‘Abnormalization’ of ethnic minorities in conversation


Dr Maykel Verkuyten, Faculty of Social Sciences, Utrecht University, Heidelberglaan 2, 3584 CS Utrecht, The Netherlands (e-mail: m.verkuyten@fss.uu.nl).


Social psychologists studying intergroup relations have shown a renewed interest in social norms. In doing so, norms are treated typically as a non-problematic given and independent of the actual practices people are involved in. This study examines the discursive construction and representation of abnormality by analysing discussions held by some ethnically Dutch inhabitants of old inner-city quarters in Rotterdam. It is shown how these people in focus-group type talk construct the behaviour of ethnic minority residents as ‘abnormal’ in a recognizable number of ways. They set the ethnic minority residents in contrast with ‘obviously normal’ practices; they use extreme case formulations in describing their behaviour; and they draw upon ‘unarguable’ human values in explaining their judgments. Further, specific versions of reality were constructed in providing a justificatory account of their assessment, and undermining cultural interpretations were managed by criticizing ethnic minority culture, questioning particular behaviour as an instance of culture, and arguing for the need for adaptation.