Social and Political Sciences Seminar Series
This talk draws on a three-year study of grassroots (especially youth) activism in the English Defence League.
The EDL is widely considered to be a violent Islamophobic and racist organisation. This lecture uses the ethnographic approach underpinning the research to uncover the meanings grassroots activists themselves attach to the movement. In particular it explores the relationship between EDL activism and the external political environment. It illustrates how EDL activists experience the external political realm as a politics of silencing in which the expression of their views, as well as government policy, are constrained by the application of the ‘racism label’. This compounds a wider disengagement from the formal political sphere and a denial of the ‘political’ nature of activism, which has much in common with a disavowal of politics among the population more broadly. Activism in the EDL provides individuals with a way of cutting through the politics of silencing and finding a political voice. In contrast to the formal political realm characterised as a site of compliant listening, duplicitous chatter or meaningless debate, EDL activism is experienced as a space to ‘tell it like it is’ and to stand ‘loud and proud’. The talk will also raise questions about the implications of this for our understanding of the role of deliberation, consensus, conflict and dissensus in contemporary democracy.
Other lectures in this series include:
- Youth Politics: Engagement-disengagement, rights-responsibilities, policy and practice
- 100 Years of tear gas: From the battlefields of WWI to the streets of today