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The taboo against group contact: Hypothesis of Gypsy ontologization


Correspondence should be addressed to Juan A. Pérez, Facultad de Psicologia/Av. Blasco Ibáñez, 21/Valencia-46010, Spain (e-mail:


The concept of this article is that the symbolic relationships between human beings and animals serve as a model for the relationships between the majority and the ethnic minority. We postulate that there are two representations that serve to organize these relationships between human beings and animals: a domestic and a wild one. If the domestic animal is an index of human culture, the wild animal is an index of nature which man considers himself to share with the animal. With the wild representation, contact with the animal will be taboo, as it constitutes a threat to the anthropological difference. We offer the hypothesis that ontologization of the minority, that is, the substitution of a human category with an animal category, and thus its exclusion from the human species, is a method the majority use when the taboo against contact with the wild nature is necessary. Three experiments confirm the hypothesis that the Gypsy minority (as compared with the Gadje majority) is more ontologized when the context (a monkey or a clothed dog) threatens the anthropological differentiation of the Gadje participants.

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