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Galerie de l'Homme © MNHN - J-C Domenech
Galerie de l'Homme © MNHN - J-C Domenech


Deciphering words for better understanding.

Vocabulary for the Nous et les Autres - Des préjugés au racisme exhibition


While the differences between social groups or individuals are endless, choosing – real or imagined – characteristics that are seen as relevant for identifying the other enables differentiation and a symbolic barrier between “us” and “them” to be created.

Identity labelling

Although everyone defines themselves according to a context or factors they want to highlight, identity labelling gives the individual a fixed identity, attributing physical, cultural or psychological traits to them that are specific to the group they belong to or are thought to belong to.


Categorisation is a mental process that helps to make the world less complex. Humans classify individuals according to their appearance, religion, geographic origins, etc. These “categories” are neither natural nor fixed: the criteria for differentiation vary according to societies and eras.


Discrimination involves refusing to treat individuals or groups equally whether you do so intentionally or unintentionally. It can be direct (housing, employment, etc.) or indirect when it results from seemingly egalitarian practices – such as educational guidance – that have adverse effects for the individuals or groups concerned.


Essentialisation is when an individual’s identity is reduced to moral attributes, intellectual abilities or psychological characteristics that are assumed to be unchanging and passed down from generation to generation within a human group.


Ethnocentrism involves valuing the cultural characteristics of one’s own group above all others and so using your own group as a reference to evaluate other groups, seeing their characteristics as inferior, without necessarily being hostile towards them.


A prejudice is a judgement made about an individual or group based on preconceived ideas from a given environment or era. Unlike a stereotype, it is emotionally charged and often prompts negative views or reactions about the people targeted.


Being racist means considering the differences between individuals – be they physical, cultural or moral – to be hereditary, unchanging and “natural”. Racism establishes a hierarchy between categories of human beings which can be converted into practices ranging from discrimination all the way to extermination of the other.


A stereotype is a preconceived opinion about an individual or group to which fixed characteristics are attributed that are considered to be shared by everyone in that “category”. Conveyed by conventional wisdom, this caricature functions as a “ready-made idea”, making reality less complicated.


Xenophobia is the fear or rejection of anything foreign: cultural characteristics and practices of foreign groups are disparaged and judged with hostility. Thus xenophobia seeks to protect one’s own group against “foreigners” – whether they live in the same place or not.