Hilary Pilkington
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The contagion of stigma
The ethics and politics of research with the ‘far right’

This chapter discusses the politics and ethics of conducting ethnographic research with ‘distasteful’ groups. It details how this three-year ethnographic study among activists in the EDL was conducted including questions of access, trust and consent. It considers how research respondents understood the researcher’s position and the researcher’s own understanding of her positionality and the political issues raised by research with movements perceived to be racist. It argues that although there is a clear preference among researchers for studying those communities with which they empathise, there are no insurmountable methodological obstacles to conducting ‘close up’ research with ‘distasteful’ communities. The paucity of such studies arises rather from a ‘contagion of stigma’ within and beyond the academic community which is in danger of placing subjects whose political views we do not agree with ‘out of bounds’ for research.

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Passion and politics in the English Defence League


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