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One of the most intriguing questions in social sciences and humanities has to do with the possibility of understanding. How can we really understand the other? How close can we come to his or her “stream of consciousness”, as Alfred Schütz formulated it almost one century ago?
For understanding, representation is of crucial importance. How we represent others to ourselves, highly influences in our possibilities to understand the intended meaning of their actions. Or what is more: what people think to have understood, is in fact a specific, particular, and therefore always incomplete representation. Onur Yamaner shows in his demanding research on female Syrian refugees in Turkey how these interpretations often follow stereotypical lines, producing and justifying hierarchies and social exclusion.
These distorted and demeaning forms of representation can arise from a racist veil of invisibility through which society observes especially the national, ethnic or religious other. But this racist perception does not treat equally all possible others. Fine, and not so fine, lines of distinction of cultural sub-categories, of gender, class and other structuring elements, create a variety of intersectional discrimination. To disentangle the concrete representation is part of the work of critical social scientists such as Yamaner. And to help in the detection of intersectional discrimination social science and humanities have developed a rich vocabulary on racism, intersectionality or social invisibility.