Same people, different images. The social representations of migrants in a local community


The increase of immigrants compels local communities to find appropriate responses to encourage successful intercultural adjustment. The migrant public perception of native population may strongly influence the effectiveness with which migration is managed. Nonetheless, the social understanding of immigrants is not homogeneous among native community members. Functioning within the theory of social representations, this research aimed to capture the differences between the representations of migrants experienced by distinctive groups of native residents, and their relation to the experience of community (Sense of Community - SoC) and ethnic prejudice. Following a quali-quantitative approach, 494 inhabitants of Nardò (51% female), a town in Southern Italy, were asked to fill in a questionnaire including a words association task and measures of SoC, modern prejudice and the perception of impact of immigration on SoC. The dataset was submitted to the analysis of similarity through SIMI2005 software. The results indicated that the social construction of the targeted migrants was consistent across diverse community groups. However, the structural analysis highlighted a quota of inter-individual differences among community members; the peripheral contents of the representations were diverse among groups of residents with either positive or negative attitudes towards community and immigrants.


DOI Code: 10.1285/i24212113v1i2p96

Keywords: Migration; inter-ethnic relations; social representations


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