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In Search of the Radicalized Mainstream: Mobilizing, normalizing and normativizing far-right ideologies from the centre

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International Conference: 9-10 November 2023

The international conference on November 9 and 10, 2023 aim to explore, discuss, and redefine the relationship between the radicalized margins and the mainstream across different social, regional and historical contexts. 

Radicalized actors/ideologies and the mainstream are usually considered opposing poles. The mainstream is often portrayed as moderate and centrist in terms of its convictions and policies and placed in opposition to the far-right and far-left. However, with the recent rise of the far-right in many countries and regions worldwide, a rapidly growing body of research is exploring how the electoral successes of the far-right are enabling parties, social movements, agendas, and discourses to move from the fringes to the mainstream. This body of research focuses predominantly on far-right actors and how they strategize, in other words on whether and how far-right parties and movements adapt their narratives, rhetoric and repertoires of action to move closer to mainstream norms in order to appeal to the majority. In this context, the mainstream is predominantly seen through the lens of its interaction with fringe ideologies being adopted or absorbed, which Wodak (2020) has dubbed “shameless normalization”. However, findings from the German National Racism Monitor, for example, have shown that attitudes like racism, antisemitism and Islamophobia are deeply rooted within society and are not only held by radical far-right actors – a phenomenon that has been observed in many countries around the globe. In spite of that, the mainstream is only rarely considered as an agent beyond the conceptual framework of an interaction with the far-right. Research on radicalization, in turn, draws often on the concepts of terrorism and violent extremism, focuses on the social and psychological transformation of the individuals that adopt extremist belief systems. The symposium and workshop aim to bring together research that pays particular attention to “the mainstream” as a (heterogeneous) agent accommodating, aligning, justifying, and normalizing far-right actors, actions, and attitudes, as well as the reasons why and the circumstances under which, this happens. 

Interdisciplinary contributions using different methodological approaches have been selected to respond to key questions related to:  

  • the conceptualization of a radicalized mainstream and what implications does it have for our understanding of the relationship of far-right actors/attitudes to the centre. 
  • which local, national, or transnational networks (including discursive networks) trigger the radicalization of the mainstream, and what new configurations of actors and issues arise from it. 
  • what are the specific mechanisms and influencing factors from within the mainstream through which radicalization occurs and how can we empirically identify and measure these phenomena, both qualitatively and quantitatively. 
  • what philosophical and identity-forming concepts are present in far-right and mainstream discourses today and how these concepts are historically situated. 
  • what are the consequences of radicalized mainstreams for society and specific social groups within it, and how discrimination against specific groups can be more effectively. 
  • which strategies there are to prevent processes of radicalisation of the mainstream. 
  •  what extent social conflicts and forms of discrimination intertwine across issues (e.g., climate crisis and racism, racism and antisemitism) for the radicalized mainstream. 


Symposium organizers

Cooperation partners of the RaMi-Project

Funded by