Sociology

Uses of the landscape in the far-right cultural milieu and the ethics of researching them
Andrew Fergus Wilson

This chapter explores far-right usage of ‘the folkloresque’ in the appropriation and vernacular restaging of extant and reimagined religious iconography and concepts. The focus of the chapter is the use of landscape in the communication materials of a number of far-right groups as well as in their actions. This chapter will unpack and examine the multiple strands of meaning that were present within this action and situate these strands within racial nationalist ideology and its associated cultural milieu. The use of the land in the racial nationalist milieu is commonplace. For instance, Dan Stone outlined, and Roger Cutting expanded upon, ‘indigenous organic fascism’ in the 1930s; Bernard Forchtner has written about homologous sacralisation of land and race in British National Party materials; and Amy Hale analysed the resonance between John Michell’s Earth Mysteries and right-wing Paganism. Thus, this chapter situates current far right ‘land-making’ activity within this milieu. In doing so the chapter demonstrates the importance of recognising the ongoing and open-ended work of engaging with an enchanted landscape that makes available the sacred landscape as a heterodox and multi-faith resource that offers multiple places of meaning within its open spaces.

in The ethics of researching the far right
Working in service to racial justice
Remi Joseph-Salisbury
,
Laura Connelly
, and
Aurelien Mondon

Although there has been relatively little written to date about the practice of far right research, there is growing recognition that the complex ethical and political challenges researchers face are important subject matter in their own right. This chapter therefore brings together scholarship on anti-racist scholar-activism and the far right and its mainstreaming to explore how the principle of working in service can guide the praxes of those researching race, racism, and anti-racism. Centring questions of social usefulness and accountability, the chapter reflects on how an in service orientation urges us to push back against approaches within far right studies that risk amplifying and legitimising the far right. Instead, working in service requires us to place ourselves firmly on the side of communities of resistance and racial justice more broadly.

in The ethics of researching the far right
Ethical challenges in sharing, researching, and teaching
Daniel Jones

Does extreme material present a challenge to archive ethics and practice? Based on the decade of work of the Searchlight Archive at the University of Northampton, this chapter explores the question of how those working around archives of extremism can ethically engage with the material and make use of it to further education in this key area. As well as considerations of practical measures in managing and welcoming users into the archive space, this chapter considers the obligations of the archivist to care for the wellbeing and safety of their staff and researchers. It also argues that the archive should not be a passive repository, but instead that archives covering extremism can help engage students and the wider public with important parts of social and political history. These archives have an important role to play in the decolonisation of teaching by offering sources from extreme groups and community groups that oppose them. Ultimately, it asks whether the risks of this material can be balanced and mitigated to unlock the potential that exists within archives of extremism, and how researchers and practitioners can approach such content to achieve this.

in The ethics of researching the far right
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.