Confronting Toxic Othering now on Kindle and Amazon

Posted on: November 3, 2021 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: Hydra "privileging forces"

Confronting Toxic Othering now on Kindle and Amazon

A long journey
My book Confronting Toxic Othering: Understanding and Taming the Hydra is now available on Kindle and as a paper back on Amazon.

Publishing this book was a more than two year journey. It began with an email from a humanitarian worker by the name of Leah Campbell at ALNAP who had the who had read some of my blogs and thought that I would be a good fit for a session at this organizations semi annual meeting in Berlin. When I got her email about contributing to a panel on privileging forces, almost immediately I saw the connection between the the five social forces mentioned. I connected all of these privileging forces together in an image of a hydra, and for the last two years I have been presenting this idea to every one of my sociology classes.

My students seem to resonate with the concept fairly quickly, and tend to reference the idea throughout the course. Each cohort of students adds another layer of depth and complexity to the ideas.

The project of putting the series of blog posts into a book languished late last year, but I was very fortunate to be connected with the Centre for Peace and Justice in Bangladesh and was partnered with an amazing young man named Azizul Hoque. He and I along with a student assistant from Elon, Trevor Molin taught an online class  ‘introduction to sociology’ to a mixture of Rohingya refugees and Bangladeshi nationals. This class was one of the biggest challenges I have ever had as an educator. I was determined to move through the course with the same pedagogical style I had always used in my career, that is  try to understand where my students are and reach them in ways that will be personally meaningful. Though in this case that was a stretch, it is absolutely because of my partnership with Aziz that we were able to have what I think was a fairly successful class.

We started with 20 learners, lost two for logistical reasons but fairly early but those two were immediately replaced so that we ended up our 10 week ‘short course’ with 20 students. I remain in contact with those learners via WhatsApp, and think about them frequently. I make mention of these learners because it was their ideas, questions, and participation in our weekly classes that pushed the book project over the finish line.  It is to these 20 learners that the book is dedicated, and all net profits will go to supporting educational initiatives in the refugee camps.

Waiting for critiques
I have a fear that some people will read this book and critique it for its lack of academic rigor, but I hope most quickly realize that this is a compilation of blog posts, bursts of thoughts related to privileging forces put into short essays, and now arranged into chapters of a book. I will continue presenting the idea in my classes and I very likely will begin a revised edition of the book almost immediately. One fantasy I have is that I may be able to organize another edition of the book written at a more serious level, with authors who are interested in one or more heads of the hydra doing deep dives into the history of the various privileging forces and talk about how these forces have been confronted over the years both locally, nationally, and internationally.

Animated gif created by Amelia Arcaro-Burbridge

That I am a hetero/cisgender, able, white male from the Global North talking about ‘privileging forces’ may raise some eyebrows, and I address my perspective in the book. I welcome discussion about this point.

One issue that I think some people might have with the image of the Hydra is that it makes it appear that the various privileging forces are all equal in terms of their impact. That is demonstratively not the case, of course, and I believe that the privileging forces of patriarchy, racism, and classism are definitely more at the root of most social problems as opposed to for example ageism which is actually a fairly new -ism. Anthropocentrism, our toxic othering of the natural world, looms as a major factor to be sure. All these privileging forces are fueled by unchecked global capitalism and neoliberalism, and addessing this fact accents the inherent intersectionality of all eight privileging forces.

There are many topics that could have been addressed in the book, but aren’t in this edition. For example, exploring the intersection between liberation theology, critical race theory (CRT) and critical Hydra theory (CHT) would be useful, mapping out how many of the privileging forces discussed in CRT and CHT are explicitly addressed by liberation theology, advocating confronting oppression in many forms.

You can contact me here if you have any feedback.



Tom Arcaro

Tom Arcaro is a professor of sociology at Elon University. He has been researching and studying the humanitarian aid and development ecosystem for nearly two decades and in 2016 published 'Aid Worker Voices'. He recently published his second and third books related to the humanitarians sector with 'Confronting Toxic Othering' published in 2021 and 'Dispatches from the Margins of the Humanitarian Sector' in 2022. A revised second edition of 'Confronting Toxic Othering' is now available from Kendall Hunt Publishers

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