Irrational categorization, natural intolerance and reasonable discrimination: Lay representations of prejudice and racism


Correspondence should be addressed to Lia Figgou, Fleming 40, 55133, Thessaloniki, Greece (e-mail:


This paper explores how the constructs of ‘prejudice’ and ‘racism’ were used and understood by respondents in an interview study concerning the settlement of Albanian refugees in Greece. Analysis indicated the existence of multiple, potentially contradictory, common sense understandings of prejudice and racism, analogous to some accounts of the prejudice construct in academic social psychology. However, notwithstanding the fact that respondents displayed multiple understandings of racism or prejudice in theory, these abstract formulations were rarely employed to account for actual instances of discrimination. Specific discriminatory acts against Albanian people were framed instead as matters of fear and risk. By virtue of being cast within a problematic of in/security rather than within the discursive frame of prejudice, particular hostile actions against the Albanian refugees could be glossed as reasonable and understandable.