‘Henri Tajfel: Explorer of Identity and Difference’ Rupert Brown

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Maria Zafar


The year 2019 marked the birth centenary of Henri Tajfel, a social psychologist known most widely for the social identity theory, which he developed with his doctoral student John Turner. Over the years, social identity theory has found relevance in many academic fields beyond social psychology. Coupled with this academic legacy are recently surfaced claims of sexual harassment, particularly during Tajfel’s tenure at the University of Bristol. The 100th anniversary provided an opportunity to visit the man beyond his academic contributions and take stock of where his intellectual legacy stands today. In Henri Tajfel: Explorer of Identity and Difference, Rupert Brown, Emeritus Professor of Social Psychology at the University of Sussex and one of Tajfel’s early PhD students, brings to life not only the scientist but the man himself, warts and all. From Tajfel’s birth and early life in an environment ripe with interethnic conflicts to his later intellectual achievements (possibly) guided by his own experiences, Brown vividly portrays Tajfel’s life. He traces Tajfel’s experiences of anti-Semitism and war, post-war work educating and rehabilitating Jewish children and displaced people, unconventional academic journey, and the nagging sense of being an outsider that clung to him for most of his life. Focusing on Tajfel’s intellectual contributions, Brown details their emergence and impact on then-dominant social psychology approaches. An engaging and insightful read, the book will interest social scientists engaged in intergroup relations research and help them think critically and creatively about their work. To social psychologists, the book also serves as a reminder to do social psychology that truly is social.

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Zafar, M. (2024). ‘Henri Tajfel: Explorer of Identity and Difference’: Rupert Brown. CASTE A Global Journal on Social Exclusion, 5(2), 335–341. https://doi.org/10.26812/caste.v5i2.1741
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