One aspect of the classical view of stereotypes is the idea that social stereotypes exaggerate and homogenise traits held to be characteristic of particular categories and serve as blanket generalisations for all individuals assigned to such categories. The images and notions connected with them are then consensually shared in the interests of the social group among whom they are widely utilised and diffused. Such images and notions are usually held to be simplistic, rigid and erroneous, based on discriminatory values and damaging to people’s actual social and personal identities. In the classical view, stereotypes have been regarded as necessarily deficient. They distort the ways in which social groups or individuals are perceived, and they obscure the more complex and finite particularities and subjectivities tangled up in the everyday lives of groups and individuals. They are seen as deficient either because they encourage an indiscriminate lumping together of people under overarching group-signifiers, often of a derogatory character, or because they reduce specific groups and categories
to a limited set of conceptions which in themselves often contradict each other. Stereotypes are also discriminatory because the stunted features or attributes of others which characterise them are considered to form the basis for negative or hostile judgements, the rationale for exploitative, unjust treatment, or the justification for aggressive behaviour. In a word, stereotypes are bad. Politically, they stand in the way of more tolerant, even-handed and differentiated responses to people who belong to social or ethnic categories beyond those which are structurally dominant. Intellectually, they are poor devices for engaging in any form of social cartography, and for this reason should be eradicated from the map of good knowledge.

Excerpt from Stereotyping (Palgrave Macmillan)

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