Conference: ECPR General Conference
Panel: Mobilizing Worldviews: The Visual Repertoires of the Far Right
Chair: Maik Fielitz (Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg)
Discussant: Lisa Bogerts (Institute for Social Movement Studies, Berlin)
Location and date: University of Innsbruck, 26-28 August 2020
Deadline for submission: 10 February 2020

The visual appearance of far-right movements and parties has fundamentally changed since the start of the new millennium. Historically, rendering politics aesthetic has always been a core feature of fascism. Following this trend, the far-right’s use of images has transformed over time and has recently become professionalized, in order to appeal to diverse audiences. Images are a crucial resource for communicating far-right ideology and expressing their worldviews. As digitalization has increased, visuals have become even more central to the struggle over ideas. Digital images spread rapidly, and imaginaries transgress from digital spaces to street protests and far-right terrorist attacks. Memes in particular have become a prototypical expression that combine far-right agendas with popular culture and invite participation in ‘culture wars’ to be fought both online and offline – boosting the success of far-right political parties and movements.

The panel looks at the visual repertoires of far-right actors, making methodological and theoretical approaches to visual data useful for understanding far-right politics. Therefore, we invite papers that go beyond the traditional canon of written and oral sources (interviews, surveys, manifestos, media and electoral data, etc.) and integrate (audio)visual material used online and/or offline (photos, videos, memes, sharepics, GIFs, posters and banners, films, videogames, art, (web)design, fashion, etc.).  In line with the increasing recognition of visual data in political science, the panel aims to discuss how visual culture approaches could enrich the field of (far-right) extremism research. We will not only reflect on the visual content of images and imaginaries, but also on their production, circulation and reception as an inherent part of far-right politics. We invite papers that empirically, theoretically and methodically discuss the role of visual repertoires in communicating far-right ideology, radicalizing target groups and individuals, and normalizing far-right agendas in broader society.

At the same time, we ask to what extent far-right networks – often only loosely organized – employ everyday and popular images strategically, given the rationalist implication of “repertoires” in social movement and extremism studies. Moreover, we critically engage with the question how the far right’s visual representation by others (media, politics, critical counter-movements, etc.) affect their prospects in a mediatized society. This also includes the problem in how far researchers risk playing into the hands of the far right’s attention economy by talking about or even reproducing their images that glorify violence. Combining affective and cognitive elements of far-right visual culture, we welcome scholars with diverse disciplinary backgrounds and research designs ranging from contemporary to historical case studies, quantitative to qualitative visual analysis and comparative research in both the digital and analogue context, as well as their interplay.

Please send your proposed paper title, keywords (max. 8) and a 500-word abstract to fielitz@ifsh.de by 10 February 2020.