Why Should We Care What Extremists Think? The Contribution of Emic Perspectives to Understanding the “right-wing extremist” Mind-Set
|Why Should We Care What Extremists Think? The Contribution of Emic Perspectives to Understanding the “right-wing extremist” Mind-Set|
ethnography, right-wing extremism, youth, authoritarian personality, closed mindedness
This article considers the implications of the mainstreaming of ‘right-wing extremism’ for what, and whom, we understand as ‘extreme’. It draws on ethnographic research (2017-2020) with young people active in movements routinely referred to in public and academic discourse as ‘extreme right’ or ‘far right’. Based on interviews, informal communication and observation, the article explores how actors in the milieu understand ‘extremism’ and how far this corresponds to academic and public conceptualisations of ‘right-wing extremism’, in particular cognitive ‘closed-mindedness’. Emic perspectives are not accorded privileged authenticity. Rather, it is argued, critical engagement with them reveals the important role of ethnographic research in gaining insight into, and challenging what we know about, the ‘mind-set’ of right-wing extremists. Understanding if such a mind-set exists, and if it does, in what it consists, matters, if academic research is to inform policy and practice to counter socially harmful practices among those it targets effectively.