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White Out: Understanding the Significance of Social Support in the Lives of Former White Supremacists


This study aims to better understand explain how and why people come to join, participate in, and leave white supremacist terrorist (WST) groups based upon their life experiences of social support. Data were collected from in-depth life history interviews and supplemental timelines of former white supremacists in the United States and Canada. Informed by Latif, Blee, DeMichelle, and Simi's (2018) emotional dynamics models and Colvin, Cullen, and Vander Ven’s (2002: 27) model of differential social support and coercion this research explicates the role of social support in the lives for formers. This study found that former WST members experience unique chains of adversity which are greatly influenced by their experiences of social support—or lack thereof. This research aims to contribute to the theoretical understandings of social support and coercion’s influence in people’s engagement and disengagement from WST; public policy initiatives aimed at preventing WST and increasing successful disengagement from WST groups.

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