Right Wing Extremism in Contemporary Europe

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Social Sciences

Abstract

The proposed seminar series seeks to enhance our understanding of contemporary right wing extremism in Europe from historical, social, cultural and political perspectives. The need for such enhanced knowledge arises from the recent electoral success of extreme right wing parties both in the 2009 European parliamentary elections (in which extreme right wing political parties won over 10% of the vote in the Netherlands, Austria and Bulgaria and almost 10% in Belgium and Romania) and in national parliaments (Golden Dawn took 7% of the vote in Greece in June 2012 but stand at double that in current public opinion polls, the True Finns took 19% in Finland, 2011). It is also necessitated by growing public and policy awareness of the extreme right, which has been heightened, in addition, by recent incidents of extreme right wing terrorism (Norway and Germany) and the growing visibility of grassroots activism (for example, the English Defence League (EDL), Casa Pound etc). Many of these movements increasingly have a transnational dimension.

The proposed research seminar series starts from the premise that these political trends are in ascendance in some parts of Europe but not necessarily 'new'. It rejects any convenient ascription of the growing visibility and electoral presence of such political parties and movements to the resurgence of nationalism associated with the post-1989 reconfiguration of Europe or any simple argument for historical continuity in political culture.These movements sometimes draw on past legacies of fascist or Nazi parties but there is also evidence of new populist tropes among which Islamophobia and the defence of 'indigenous' rights are prominent. These starting premises signal a distinctive cross-discipinary stance, emerging out of the interweaving of approaches and methodologies from History and the Social Sciences, as well as a desire to avoid the temptation to contribute to a cycle of 'moral panic' or precipitous policy reaction to the phenomenon. The primary academic objective of the seminar series is envisaged, rather, as to provide an honest and critical understanding of the potential of extreme right movements to capture the political imagination of people across Europe and the shifting modalities of how they may do this.

The seminar series aims to forge dialogue and extend connections between the academic research community and non-academic users of research on extreme right movements. The series will draw non-academic participants from national and local government, independent think tanks, police, security services, the prison and probation services and a range of national and European NGOs. A key question here relates to defining the issue at stake for academic, policy and practitioner communities by asking whether governments should be concerned only with groups perceived to pose a threat of terror, or whether legally constituted parties are also a legitimate object of attention. The seminar will address directly the question of the potential use of academic research in such policy debates and practical responses.

The proposed series consists of six thematically focused one-day seminars exploring: classic explanations of the rise of extreme right movements (political disengagement, social inequality and the impact of economic recession, the backlash to 'multiculturalism' and fears arising from discourses of Islamic terrorism); the role of popular culture in signifying extreme right affectivity; youth receptivity to extreme right ideologies and movements; methodological and ethical issues arising from researching the extreme right; and the experience of and prospects for academic collaboration with policy-makers and practitioners.

Planned Impact

There are a wide range of non-academic beneficiaries of this Seminar Series. These include policy makers from the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG), the Home Office and local councils as well as more specifically linked bodies such as the National Domestic Extremism Unit, the National Public Order Intelligence Unit and the European Policy Planners' Network on Countering Radicalisation and Polarisation (PPN). Contacts in these bodies (as listed in the Case for Support) will be drawn on and consulted as to the most appropriate people to invite to each seminar. Given the pressing social concern around the high visibility of right wing extremism, think-tanks are an important resource in developing links between research and policy makers. Key contacts (see Case for Support) will be drawn on and developed. In addition, practitioners from the Probabation and Prison services as well as youth workers and community/social cohesion practitioners will have significant interest in the seminar series. Finally there are a range of national and international NGOs active in the field of anti-racism and anti-xenophobia that can both contribute to and benefit from the seminar series (see Case for Support).

The relevance of the research to these groups lies in the ability of the seminar series to provide new insight into the nature of the contemporary extreme right wing in Europe that can assist them in responding to it. Historical and cross-European perspectives are particularly helpful in determining what is, and is not, 'new' about contemporary phenomena and highlighting the relative merits and failings of past or current responses to right wing extremism (for example, the relative merits of prohibition or tolerance of groups that are considered socially negative but not presenting any immediate threat to social order). The research forefronted in this seminar series will also include studies of grassroots activism (including through ethnographic methods); such research will be of particular use to law enforcement and probation agencies as well as practitioners such as those working in youth and community services or for non-governmental organisations such as 'Exit'. The international character of the seminar series will also facilitate 'early warning' of the potential for the transnational spread of local or national movements (as has been the case with the English Defence League, Golden Dawn etc). Finally many non-academic users conduct their own research in the field (e.g. Demos, Hope not Hate, Show Racism the Red Card) or commission such research. This offers the potential for open exchange and discussion of theoretical and methdological issues of mutual benefit.

A number of the non-academic users listed in the Case for Support have been consulted in the design phase of the proposal (see Pathways to Impact document) and, if successful, will be consulted further to ensure that the most appropriate individuals are invited to seminars and are integrated into each seminar as speakers and participants rather than confined to the dedicated 'Policy and Practice' seminar at the end of the series.

High levels of public and scholarly engagement with the core themes and foci of the seminar series will be sustained through the establishment of a range of 'user groups' as detailed in the 'Academic Beneficiaries' section. Since it is a stated objective of the series to engender greater synergy between academics, think tanks and government, it follows that these user groups will be populated with both academic and non-academic users.

It is proposed to collaborate with policy and practitioner participants to develop a policy paper or briefing that summarizes the key debates of the series formulated in a way that is useful to policy makers. The seminar series aims, in this way, to inform government strategy or, at the very least, to bring to the attention of policy makers and practitioners, a diversity of research
 
Description Achievements
The Research Seminar Series on Right Wing Extremism in Contemporary Europe ran from 1 January 2014-31 December 2015. In the course of the grant six seminars were held.
? Seminar 1: Right Wing Extremism and Politics: Past and Present (University of Manchester, Manchester, 16.05.14)
? Seminar 2: Social and cultural explanations of right-wing extremism (Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences, Athens, 25-26.09.14)
? Seminar 3: Methodological and Ethical Dilemmas in Researching the Extreme Right (University of Applied Sciences Düsseldorf, 5-6.12.14)
? Seminar 4: Popular Culture and Right Wing Extremism (American University, Washington DC, 20-21.03.15)
? Seminar 5: Receptivity to Extreme Right Politics: Youth and Gender Dimensions (University of Manchester, 15-16.05.15)
? Seminar 6: Issues of policy and practice (The Wiener Library for the Study of the Holocaust & Genocide, London, 13.11.15)

Number of papers
Total number of paper presenters: 82
? Of which were international (scholars based overseas): 40
? Of which were postgraduate students: 8
Number of participants: Approximately 130 from UK, Germany, Greece, Croatia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Hungary, Russia, Italy, Latvia and the United States.
Keynote speakers: Cas Mudde (Georgia), Kathleen Blee (Pittsburgh), Matthew Goodwin (Nottingham), Mabel Berezin (Cornell).
Participation of non-academic users: Southern Poverty Law Center, Federal Agency for Civic Education Extremism Section, Institute for Strategic Dialogue, German Institute on Radicalization and De-radicalization Studies/Exit Deutschland, Moonshot CVE, Prevent, St. Philips Centre. Individual non-academic participants include: film makers, journalists, NGO programme managers and project directors.

Objectives
All the original objectives of the seminar series were achieved as detailed below:

Objective 1: To provide an honest and critical understanding of the potential of extreme right movements to capture the political imagination of people across Europe and the shifting modalities of how they may do this.

This was achieved by extending the discussion beyond population attitudes and voting patterns to grassroots activism, social media and 'keyboard activism' and the embeddedness of right wing extremism in forms of popular culture. These were the specific themes of Seminars 2 and 4 but also featured in Seminar 5.

Objective 2: To exchange cutting edge research by leading experts, early career researchers and postgraduate students from the UK, continental Europe and the United States. It is a specific objective of the seminar series also to integrate, in each seminar, speakers and participants from a range of Humanities and Social Science disciplines in a way that enhances rather than splinters our understanding of contemporary right wing extremism

This was achieved through inviting speakers at different stages of their academic careers (see summary profile of seminars and participants above) and from a wide range of disciplinary fields including: Sociology, Political Science, History, Social Psychology, Education, Law, Social Anthropology.

This interdisciplinary mix was noted in the following comment by a participant on the evaluation form:
'I have found these seminars to be a fantastic and very fulfilling means of meeting a diverse, interdisciplinary community of scholars from a range of countries and learning about new research methodologies, modes of analysis as well as avenues for future publication, research funding bids and also a wonderful platform from which to disseminate my own research.'


Objective 3: The seminar series also aims to present and promote innovative methods in research with extreme right groups including documentary film-making and 'intervention' practices.

This was achieved through a dedicated seminar (Seminar 3) on Methodological and Ethical Dilemmas in Researching the Extreme Right. In Seminars 1 and 3 documentary films made in the course of research by speakers were shown.

Objective 4: To create a new seminar group by bringing together elements of existing national and international networks in which the applicants are active and to develop a stronger and more regionally inclusive network of European researchers working on extreme right movements than either of these networks provides alone and to seek funding in the future for the maintenance of the network itself.

The grant has strengthened the cross-national collaboration between the PI (Hilary Pilkington) and three Co-Is (Fabian Virchow, Cynthia Miller-Idriss and Graham Macklin) and extended this network to include dozens of scholars across Europe and the U.S. As noted above participants came from UK, Germany, Greece, Croatia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Hungary, Russia, Italy, Latvia and the United States.
A related Research Network on Radicalism and Violence (co-organised by Fabian Virchow and Cynthia Miller-Idriss) has been funded by the Council for European Studies (https://councilforeuropeanstudies.org/research/research-networks).
Future activities related to these networks are reported below.

Objective 5: To forge dialogue and extend connections between the academic research community and non-academic users of research on extreme right movements.

This was achieved by the inclusion of non-academic participants from national and local government, independent think tanks, police, security services, the prison and probation services and a range of national and European NGOs. The details of which organisations they represented are included above. This mixture of speakers was highlighted as innovative and productive as reflected in a number of comments by participants on the seminar series evaluation forms:
'Appreciated the mix of academic including international and practice/third sector speakers'
'Joining the dots between academia and practitioners'
'Good mix of practitioners and academics'
'Linking into NGOs is productive'


Objective 6: To facilitate the integration of postgraduate students into the national and European research environment by providing a constructive forum for the presentation of their work and participation in academic discussion.

Postgraduate students were integrated into the seminar series throughout its duration and 8 papers were presented by PG students.


Objective 7: To foster a reflexive engagement with extreme right studies.

This was achieved through discussion at seminars as well as a dedicated seminar on Methodological and Ethical Dilemmas in Researching the Extreme Right. One comment from the evaluation forms notes 'It is rare that I attend workshops on far right that provide me with new insights. This one did!'
Exploitation Route The findings will be taken forward first and foremost through a new follow-on Seminar Series funded by the ESRC on 'Youth Extremisms: Understanding across Ideological and Religious Contexts' (Ref: ES/N008812/1). This new series builds on the successful experience of the co-investigators in organising the ESRC Research Seminar Series on Right Wing Extremism in Europe (2014-2015) but extends its scope to radicalism and extremism across different ideological and religious contexts, whilst focusing in particular on youth extremism. It consists of six thematically focused one-day seminars exploring: paths to radicalism and extremism; global and local horizons of action; social media and corporate responsibilities; terrorism; gender dimensions of extremism; and deradicalisation and education.

The network and findings from the seminar series have also been put to use in the formulation of new research proposals e.g. to H2020 REV-INEQUAL-02-2016: Contemporary radicalisation trends and their implications for Europe (submitted February 2016) which included three of four of the principal and co-investigators and two partner teams drawn from contributors to the seminar series. The proposal also includes one non-academic contributor as an Advisory Board member.
A related Research Network on Radicalism and Violence (co-organised by Fabian Virchow and Cynthia Miller-Idriss) has been funded by the Council for European Studies (https://councilforeuropeanstudies.org/research/research-networks).
In addition to these main future initiatives organised by the principal and co-investigators, a number of participants have generated new research initiatives with other participants. This is reflected in the following comments on the seminar series evaluation form:
'Really liked these events: small, lots of opportunities to exchange knowledge and ideas. Important for networking and organisation of future research. Great!'
'Great experience - gave me a lot of ideas for future research'
Sectors Government, Democracy and Justice,Security and Diplomacy

 
Description The seminar series included a total of 82 paper presenters of which 40 were international (scholars based overseas) and 8 were postgraduate students. A total of approximately 130 people participated in the seminars including from UK, Germany, Greece, Croatia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Hungary, Russia, Italy, Latvia and the United States. It was an explicit objective of the project to forge dialogue and extend connections between the academic research community and non-academic users of research on extreme right movements. This was achieved by the inclusion of non-academic participants from national and local government, independent think tanks, police, security services, the prison and probation services and a range of national and European NGOs. Specifcally, participants and speakers came from the Southern Poverty Law Center, Federal Agency for Civic Education Extremism Section, Institute for Strategic Dialogue, Moonshot CVE, German Institute on Radicalization and De-radicalization Studies/Exit Deutschland, and the St Philips Centre. Individual non-academic participants include: Prevent workers, film makers, journalists, NGO programme managers and project directors. This mixture of speakers was highlighted as innovative and productive as reflected in a number of comments by participants on the seminar series evaluation forms: 'Appreciated the mix of academic including international and practice/third sector speakers' 'Joining the dots between academia and practitioners' 'Good mix of practitioners and academics' 'Linking into NGOs is productive' Other linked activities had broader audiences including: the Global Education Forum: Extremism and Education (organised by Cynthia Miller-Idriss, sponsored by Global Education Forum, 19.03.15); and the documentary film presentation: Loud and Proud: Listening to the EDL (Hilary Pilkington, 16.0514) The grant has strengthened the cross-national collaboration between the PI (Hilary Pilkington) and three Co-Is (Fabian Virchow, Cynthia Miller-Idriss and Graham Macklin) and extended this network to include dozens of scholars across Europe and the U.S. A related Research Network on Radicalism and Violence (co-organised by Fabian Virchow and Cynthia Miller-Idriss) has been funded by the Council for European Studies (https://councilforeuropeanstudies.org/research/research-networks) The seminar series has generated a number of new research and seminar activities. A follow-on ESRC Research Seminar Series on 'Youth Extremisms: Understanding across ideological and religious contexts' has been funded (2016-17, ES/N008812/1) has been funded, for example. This new series builds on the successful experience of the co-investigators in organising the ESRC Research Seminar Series on Right Wing Extremism in Europe (2014-2015) but extends its scope to radicalism and extremism across different ideological and religious contexts, whilst focusing in particular on youth extremism. It consists of six thematically focused one-day seminars exploring: paths to radicalism and extremism; global and local horizons of action; social media and corporate responsibilities; terrorism; gender dimensions of extremism; and deradicalisation and education. The network and findings from the seminar series have also been put to use in the submission of a major new research proposal to H2020 REV-INEQUAL-02-2016: Contemporary radicalisation trends and their implications for Europe. The consortium in this proposal includes three of four of the principal and co-investigators and two partner teams drawn from contributors to the seminar series. The project also includes one non-academic contributor as an Advisory Board member. The project has been awarded but is awaiting signing of contract with the EC. In addition to these main initiatives organised by the principal and co-investigators, a number of participants have generated new research initiatives with other participants. This is reflected in the following comments on the seminar series evaluation form: 'Really liked these events: small, lots of opportunities to exchange knowledge and ideas. Important for networking and organisation of future research. Great!' 'Great experience - gave me a lot of ideas for future research' There have been numerous individual publications by seminar speakers and co-organisers. We would highlight here, however, the forthcoming special issue of the journal Gender and Education, entitled 'Rethinking Gender and the Radical Right' guest edited by Hilary Pilkington and Cynthia Miller-Idriss (to be published as Vol 29, issue 2, April 2017). This special issue includes four articles from seminar speakers on the theme of the fourth seminar.
Sector Government, Democracy and Justice,Security and Diplomacy
Impact Types Societal

 
Description Dialogue about Radicalisation and Equality
Amount € 5,000,000 (EUR)
Funding ID 725349 
Organisation European Commission H2020 
Sector Public
Country Belgium
Start 05/2017 
End 04/2021
 
Description ESRC Research Seminars
Amount £30,000 (GBP)
Funding ID ES/N008812/1 
Organisation Economic and Social Research Council 
Department ESRC Seminar Series
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2016 
End 12/2017
 
Description Research Network on Radicalism and Violence 
Organisation American University
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The Research Network on Radicalism and Violence is sponsored by the Council for European Studies for networking and cross-national research exchange purposes. It offers a web-based portal for communication and dedicated panels at the CES annual meeting. It is coordinated by two Co-investigators in this grant: Cynthia Miller-Idriss and Fabian Virchow. The PI and fourth co-investigator on this project (Hilary Pilkington and Graham Macklin) are active participants in the network.
Collaborator Contribution American University and Fachhochschule Dusseldorf are the institutional affiliations of the coordinators of this network (see above).
Impact None to date
Start Year 2015
 
Description Research Network on Radicalism and Violence 
Organisation University of Applied Sciences Düsseldorf (HSD)
Country Germany 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The Research Network on Radicalism and Violence is sponsored by the Council for European Studies for networking and cross-national research exchange purposes. It offers a web-based portal for communication and dedicated panels at the CES annual meeting. It is coordinated by two Co-investigators in this grant: Cynthia Miller-Idriss and Fabian Virchow. The PI and fourth co-investigator on this project (Hilary Pilkington and Graham Macklin) are active participants in the network.
Collaborator Contribution American University and Fachhochschule Dusseldorf are the institutional affiliations of the coordinators of this network (see above).
Impact None to date
Start Year 2015