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Accepted Paper:

Doing the right thing without being right wing? Preppers' haunted quest for a good life  

Author:

Julian Genner (University of Freiburg)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing on fieldwork among preppers in Germany I argue that reducing the phenomenon to a manifestation of right wing ideologies misses the informants' point of view. Rather, it is their quest for a good life which evokes the darker places of the ideological landscape.

Paper long abstract:

So called preppers imagine catastrophic scenarios for which they prepare such as blackouts, pandemics, economic crashes, culture wars, or terrorist attacks. Such events are believed to bring about the collapse of the state and a civil war. Prepping's entanglement with mass culture and the far right makes it ambiguous. Public and media discourses frame prepping as an exotic lifestyle, as an individual pathology, and as a threat to society. Contrarily, my informants in Germany complain especially about being represented as paranoid right wing extremists. For them, preparing is about doing the right thing, not about being right wing. Using "right wing" as a preformed explanatory frameworkmisses the informants' point of view. Shifting from an ideology-centred to a Foucauldian approach, I regard prepping as an ethical project allowing informants to perform and to become (from their view) "better" versions of themselves capable of leading a good life in insecure times. However, this vision of a good life emerges against the background of imagining the collapse of the state and the death of others. Because prepping is driven by mistrust and often enough hatred towards the existing national and supranational institutional frameworks, its popularity has to be understood against the background of changing relations between institutions and citizens. I argue that it is not ideological commitment but the quest for a good life which leads informants to the darker places of the ideological landscape.

Panel P131
Getting 'the Right' right: Comparative ethnographies of neo-nationalist movements in Europe