Protest Talks: Participation in the English Defence League

by | 20 Oct 2016 | Events | 0 comments

3-5pm, Wednesday 15 February 2017 in Arthur Lewis, Boardroom (2nd floor). All welcome, tea/coffee provided.

Prof. Hilary Pilkington, University of Manchester, ‘One big family’: Emotion, affect and the meaning of activism in the English Defence League’

Dr Elizabeth Morrow, University of Birmingham, ‘Marginal and spoiler participants in the theory of collective action: explaining the rise and the decline of the English Defence League’

With Discussant Prof. Rob Ford, University of Manchester

This seminar will debate the reasons behind participation in the English Defence League (EDL), generating wider reflections about the dynamics of activism on the far right. Both papers draw upon recent ethnographic studies of the EDL. Hilary Pilkington focuses upon the emotional and affective dimensions of activism. Starting from theoretical debates on emotion and affect in social movements, she adopts the notion of ‘affective practice’ to understand the role of emotion in EDL activism, and specifically the pleasures of the ‘demo buzz’ and the ontological security generated by relationships formed in the EDL ‘family’.  She argues that such bonds arise out of, and enhance the pleasures of shared activism but can work to undermine as well as strengthen group bonds. Elizabeth Morrow looks at the supply of exclusive benefits to EDL activists, in the form of access to violent conflict, self-worth and solidarity. She argues that because EDL leaders recognised that both the appearance of organisational success, and members’ enjoyment of activism, relied on large crowd sizes, they pursued a strategy of indiscriminate recruitment with low barriers to entry. Although this strategy saw membership numbers expand into the thousands, it also sowed the seeds of the organisation’s failure.