Hilary Pilkington
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Passion and politics

This chapter argues the case for conducting ethnographic studies of ‘distasteful’ groups notwithstanding the political and ethical issues that such research raises. Traditional studies of the far right tend to forefront the analysis of ideological frames and organisational effectiveness and take little account of the people who maintain such movements; individuals appear largely in the form of agglomerated socio-demographics of ‘supporters’ or ‘voters’ or as an undifferentiated mass following a charismatic leader. Ethnography, in contrast, allows the researcher to approach and present members of such organisations ‘as individuals with real lives’. Summarising the key findings of the research, it is shown how such ‘close up’ studies can extend our, very limited, understanding of the meanings individuals in movements of the populist radical right attach to their activism. The exclusion of such groups from such scrutiny in the interests of the researcher’s own political or ethical comfort, it is argued, denies us important knowledge and constitutes not the enactment of an active political stance but, on the contrary, a form of political ‘faintheartedness’.

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Loud and proud

Passion and politics in the English Defence League


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