Why even misleading identity claims matter: The evolution of the English Defence League

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When activists in radical, far or extreme right groups claim identities that set them apart from such analytical categories, they are usually given short shrift by commentators and academics, a function of the presumed strategic nature of such claims and the evidential inaccuracies that scrutiny of such claims often reveals. Such responses help ensure critical readings of these groups. However, they also risk overlooking the fact that, even where such identifications appear misleading, they may still be causally significant, shaping the group’s evolution in important ways. I develop this argument using the case of the English Defence League, a group whose activists have tended to claim they are a ‘single issue group’ protesting only about the supposed threats of ‘Islamification’. I demonstrate how their enactment of this identity, while uneven and erratic, shaped the emergent movement culture, tactical repertoires, intra-movement relations and, ultimately, the ebb and flow of movement viability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)323-338
Number of pages6
JournalPolitical Studies
Issue number2
Early online date25 Sep 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2018


Bibliographical note

This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Busher, J 2018, 'Why even misleading identity claims matter: The evolution of the English Defence League' Political Studies, vol 66, no. 2, pp. 323-338, which has been published in final form at https://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0032321717720378. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.


  • radical right
  • far right
  • English Defence League
  • social movements
  • identity

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