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Ideology, activism and organization

This theme focuses on extreme right ideology, activism, and organization. In general, it will map and explain the core elements of contemporary right-wing extremism, including key relational motives, diagnostic narratives, political strategies, and utopian visions. More specifically, C-REX will focus on activism online and offline; conspiracy theories; use and abuse of religion; gender in extremism; new forms of exclusion.

Hartmut Pilch together with the organisator Birgit Weißmann on a PEGIDA-Munich rally in 2015. Photo: Wikicommons

Photo: Wikicommons

Offline and online activism

Over the past 15 years, a number of extreme right blogs, online news sites, and networked media communities have emerged. These sites have played a crucial role in the increase in for example an Islamophobic discourse outside the mainstream public sphere, constituting an extreme right sphere of deviance. However, we need to know more about how extreme right actors' relationship to, and critique of, a (perceived) consensus-oriented politically correct elite. How does it impact on the discourse and affective power of extreme right agitation against mainstream media and political culture? However, even if extreme right activism has to a large extent transformed from offline to online activity, cultivation (of attitudes), recruitment (of activists), mobilization (of sympathizers), and confrontation (with enemies) still takes place outside virtual arenas. For example, to what extent, how and when do childhood environments affect right-wing extremism and related behavior in adulthood? And how local structural conditions shape ethno-racial exclusion and intolerance, and how registers of perceived ethno-cultural and/or religious threats shape embodiment, fear and practice in everyday life?

Conspiracy theories

Conspiracy theories are a key feature of extreme right ideology, including the infamous “Eurabia” (a Muslim-dominated Europe) and “ZOG” (Zionist Occupied Government) theories. However, we know little about the spread of conspiratorial beliefs in society – among political actors as well as the general public. While these conspiracy theories seem to play a crucial role in the extreme right worldview, by demonizing “the enemies” and creating a sense of urgency and moral obligation to act on behalf of those who have ”fallen asleep”, less is for example known about the extent to which conspiracy theories contribute to radicalization.

Use and abuse of religion

History has demonstrated the existence of important connections between religious views and right-wing extreme ideology. In fact, since the very birth of right-wing extremism in Europe, various forms of Christian elements have formed an integral part of some important far-right currents (e.g. Action française in fin-de-siècle France and Radio Maryja in present day Poland). After a period with less emphasis on religion, it has become more important for extreme right actors in recent years. What is the exchange of xenophobic ideology and rhetoric between Christian fundamentalists and right-wing extremists? And how can we understand and explain the development of Christian far-right movements in the postwar period.

Gender in extremism

Women play an (increasingly) important role in extremist groups and the extreme right is no exception. This is particularly interesting given the alleged paradox of women militating against feminism. Hence, more knowledge is needed about why and how women become involved in extremist movements and what roles they play. Moreover, since religious right movements of different confessions (e.g. Christian, Jewish, or Muslim) also specifically target women with their recruitment propaganda, comparative perspectives across different ideological movements will add to the understanding of women in extremist organizations. How are extremist ideas and ideals coupled with notions of masculinity and femininity and what are the outcomes of these identification processes for the recruitment, support, and violence of extremists? Do men and women join extreme groups for different reasons?

New forms of exclusion

In most cases, contemporary extreme right groups do not explicitly adhere to “biological racism”. Yet, even if traditional racism has been discredited, related forms of exclusion, including homophobia and Islamophobia, continue to be key elements of extreme right discourse and ideology. In what ways are such ideas represented as something qualitatively different than biological racism? How are they legitimized and discredited in the public debate?


Published Feb. 23, 2016 3:12 PM - Last modified Aug. 7, 2017 1:59 PM