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Aurelien Mondon

Research on the far, radical, extreme, or populist right in political science is one of those broad fields that appear to be thriving regardless of the popularity and reach of their objects of study. The spectre of fascism has meant that this remained true when such politics were at their nadir in the mid to late twentieth century. Since the turn of the century and as far-right parties reconstructed and gained ground in various settings, the literature has exploded. While the field has expanded to cover a wide range of issues from electoral politics to concepts such as populism, racism as a concept and area of study has remained peripheral at best and more generally ignored. This is particularly striking as research on racism has been booming in other, related disciplines and increasingly emboldened racist politics have emerged in the 2010s, rendering claims of moderation which had popularised euphemistic terminology unconvincing. This chapter studies this peculiar omission through an analysis of academic publications in the field and the terms used to describe what would be termed racism in other fields. Through this, it will aim to both map and make sense of the colourblind approach core to the discipline.

in The ethics of researching the far right
Ethical considerations regarding stories of disengagement from white supremacist movements
Joan Braune

In interviews, memoirs, and public lectures, dozens of former neo-Nazis and others have shared stories following a common pattern. These ‘compassion narratives’ describe an encounter between a member of a hate group and a member of a group the hater had dehumanised. An unexpected act of compassion by the dehumanised other is met with surprise, shame, and cognitive dissonance by the hater, who later reflects on the experience and changes their beliefs. Compassion narratives are subject to a variety of problems, including: (1) they may have potentially harmful psychological impacts on victims/survivors of hate or targeted communities; (2) they may be inaccurate, sometimes unintentionally so; (3) they may unintentionally undermine boundaries that keep communities safe, by encouraging risky outreach to extremists; and (4) they perpetuate hegemonic racist and oppressive narratives that task targets of hate with outreach to haters. Considering these and other possible issues, researchers may wish to avoid amplifying compassion narratives. The chapter concludes with recommendations for engaging ethically with compassion narratives, including proposing a shift in power and narrative focus to fascism’s victims and targets.

in The ethics of researching the far right
David Farrell-Banks
and
Lorna-Jane Richardson

References to the past are a common feature of the discourse and recruitment tactics of far-right groups. This chapter offers reflections drawn from our collective experience in archaeology, heritage, and museum studies and practice. With allusions to ancestry and belonging frequent in archaeological and heritage discourse, we argue for a recognition of potentially nationalistic discourse within these fields as an ethical priority. The chapter provides details of recent references to and uses of heritage and archaeology in the activities of far-right groups in the United Kingdom, giving particular attention to the construction of racial superiority based on mythological ancestral links to place and nationhood. While there has been an increasing recognition of this in archaeology and heritage studies in recent years, this continues to emerge from academic and professional fields that are severely lacking in diversity. Additionally, scholars engaged in this work are often the target of online harassment and abuse. Recognising that these risks will be felt more starkly by people of colour or other marginalised groups, the chapter concludes by outlining the ethical need to create conditions where the necessary research into heritage, archaeology, and the far right can take place.

in The ethics of researching the far right
Alice Sibley

Researching the far right can be dangerous both online and offline. Although some groups are more violent than others, researchers must be aware of the possible dangers when researching the far right, especially early-career researchers who are less experienced than senior academics. This chapter discusses the online abuse I received from a far-right group during my PhD. In the final study of my doctoral thesis, I reached out to interview supporters and leaders of the British far right. As a result, my Facebook researcher profile was published by the admin on the group’s Facebook page. My Facebook profile contained my name, picture, and professional position. Although the post itself simply advised supporters of the group not to talk to me, the post received 250 likes, twenty-eight comments, and sixteen shares. Of the twenty-eight comments, five were insulting or threatening. I also received a single threatening private message. This was unsettling and I required support. I became anxious and concerned about the potential physical repercussions. The first action I took, therefore, was to get emotional support from my partner. I then contacted my supervisors who emailed the pro-vice chancellor of research and the chair of the ethics committee. I met with student support services to ensure I had emotional support. During these meetings, I was advised to contact the police. This chapter outlines how I, an early-career researcher, responded to this abuse both practically and psychologically. In doing this, I aim to help future researchers protect themselves from far-right threats.

in The ethics of researching the far right
Gary Younge

This chapter aims to examine the ethical risks inherent in both engaging and refusing to engage with the far right and to weigh the political risks and journalistic challenges involved. Such an examination demands an assessment of the relative strength of the far-right forces being covered, the relative seniority of the subjects in question, the purpose of the coverage, and a relational appreciation of what constitutes the far right in any given moment. While this assessment is essentially political, the methods employed should, at all times, adhere to the standard principles of responsible journalism – fairness, independence, a commitment to accuracy, and accountability. The risk that by reporting the far right a journalist might give them the oxygen of publicity must be weighed against the risk that ignoring them will hamper our capacity to fathom their appeal. In weighing those risks, one must further assess the extent to which any coverage serves to publicise their agenda as opposed to exposing it and who gains and loses as a result of that coverage. It is occasionally only possible to assess the relative benefits and downsides of these competing risks by actually doing it. But it is important to understand the risks you are taking before you take them.

in The ethics of researching the far right
On the challenges of conducting feminist research on far-right women
Katherine Williams

Interviewing members of the far right presents feminist researchers with many challenges. These include interviewing individuals whose worldviews are antithetical to researchers’ own and the professional implications of associating with certain “unlovable” individuals, groups, or research topics (Fielding 1981: 9; Sanders McDonagh 2014). Additionally, if the goal of feminist research more broadly is emancipatory, i.e., giving members of underrepresented groups a ‘voice’, how can feminist researchers reconcile giving members of the far right a potential platform? Who is affected by our entanglements with the far right? The practical and ethical ‘dilemmas’ surrounding the selection of interviewees need careful consideration. As Ackerly (2009) points out, this is an act of “epistemological power” on the part of researchers (30, 34). Despite its best intentions, a project may privilege accounts of the ‘powerful’ due to the nature of the research being undertaken. These ‘practical and ethical dilemmas’ require extensive critical reflection. In one sense, this involves making a distinction between what is ethically “permissible” (simply, what can get approved by ethics committees) and what is ethically “right” (Blee 2018: 98). In this chapter, I reflect upon the practical and ethical challenges of conducting interviews with members of the Alternative for Germany (AfD). Researching the far right is an important field of inquiry. While the above dilemmas can never be entirely mitigated, I suggest a number of strategies that may help researchers better navigate this tricky epistemological terrain.

in The ethics of researching the far right
Abstract only
Antonia Vaughan
,
Joan Braune
,
Meghan Tinsley
, and
Aurelien Mondon

The introductory chapter discusses the origins and premise of the book and lays out its overarching approach. It argues that an ethical approach to research is not solely about how researchers approach the far right. Rather, it also encompasses how researchers talk about the far right, and who and what their research impacts. It argues that this book is, first and foremost, an urgent critical and reflective intervention into the mainstream discourse on the far right and how to fight it. Finally, the introductory chapter outlines the various sections of the book and highlights the key themes that link them together.

in The ethics of researching the far right
A researcher’s struggles
Luc S. Cousineau

Researchers using feminist theory in immersive qualitative research like ethnography must contend with a feminist ethics of care, where the researcher is compelled to treat their participants like people, engaging with and protecting them from potential harm (Hesse-Biber 2012). But what happens when the act of protecting the individual conflicts with the feminist imperative to “repair our world” (Stanley and Wise 2013: 23)? Beyond dated critiques of feminist ethnography (Stacey 1988), there are emotional and epistemological challenges when working with ethnography and feminist theory on what Fielding (1990) calls “unloved groups”, for example, groups on the far and extreme right. The conflict that gives rise to these difficulties is between the emancipatory and equity work essential to feminism and the imperative to expose anti-equity rhetoric and ideology. Using a long-term study of two men’s communities on Reddit as grounding for its theorisation, this chapter will explore the ethical dilemmas and decision-making when determining what content, whose names, and what details to publish in academic work on groups that have the potential to cause social (and physical) harm. It will examine the misalignments between theory and practice when researcher interest in exposing dangerous ideologies conflicts with the call to protect. What meta-ethical hurdles might we jump to justify our own practice? Using the author’s experience in having to address these challenging issues, this chapter will expand the conversation between feminist ethics, ethnographic work, and academic activism, and how these can (and cannot) come together in research on the far right.

in The ethics of researching the far right
A consideration of environmental constraints on risk management
Antonia Vaughan

Academics are increasingly understood as being at risk from harms such as networked harassment, threats, attacks to credibility, and vicarious trauma. Best practice for protection against such harms emphasises the importance of obscurity, control over available information, and the prioritisation of personal wellbeing. However, researchers operate within a neoliberal environment that rewards visibility and productivity, in part through engagement with the digital sphere, public scholarship, and publication. By focusing on two harms (networked harassment and vicarious trauma), this chapter highlights how the behaviours necessary for success contradict best practice for managing risk. It argues that this contradiction produces an antagonistic relationship between success and safety, requiring researchers to negotiate between the two. Ultimately, this chapter critiques the individualisation of responsibility for success and safety which overlooks the uneven experience of harm and invisibilises how environmental factors constrain researchers’ abilities to protect themselves. In doing so, the system privileges certain voices and increasingly embeds harm in the conduct of such research.

in The ethics of researching the far right
Embracing and navigating failure as a principle in research on the far right
Balša Lubarda

The concept of ‘failure’, established in critical (social) anthropology, stands for an incessant critique of moral relativism characteristic of ethnographic research. Embodied in the practice of reflexivity and positioned advocating, failure brings about an ‘incomplete ethnography’. Building on four years of ethnographic research and more than seventy qualitative interviews conducted with far-right representatives in six countries, this chapter seeks to unpack the notion of incomplete ethnography, serving two main purposes. First is to contribute to the broader and still ongoing debate on policing the scholarly boundaries of ethnography as a method, that is, the differences with respect to its application in sociology, anthropology and political science. Second is to reflect on the theoretical and practical use of the notions of ‘failure’ and ‘incompleteness; in producing knowledge about the far right. Ethnographies are incomplete when ethnographers fail. Some of these failures include frequently changing research locations amid security concerns, the ethics of care in conveying the research aims to our interlocutors and audiences, the inability to establish a rapport, the role of informality, the perils of romanticising or exaggerating the ideological danger, or failure to sufficiently account for field relationships in theorising. In spite of being a constitutive part of virtually any ethnographic experience, hence not exclusively bound to far right research, failure in the field and the ‘incomplete ethnography’ remain subject to the rigorous standards characteristic of any (other) research undertaking.

in The ethics of researching the far right