Introduction

Transgressing the cordon sanitaire: understanding the English Defence League as a social movement

in Loud and proud

This introductory chapter prefaces the theoretical discussion in subsequent chapters of the book by setting out an approach to understanding activism in the English Defence League - a movement routinely classified as ‘far right’ - from within social movement studies. It argues that the EDL has more in common with populist radical right than classic ‘far right’ movements and presents a new challenge to politics in the UK at a time of growing frustration with mainstream political parties. The claims of the EDL to be ‘not racist’ but against ‘militant Islam’ are set in the context of contemporary theories of ‘race’ and racism and in relation to empirical evidence of a rise ‘Islamophobia’ across the wider UK population. The chapter sets out the ethnographic approach adopted in the book and its analytic focus not on organisational structures and ideologies but individual activists and the meanings they attach to their activism.

Loud and proud

Passion and politics in the English Defence League

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