‘Loud and proud’: Politics and passion in the English Defence League is a study of grassroots activism in what is widely considered to be a violent Islamophobic and racist organisation. The book uses interviews, informal conversations and extended observation at EDL events to critically reflect on the gap between the movement’s public image and activists’ own understandings of it. It details how activists construct the EDL, and themselves, as ‘not racist, not violent, just no longer silent’ inter alia through the exclusion of Muslims as a possible object of racism on the grounds that they are a religiously not racially defined group. In contrast activists perceive themselves to be ‘second-class citizens’, disadvantaged and discriminated by a ‘two-tier’ justice system that privileges the rights of ‘others’. This failure to recognise themselves as a privileged white majority explains why ostensibly intimidating EDL street demonstrations marked by racist chanting and nationalistic flag waving are understood by activists as standing ‘loud and proud’; the only way of ‘being heard’ in a political system governed by a politics of silencing. Unlike most studies of ‘far right’ movements, this book focuses not on the EDL as an organisation – its origins, ideology, strategic repertoire and effectiveness – but on the individuals who constitute the movement. Its ethnographic approach challenges stereotypes and allows insight into the emotional as well as political dimension of activism. At the same time, the book recognises and discusses the complex political and ethical issues of conducting close-up social research with ‘distasteful’ groups.
Transgressing the cordon sanitaire: understanding the English Defence League as a social movement
Transgressing the cordon sanitaire:
understanding the EnglishDefenceLeague as a social movement
This book is political – but not by design. It is rendered so by its object of study
(the EnglishDefenceLeague) and its context – the rise of a new ‘far right’1 and
‘populist radical right’ across Europe and, more recently, America. It argues
that establishing an academic ‘cordon sanitaire’ (Mouffe, 2005: 72), in the form
of typological and classificatory approaches that focus solely on the ideological
dimensions of such movements and confine them to
legislation – and substantiate the EDL’s own claims to being ‘not racist’.
Openness is institutionalised through a number of ‘divisions’ for members of
different ethnic and religious groups as well as a women’s (‘Angels’) and LGBT
division (see Chapter 2) and the movement prides itself on the fact that
Loud and proud: passion and politics in the EDL
4.3 ‘We love Hindus and Sikhs’: EDL placard, Rotherham protest camp
We’ve got people from all backgrounds. Even Muslim members are in the EnglishDefenceLeague. If a Muslim joins the EDL they are tret [treated] just
Bujra, 2011 ) and recent mobilisations of the far-right and
anti-Muslim EnglishDefenceLeague (EDL) (Treadwell, 2012 ). For activists we spoke to in the area, the
major areas of unrest or worry tended to be around far-right mobilisations,
with incidents in 2013 including UKIP electoral mobilisation and EDL
provocations at mosques, rather than the Home Office migration rhetoric.
However, the comments of refugees, asylum seekers and others also pointed to
pretty much, just
seeing a 3 year old being battered, slapped, punched across the room. That was
on a live video thing that was. It just made me feel sick.
int: So it was just kind of seeing stuff like that then?
kane: Yeah and then I remembered the EnglishDefenceLeague got mentioned
to me. I looked into it and … them fighting for the kids, them fighting for everyone. Them just trying to make this country a better place for our kids to live in.
The viewing of images and videos on the Internet, often shared through social
media, is an important factor in framing fear
The past, present and future of the English Defence League
Tommy Robinson’s barmy army?
The past, present and future of
This chapter introduces the EDL as an organisation: its origins, shape and trajectory. While ostensibly a straightforward exercise in ethnographic description, the
EDL proved to be a slippery object of study. This is, first, because the movement
itself is currently in a ‘state of flux’ (Eddowes, 2015) as it seeks to simultaneously
stabilise and transform following its so-called ‘decapitation’1 in October 2013
when its co-founders and leaders unexpectedly resigned. Second
Bordering intimacy is a study of how borders and dominant forms of intimacy, such as family, are central to the governance of postcolonial states such as Britain. The book explores the connected history between contemporary border regimes and the policing of family with the role of borders under European and British empires. Building upon postcolonial, decolonial and black feminist theory, the investigation centres on how colonial bordering is remade in contemporary Britain through appeals to protect, sustain and make family life. Not only was family central to the making of colonial racism but claims to family continue to remake, shore up but also hide the organisation of racialised violence in liberal states. Drawing on historical investigations, the book investigates the continuity of colonial rule in numerous areas of contemporary government – family visa regimes, the policing of sham marriages, counterterror strategies, deprivation of citizenship, policing tactics, integration policy. In doing this, the book re-theorises how we think of the connection between liberal government, race, family, borders and empire. In using Britain as a case, this opens up further insights into the international/global circulations of liberal empire and its relationship to violence.
of the victims, the focus on childhood innocence, the darkening
and pathologising of the perpetrators, the claims to white family, all
become features which animated the particular bordering practice of
The cultural politics of the white family
The far right in Britain has been particularly adept at seizing upon and
mobilising the emotions of outrage and disgust around grooming. For
instance, the white nationalist organisation the EnglishDefenceLeague
(EDL) campaigned in many northern towns after 2011 under the mantra
that authorities had failed to
. He was there for 10 minutes but they only played 30 seconds of this interview and that was talking about why we were in Norwich that day. And she asked
him ‘What are your views on Islamic influence?’ and all that. So he told them
honestly but it did not make it onto the news. He was oppressed. His freedom of
speech was oppressed but when they interviewed a UAF woman [in angry voice]
‘We don’t want racist and fascist groups like EnglishDefenceLeague marching
through our city.’ (Declan)
The experience of the Walthamstow demonstration, when counter-
the movement have are with ‘problems deriving from Islam’ not only
particular interpretations of it whilst also explicitly denouncing the ‘demonisation of
Muslims’ and ‘the unjust assumption that all Muslims are complicit in or somehow
responsible for the actions of other Muslims’. See https://www.facebook.com/notes/
5 See also: www.youtube.com/watch?v=NCiBrZgP018. Accessed: 06.08.2015.
6 The age of Aisha at the time of betrothal and consummation of marriage as well as
the implications of taking the