment, Self-pity and Destruction. Migration Letters, 16(4), 647–652.