Analytical Approaches to Populism and Right-wing Extremism in Europe
Alexandra Schwell (AAU Klagenfurt)
Paper short abstract:
Right-wing populism is on the rise all over Europe, both with respect to parliamentary politics and to everyday lives as it is gradually seeping into mainstream discourses. This paper seeks to discuss the specific contribution of political anthropology to the field of populism and extremism.
Paper long abstract:
Right-wing populism is on the rise all over Europe and North America. Not only has right-wing populism gained momentum with respect to parliamentary politics; it exerts a significant influence on everyday lives as it appears to be gradually seeping into mainstream discourses. Anthropologists and other social scientists are only beginning to ask how ethnographies of affective politics can help to understand this particular "Other" and thus the current crises of democracy and political representation. Yet, the quest for understanding social phenomena from the point of view of acting subjects lies at the heart of ethnography and cultural anthropology. However, ethnography for a long time has chosen to ignore those who are now gathering in or feel attracted by right-wing populist and extremist movements. This "Other" is not likeable and exotic, but rather boring, possibly strange, and even repulsive. This paper seeks to critically discuss the specific contribution of political anthropology to the field of populism and extremism. Which preconceptions shape our perspective on social groups such as the (actual or perceptive) white middle class and white right-wing populist sympathizers and extremists more generally, their ways of life, attitudes, and worldviews? How does ethnographic knowledge relate to democratic processes of social representation? What, more broadly speaking, is (and can be) anthropology's role and responsibility in social and political processes? Finally, how can anthropology and ethnography matter and impact current and future developments?
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