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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Special Issue: Challenges Facing Right-Wing Studies

Issue cover

Front Matter

Letter from the Editor

Research Articles

"Remove Kebab": The Appeal of Serbian Nationalist Ideology among the Global Far Right

This article examines the appeal of Serbian nationalist ideology among the contemporary far right. We argue that the discursive othering of Bosnian Muslims as “Turks” as well as the Serbian grand narrative presenting the Bosnian War as a civilizational struggle between Christian Europe and Islam are uniquely resonant with the popular anti-Muslim and xenophobic discourses that are mobilizing right-wing extremists across the globe. Through an analysis of Serbian and far-right discourses, we demonstrate how the patterns of representation that were used to incite and justify the violence committed against Bosnian Muslims in the 1990s are being exported to remote corners of the world via the internet, where they merge with extraneous Islamophobic and racist ideologies to inspire a new generation of extremism, hatred, and violence.

The Gab Project: The Methodological, Epistemological, and Legal Challenges of Studying the Platformized Far Right

In this article we describe our five-year research project on the notorious radical free speech service and fringe platform Gab. During these years we scraped an entire platform, prepared it into a dataset for analysis, and opened it up to a broader community of students and researchers. Each of these projects provides us not just with a small slice of platformized far-right culture but also with a larger sphere of a fringe platform. However, the overarching goal of the Gab project was to contribute to a methodology for the study of the contemporary platformized far right. The atypical nature of the project posed many methodological, epistemological, and legal challenges. It therefore kicked off an institutional learning process about the possibilities, legal boundaries, and best practices for research compliant with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). In this article we argue that the study of the platformized far right should have a thorough understanding of the medium on which the object is present, as well as the methods with which the object is captured. What is more, scholars that use digital tools and data methods for capture and analysis of web platforms must become literate in operating them. Consequently, data-driven research on the far right is naturally interdisciplinary and therefore cooperative and adherent to the principles of open science.

The Ordinariness of January 6: Rhetorics of Participation in Antidemocratic Culture

The January 6, 2021, Capitol riot appeared as an extraordinary and shocking event to many American citizens. In fact, the various framings of the riot such as “insurrection,” “sedition,” or “domestic terrorism” seem to confirm the unprecedented nature of the day. By contrast, in this article we argue that January 6 can be understood in terms of its ordinariness, that is, as “the most ordinary thing that could happen” when viewed in the context of right-wing politics. We first argue that the reliance on a universalized dichotomy between authoritarianism and democracy in current research on right-wing politics in the United States tends to reify those terms, and thus miss the ordinary and routine dimension of antidemocratic practices. We subsequently propose the concept antidemocratic cultures to understand how right-wing political dispositions are fabricated through and mediated by rhetorical acts including speech, written texts, and embodied everyday practice. We analyze the rhetoric of participation of riot participants by reading their text messages, social media posts, and interviews with law enforcement and news media, as detailed in their arrest sheets. The rhetoric of participation of riot participants reveals how political dispositions are fabricated through ordinary language use and how these identities congeal in antidemocratic cultures. In the last section, we further discuss how a theory of antidemocratic cultures provides a novel framework to understand contemporary right-wing politics.

Stuart Hall's Relational Political Sociology: A Heuristic for Right-Wing Studies

Since 2016, there has been a flood of research on the US right spanning disciplines and methodologies. This article theorizes a conceptual heuristic drawn from the writing of Stuart Hall to integrate this scholarship. To make the case for what I term Hall’s political sociology, I stage a dialogue with Arlie Hochschild, whose 2016 ethnography Strangers in Their Own Land has become a classic in the literature. While both Hall and Hochschild stress the importance of documenting the affective nature of political subjectivities, Hochschild’s investment in a politics of reconciliation prevents her from scaling analysis up to political elites, a move that would enable her to better contextualize her findings. Hall offers a model for such an approach, as he connects political subjectivities to acts of articulation; these acts to hegemonic projects; and the impact of such projects to the conjuncture. I stylize Hall’s four-step conceptual frame as a relational cycle because it reconnects the historicizing work of conjunctural analysis to the felt experience of individual subjectivities. Beyond outlining Hall’s political sociology, I illustrate how its use as a heuristic can integrate recent research on the US right. This scheme corrects for an analytic shortcoming driven by Hochschild’s politics of reconciliation, namely a view that political progress will emerge from small-scale, cross-partisan dialogue. Though Hall offers no easy answers to the political questions of our time, his relational political sociology provides a tool for interlacing the research we have, thus rendering the massive challenges of the moment visible in all their detail.