Stereotypes Defined

stereotype is a thought that may be adopted about specific types of individuals or certain ways of doing things. These thoughts or beliefs may or may not accurately reflect reality. However, this is only a fundamental psychological definition of a stereotype. Within psychology and spanning across other disciplines, there are different conceptualizations and theories of stereotyping that provide their own expanded definition. Some of these definitions share commonalities, though each one may also harbor unique aspects that may contradict the others.

The term stereotype derives from the Greek Word “stereos” which mean firm and “typos” which means impression hence “solid impression.”

The term comes from the printing trade and was first adopted in 1798 by the French Printer and engraver Firmin Didot to describe a printing plate that duplicated any typography. The duplicate printing plate, or the stereotype, is used for printing instead of the original.

Outside of printing, the first reference to “stereotype” was in 1850, as a noun that meant “image perpetuated without change.”However, it was not until 1922 that “stereotype” was first used in the modern psychological sense by American journalist Walter Lippmann in his work Public Opinion.

Stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination are understood as related but different concepts. Stereotypes are regarded as the most cognitive component and often occurs without conscious awareness, whereas prejudice is the affective component of stereotyping and discrimination is the behavioral component of prejudicial reactions. In this tripartite view of intergroup attitudes, stereotypes reflect expectations and beliefs about the characteristics of members of groups perceived as different from one’s own, prejudice represents the emotional response, and discrimination refers to actions.

Stereotype content refers to the attributes that people think characterize a group. Studies of stereotype content examine what people think of others, rather than the reasons and mechanisms involved in stereotyping. Source: Wikepedia

Stereotypes and the Arc of Conflict in Liberia

What is the arc of conflict  especially as it obtained in Liberia? That is the preexisting tinderbox of potential conflict  anywhere along the lines of different population groups that could be exploited by any ruthless politician for his or her own selfish reasons. These potential tinderboxes have existed over several centuries generally while in other cases this potential flash point developed over decades due to friction, misunderstanding and lingering stereotypes.arising out of mutual side by side coexistence. Because of mutual restraints and intervention by elders on both sides, these potential flash points were kept under wraps but could be wickedly exploited by ruthless politicians.From all indications, many unsuspecting ethnic groups were exploited this way by  many warlords, war planners, mongers and perpetrators during the Liberian civil war. A further look at this revealed the following pattern described below:

There are two major categories of stereotypes in Liberian- which we would like to call: Stereotypia Profundus and 2) Stereotypia Reticularis. The first one (profundus) may be difficult to retrieve or talk about but everyone is encouraged to do so as we lead the way. Unlike Stereotype Reticularis which can easily be laughed off, these stereotypia profundus can easily fall in, feed into or sustain conflicts and are of major concern because these are the ones that contributed to the tensions in certain parts of the country that we like to call “the arc of conflict.”  On a map of Liberia, this area forms an arc. Starting from Monrovia, this area includes Lofa, Nimba, Grand Gedeh with parts of Bong County with Monrovia being the ‘manipulator. The different types of “stereotypia profundus” are prevalent in the areas and for different reason, contributed one way or the other to the war that engulfed the whole country.

We believe the arc excludes most of Southeastern Liberia because of three major reasons: a) having been subdued over the last century and the half after the various wars with the settler government in Monrovia, certain degree of assimilation and resignation to their fate took place; b) more stereotypia reticularis (surface stereotypes) than stereotypia profundus (deeply seated stereotypes) are prevalent in Southeastern Liberia- which could be easily laughed off, etc.

(c) By their proximity to the sea coast and many as inveterate travelers, they could escape this cauldron and crucible of hate that was brewing in Liberia over the last two centuries. Most of the other tribes (except for eg. the Mandingos), were not so lucky to escape hence had to absorb and survive using the best survival and adaptation skills….

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