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Accepted Paper:

Title: "Doomsday" Preppers: Between extremism, mainstream culture and mass entertainment  
Julian Genner (University of Freiburg)

Paper short abstract:

The paper questions the "otherness" of preppers. It explores theoretical and conceptual problems arising from the phenomenon's oscillating between right wing extremism, mainstream culture and mass entertainment.

Paper long abstract:

So-called Preppers prepare themselves for future perils. Worst-Scenarios such as a long-lasting blackouts, pandemics, or civil wars lie at the heart of what has become a growing trend and lifestyle, especially in the US, Europe (Great Britain, Germany, Switzerland, and Austria), and Australia. It involves fatalism and a certain ambivalence towards the reliability of institutions. According to preppers, the state is not capable of prohibiting or coping with a major catastrophe which ultimately results in its collapse. This ambivalence or even mistrust makes prepping liable to extremist views doubting the legitimacy of the current government or state authority in general.

The existing research regards preppers/survivalist as either a faction on the far right or a subculture. Mitchell (2002) and Huddleston (2018) see them as a misunderstood subculture which is wrongfully associated with political violence. Both perspective view preppers as a marginal phenomenon distinct from mainstream politics and culture. Considering the fact that there is a mass market for preparedness gear the claim of marginality is hardly convincing. Reality television shows such as Doomsday Preppers are both, educational television for preppers and mass-entertainment. Further, imagining the total collapse of the world "as we know it" is highly popular as the success of the television series The Walking Dead illustrates.

This raises several questions: How to deal with a phenomenon that is at the same time part of the extremist right, a mass marketed lifestyle, and mass entertainment? How to deal with both, extremist tendencies and commercial success of prepping?

Panel P143
Boring white people or fascinating bad guys? Lessons from the study of political radicalism [PACSA]
  Session 1 Thursday 16 August, 2018, -