Negotiating ethical dilemmas during an ethnographic study of anti-minority activism: A personal reflection on the adoption of a 'non-dehumanization' principle

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

Abstract

One of the foremost challenges for ethnographic researchers working on the ‘far right’, the ‘extreme right’, ‘white nationalist’ groups, or organised ‘anti-minority activism’, is working out how to balance the ‘scholarly ethics of fairness to the subject with [the author’s own] moral and political interests in exposing and helping to disable the very movements they are studying’ (Blee 2007, 125). In this chapter I discuss how I sought to negotiate these issues during an ethnographic study of activism in the English Defence League (EDL), at the time the UK’s foremost vehicle for organised anti-minority activism. In particular, I discuss how I sought to do this by developing and deploying what I came to think of as a ‘non-dehumanisation principle’. According to this principle, I would attempt to treat EDL activists in the same way as I would activists in a movement who’s aims I broadly endorsed, so long as this did not entail becoming complicit in what I considered the most fundamentally problematic aspect of their movement: their dehumanisation of various Others – primarily, but not limited to, Muslims. Having introduced the principle, I discuss how it shaped my practice across three phases of the research: project design, fieldwork, and writing up.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationResearching the Far Right
Subtitle of host publicationTheory, Method and Practice
EditorsStephen Ashe, Joel Busher, Graham Macklin, Aaron Winter
Place of PublicationAbingdon
PublisherRoutledge
Chapter17
Pages270-283
Edition1
ISBN (Electronic)9781315304670
ISBN (Print)9781138219342, 9781138219335
Publication statusPublished - 18 Nov 2020

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