Looking for the Extremes. The Politics of Writing about People we do not like
Stefan Wellgraf (University of Hamburg)
Paper short abstract:
I want to discuss and challenge that while anthropologists have highlighted hybridity, especially in migration studies, the research on right-wing-movements tends emphasize the extremes and to draw rigid borders.
Paper long abstract:
I want to discuss and challenge that while anthropologists have highlighted hybridity, research on right-wing-movements tends emphasize the extremes and to draw rigid borders between "us" and "them". I ask, how this can be explained and if it is an adequate research strategy. There are truly extremist movements on the right, which should not be underestimated. But while anthropologist have highlighted that most migrants do not live in "parallel societies" and that most Muslims are not "Islamists", the distinction between "right" and "extreme right" is treated with much less care, leading even to an emphasis of the extremes. This urge to put people we do not like into boxes we do not like, is related to both political preoccupations and lack of first-hand ethnographic knowledge. But it also has to do with the way right-wing movements present themselves, often provoking observers with aggressive outlaw images to boost their importance. My research took place among East-Berlin football fans associated with racism and hooliganism. The focus on extreme politics and violence prevents an adequate assessment of the diversity both within the over-all local fanbase and among its right-leaning fractions. This view fails to see that frictions and tensions, overlaps and connections are characteristic for the hooligan subculture, and it cannot understand the social position the truly radical minority occupies. Furthermore, it downplays change, except to note that things are getting worse. Since 2015 one could indeed observe a right-wing "backlash", but it followed a phase of decline and transformation of the hooligan subculture .
Boring white people or fascinating bad guys? Lessons from the study of political radicalism [PACSA]