This paper focuses on the emotional interplay of the inner world with the relationships and groups in which we are embedded. It draws on in-depth auto/ biographical narrative research in one distressed postindustrial city struggling with racism and pockets of
Islamism, but also with a proud history of workers' education that has now fractured (West, 2016). I sought to understand the dynamics of racism, fundamentalism, and of hate, but also of love and recognition in the building of social solidarities. The paper illuminates where resources of hope for new, more inclusive social solidarities can lie, at a time of a rampant individualism and growing antagonism between ethnic groups at national as well as international levels. The paper employs an interdisciplinary psychosocial theoretical frame, drawing on psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott, critical theorist Axel Honneth and educator John Dewey, to illuminate particular dynamics, including pedagogic, within Islamism, in contexts of growing Islamophobia. The interplay of these forces can draw alienated individuals into Islamism, which provides powerful forms of self recognition. These processes operate at a primitive emotional as well as narrative level. Recognition gives meaning and purpose to fractured lives but may also be impregnated with misrecognition of the other. There can be processes of collective psychic splitting in which unwanted parts of a self and culture are projected into the other, evoking alienation, ironically, from self as well as that other, in the name of purity. Hate takes over. These reductive dynamics are compared, in the paper, with what was called 'an experiment in democratic education' in the same city. The experiment was the product of an unusual alliance, at least in a European context, between progressive elements in universities and working class organisations at the beginning of the last century. It provided access to particular forms of university education, an education of citizens, at a local level. I draw on personal testimonies and recent research, to suggest that such workers' education offered forms of recognition and the means to strengthen social solidarities. Working class men and women became, in effect, university students, at a local level, in industrial towns and cities, in what were called 'tutorial classes'. They were classes not lectures, and 'all were teachers and learners' as they negotiated their own syllabus and worked dialogically. They became or were already leaders and activists in their communities. Over time many worker-students also became more open to symbolic diversity and, in some cases, to their own bigotry. Processes of self-recognition operated here too, but alongside relatively open engagement with symbolic diversity, with others, and thus with the potential diversity of self. This provided the basis for more fulsome recognition of the other. We need to rescue such neglected and sometimes disparaged histories, at a time of social fragmentation and growing xenophobia.