The spread of Covid-19 across the globe has been accompanied by a parallel plague—that of discrimination, hostility, and violence towards minorities and immigrants—an unfortunately familiar pattern in the history of disease. We pose an empirically urgent, normatively salient question: How might we mitigate against the scapegoating of, and even encourage pro-social behavior towards, ethnic minorities on the part of majority ethnic groups in the context of the ongoing pandemic? We combine qualitative and quantitative methods to explore a relatively underemphasized factor—an inclusive nationalism. The dominant association of nationalism is with divisions, discrimination, and conflict. Yet nationalism has also been shown to be a powerful constructive force. The key question is how inclusively the boundaries of the nation are drawn. Drawing together and building on work across political science, sociology, economics, political theory, and social psychology, we show how a superordinate national solidarity that encompasses different ethnic groups can be leveraged to reduce the scapegoating of, and might even encourage prosocial behavior towards, minorities in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. We study these questions in India—a country characterized by competing inclusive, secular versus exclusive, Hindu nationalist definitions of the nation which has witnessed widespread ethnic scapegoating of Muslim minorities during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mahatma Gandhi Associate Professor of Political Science and International and Public Affairs, Brown University
Assistant Professor, University of Essex