Additional section and/or chapter ideas for Confronting Toxic Othering

Posted on: February 6, 2022 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: Hydra "privileging forces"

[updated 2-21-22]

Additional section and/or chapter ideas for Confronting Toxic Othering

An ongoing project
Though I published Confronting Toxic Othering (CTO) in late September 2021, I never considered the project done. In presentations to several audiences here in the US I have found myself explaining and expanding the concept of the Hydra, each time finding new and useful wrinkles to add. In the preface I invite the reader to provide feedback and I constantly seek same from my current and past students.

As of this writing I am in communication with several colleagues here at Elon University but also with (the soon to be Dr). Tanishia Williams at the African-American Policy Forum, co-founded by Kimberle Crenshaw, and with Anton Treuer, Professor of Ojibwe at Minnesota’s Bemidji State University. My hope is that from each I will gain deeper insight about the forces of oppression which dominate our world.

Perhaps most importantly I remain in constant contact with staff at the Centre for Peace and Justice at BracU and with the Rohingya and Bangladeshi learners who were in my online course last summer. They continue to provide amazing insight and inspiration. In a six-month post class GoogleMeet recently, each learner spoke in detail about the conceptual tools we created together. It was in conversation with these learners I first used the phrase ‘toxic othering.’

Since publishing the first edition of CTO I found and re-read Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed. I read this work as a young graduate student in the mid 1970’s, but many ideas were lost on me at the time. My second reading of Freire’s book has provided me with additional support for some of my core ideas, and a video lecture by Anton Treuer¬†profoundly impacted my views.

An additional chapter has already been added in draft form and I have several others in varying forms of development. The current version of CTO has many student contributions and a full chapter from my colleague in Bangladesh, Azizul Hoque. My intention is that many more additional voices will appear in this next edition.

New sections and chapters
Below is a listing of some additional sections and/or chapters which will appear in a revised edition.

  • An instructor’s guide at the end which will provide thought questions based on both specific chapters and general concepts contained in the book.
  • An extended chapter outlining specific examples of how toxic othering has been challenged at by both individuals, organizations, and governments at the local, national, and global level. This will be a ‘suggestions on how to tame the Hydra’ chapter.
  • None of the privileging forces that make up the Hydra are binary; each is more accurately on a spectrum. This new chapter will expand on each head of the Hydra detailing how too think about each in a much more nuanced -and hence accurate and productive- fashion.
  • A section on how one can apply insights from Freire to understanding toxic othering, false consciousness, socialization for disadvantage, and how the language of oppression permeates all of our social institutions.
  • A section on the concept of positionality, explaining how one’s status set and master status are situation dependent and hence fluid even from moment to moment.
  • In my sociology classes I have always presently ascribed status as something assigned at birth (gender, race, age) or assigned later in life. I now more consciously very aware that one must as the question ‘assigned by who or what’ and interrogate how through history culture’s have normalized and legitimized the creation of most (if not all) marginalized and oppressed statuses. Gender, race, and ability, just to name a few, are concepts reified and ossified through the actions of those in power with the purpose of marginalization. All heads of the heads of the Hydra must be examined through this lens.
  • The term ‘white privilege’ has now become a powerful phrase in our vocabulary. Expanding this term and exploring male, cis, class, Global North, able, youthful, and human privilege may be fruitful. Employing the concept of intersectionality, how these privileges mutually reinforce each other can be described.

I am sure there are other sections to consider, and I will be listening closely to feedback from all those mentioned above in the coming weeks. If you have any thoughts of feedback, please contact me at

Here is a short video I made last September as an introduction to the book.

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 edition of 'Confronting Toxic Othering' will be out later in 2023.

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