Sociology

Kayla Preston

There is a much-needed interest in care in the research community. This topic is even more necessary when researching contentious topics. The far right is one of these topics. Because far-right participants in research may express racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, homophobic, and transphobic views, researchers who engage with these individuals or groups, especially those who may be targeted by the far right, face increased risk to their mental and physical health. In this chapter, I address past research which has discussed how to protect researcher well-being in the field such as detachment from research, feelings of research discomfort and ambivalence, as well as self-care. I ask how researchers separate themselves when looking at explicit or troubling content, and how best we can support individuals who may feel isolated by the research enterprise. My chapter concludes by addressing the importance of community building and community support during research on the far right. Community, mentorship, and peer support are viable ways to assist researchers both in and out of the field to combat negative experiences that may arise during emotional labour, trauma, and fear during the research process. While this chapter focuses on how this may help researchers who examine the far right, the implications of community care are far-reaching across research disciplines.

in The ethics of researching the far right
Anna A. Meier

How can white researchers ethically approach the study of state responses to far-right violence in white-majority countries? The status of white supremacy as a hegemonic ideology in such countries complicates attempts to understand state programmes targeting the far right, as the very ideologies that enable far-right violence are also structurally embedded in the institutions seeking to combat it. Likewise, the white researchers best positioned to access majority white counterterrorism spaces are also the most likely to reproduce white supremacy, however inadvertently. I reflect on ethnographic encounters with counterterrorism professionals in both my home country, the US, and during fieldwork abroad in Germany, as sites requiring critical reflexivity. Through an autoethnographic approach, I consider how my identities and those of my interlocutors may have reproduced the very dynamics of institutional grappling with white supremacy otherwise unobservable to me as a researcher. I offer suggestions on how such encounters can reorient research questions and what limitations remain on white researchers doing ethical work on this subject.

in The ethics of researching the far right
Richard McNeil-Willson
,
Michael Vaughan
, and
Michael Zeller

How should researchers studying the far and extreme right relate with policy and policymakers, and what does an ethical relationship between scholars and the state look like? Whilst there is some research into whether and how academics should engage with authorities, much of this is examined through the lens of the racialised nature of counterterrorism and its securitised interaction with minority subjects. However, with greater focus in recent years on the development of policy at a national and European level to counter the far right, what duty do researchers have to engage with policymakers in its construction? Does such engagement – particularly on policymaking designed to defang the far and extreme right – undermine our ethical responsibilities and practical means for engaging with far-right actors through research? Should engagement with stakeholders be a core part of research in countering the far and extreme right, or does this entrench concepts of security criticised as stoking Islamophobia? What are the ethical questions to consider when political considerations of stakeholders come into tension with academic standards for rigorous research? And how should researchers engage with states that have been accused of openly encouraging far or extreme right movements, ideologies or policies, and that may co-opt research for reactionary purposes? This chapter draws on our experience in policymaking projects and processes as well as existing research practices and publications to develop key questions that scholars could use to consider whether and how processes of engagement could best occur.

in The ethics of researching the far right
Miranda Jeanne Marie Iossifidis

Whilst global climate and environmental justice movements have burgeoned, so too have far-right environmental ideas become more mainstream in recent years. In particular, the supposed relationship between notions of overpopulation, migration, and environmental crisis and degradation (Bhatia et al. 2020; Strathern et al. 2019; Lewis 2017). In response to the editors of this book calling for discussion of terminology in researching the far right, this chapter focuses on far-right responses to the climate crisis, rather than scepticism or denialism. I pay attention to the ways in which interdisciplinary scholars, writers, and activists have mobilised concepts of ecofascism, far-right ecologism, and neo-Malthusianism and argue that the inter-relation of white supremacist ideology, racial capitalism, and heteropatriarchy has to be central to our analysis. I also argue that we must take ecofascism seriously – despite its diverse usage – as a political myth which is increasingly evident in mainstream politics. Focusing on ecofascism as political myth-making helps us to identify and analyse the ways in which environmental narratives are mobilised by varied actors to provide contemporary significance to far-right concerns. It also speaks to and names antifascist ecological anxieties around climate present(s) and futures. We must remain attentive to how, as a term that coalesces a cluster of discourses, ecofascism can help us identify specific tropes of far-right ecologism and their mainstreaming within right-wing and liberal environmentalism in diverse cultural, political, and social settings (see Brown et al. 2021). Being attentive to ecofascist political myth-making requires an antifascist, anti-racist, anti-neo-Malthusian, intersectional feminist approach that centres reproductive, environmental, and climate justice.

in The ethics of researching the far right
Resisting violent ideological structures in the knowledge-production of extremisms
Elsa Bengtsson Meuller

Whilst it is important to make one’s research on violent ideologies accessible to a wider audience, there is also a risk of reinforcing structural dominance through the making of public (‘visible’) knowledge. Decolonial and Black feminist theories help us dig into the ethical messiness of making research on violent ideologies visible for ‘new’ audiences by consistently and critically asking whose knowledge is being extended and elaborated. I argue that research into extremisms benefits from using emotions through practices of reflection and introspection as part of one’s methodology. This way of researching encourages us to be more attentive to our own role as reinforcers of structural oppression through knowledge-production, as well as how we are affected by the structures, events, and people we are studying. In this chapter, I reflect on my research on misogynist incels and their male supremacist and antifeminist ideological structure. Concomitantly, I show how emotional vulnerability in knowledge-making can be a practice of self- and communal care that may serve as a radical counterweight to the violent ideologies we study and their structural enablers.

in The ethics of researching the far right
Abstract only
Between criticism and empathy in oral history interviews and politically charged research contexts
Vanessa Tautter

This chapter critically explores the ethics of listening in oral history research that investigates meanings of reactionary discourses in wider society between violent political representations of the past and personal family (hi-)stories. It builds on my work on the politics of memory in Austria relating to Nazism, Nazi crimes, and World War II. While my interviewees generally opposed the political mobilisation of these memories by the far right, they nonetheless sometimes still drew on similar violent discourses when composing their own family histories. In this context, this chapter reflects on the relationship – and conflict – between criticism and empathy emerging in such intersubjective work in politically charged research settings. On the one hand, I aim to listen to my ‘non-elite’ interviewees on their ‘own’ terms, in their ‘own’ language to genuinely engage with their perspectives, critically, but also empathically beyond reductionist cliches and condescension. However, as some of them also draw on discourses linked to relativising and violent representations of the past in their narrations, such listening has important political and ethical implications. This chapter reflects critically on the meaning and ethical problems of listening in the context of discursive violence that is firmly grounded in the contemporary and historical structures of society. It also problematises my own positionality as an Austrian researcher who is not directly targeted by these forms of violence. Despite my focus on Austria, I hope that this chapter will also offer insights, raise questions, and facilitate further discussion on similar ethical challenges more broadly.

in The ethics of researching the far right
Critical approaches and reflections

The ethics of researching the far right is a wide-ranging collection of critical reflections on the ethical considerations of researching, writing about, and disseminating work on the far right. Reflecting on research carried out in a range of disciplines and contexts, the contributors offer a critical starting point for discussions on how to research the far right ethically, a topic that raises a number of urgent issues. Rejecting the idea of neutrality in research, the collection makes it explicit that this research is always political. Lived experience and reflexivity are key to this book, whether it is the many years spent grappling with the ethical dilemmas posed by researching and engaging with and against the far right, how to simply start in light of the practical and psychological barriers imposed by various actors and ourselves, or how to remain in service to and solidarity with the communities at the sharp end of such politics. Beyond explicitly ethical questions, this book also offers a critical intervention into the field of research on the far right to address issues such as racism, sexism, white supremacy, colonialism, and positionality, which must be core to any ethical approach to social research. This collection aims to be a practical contribution to researching the far right and the range of contributors, issues, and approaches provide a broad applicability for researchers broadly understood. As such, it will be valuable to anyone interested in researching, understanding, and combating the far right.

Catherine Tebaldi
and
Rae Jereza

In this chapter, we assert that ethnographic calls to empathy and narratives ‘through the eyes of the other’ are forms of methodological whiteness, a form of ‘emotional objectivity’ which presumes and creates a sharp division between the ethnographer and his other. Through both institutional and academic scripts, ethnographers of the far right inadvertently justify far-right politics in ways that ignore the violent effects and implications of the latter’s practices and discourses on cis women, LGBTQ+ communities, and Black, Brown, Indigenous, Latinx, and Asian and Pacific Islander people and reproduce the colonial ethnographer – white, impartial, and emotionally neutral – as default. In this chapter, we, two anthropologists from very different backgrounds, explore the institutional reproduction of the colonial ethnographer as default and assert the importance of utilising anti-colonial, feminist approaches to counter this tendency.

in The ethics of researching the far right
Managing researcher safety and ethical and methodological requirements
Carina Hoerst
and
John Drury

The chapter discusses how a social-psychological investigation of collective psychological empowerment among attendees of the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally and the Capitol insurrection was complicated by existing ethical frameworks that came into conflict with methodological requirements. This case is discussed as representative of a broader consideration of the impact of existing (but not always suitable) ethical frameworks on maintaining the integrity of the research in extremism studies and establishing safety and credibility as an (early-career) researcher. It illustrates how the use of secondary data (video material from ProPublica and YouTube) from the two rallies facilitated access to the subject of investigation whose identity did not align with the identity of the researchers and how the objective of retrieving ‘interview-like’ data aided with reconciling methodological and ethical challenges.

in The ethics of researching the far right
Decolonising far right studies
Isis Giraldo

Research on the far right is on the rise in dominant academia yet it remains securely anchored in the West. By this I mean that most of this research – be it theoretical or empirical – is concerned with either countries of the global North or heavyweights of the global South such as India or Brazil. Such a focus has had important epistemological, ethical, and political implications. In this chapter, I aim to expound on these implications by enacting a ‘decolonising’ movement of far right studies that involves carrying out certain geographical and theoretical displacements. In order to do this, I will recentre a case from the global South, Colombia, which despite constituting the exemplary success story with regard to making ‘far-right’ ideology hegemonic – to the point that it has become transparent – has been consistently ignored from within this body of research. Starting from this geographical displacement, I claim that it is the mainstream theoretical framework to address the ‘far right’ which has helped obscure the realities that make the Colombian case a paradigmatic example for understanding the issues at stake. Otherwise put: the specificities of the Colombian case reveal the limitations of the concepts – particularly of ‘populism’ and ‘far right’ itself – and the theoretical framework of the mainstream approach to studying the ‘far right’. I make a case for the ‘decolonial critique’ to be considered as a toolbox to address the issues at stake in what concerns the so-called ‘far right’. The displacements I propose – which involve an enunciation from within the underside of history – do not aim at a simple inclusion of marginalised cases and theoretical approaches, i.e., diversifying, but at, to put it in Walter Mignolo’s terms, ‘changing the terms of the conversation’, i.e., decolonising. The field and our fight against these forces might benefit greatly.

in The ethics of researching the far right