By Chris Adams

It’s a busy season for hate.

For scholars around the world, studying hate has come to encompass several dimensions and disciplines, from sociology to criminology to psychology to neuroscience.

In a session with National Press Foundation fellows, Barbara Perry of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology gave an overview of the hate field. Perry runs the Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism and is also co-chair of the International Network for Hate Studies, an interdisciplinary group of researchers exploring different facets of extremism and hate.

“Hate studies have taken a different complexion across the disciplines,” she said. “But it’s been heavily dominated by the social sciences.”

In her survey of literature on the topic from 2010 to 2016, the biggest portion of work was on LGBTQ violence, followed by hate-related legislation, expanding boundaries, impacts of hate and other legal and social issues. A small number of those studies were on “causality” of hate, which gets into the psychology and neuroscience of the topic.

“Hate is an emotion,” she said.

She said hate is embedded in power relations and power dynamics in the culture.

“The kinds of group hatreds I am talking about here are in cultural norms,” she said. “Given that, it’s not abnormal, it’s not aberrant, it’s not irrational, to engage in racist speech and racist behavior, given the cultural permission we have given it.”

What does the field look at? Perry looked at the different disciplinary lenses scientists use: the ethic of power, communication of hate, the sociology of prejudice and violence, the psychology of hate, the biology of hate, legislation on hate and how hate is recorded and documented.

Some of the work deals with the typology of different offenders – from “thrill seekers,” who target marginalized people because they think there’s no cultural risk to doing so, to mission-driven ideological offenders.

“They really are on a mission to cleanse their community,” she said of the latter group.