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Gendering activism in populist radical right parties. A comparative study of women’s and men’s participation in the Northern League (Italy) and the National Front (France)

GoTriple's project summary

Building on two pilot studies conducted in 2010, the proposed research will explore the gender dimensions of anti-immigration social movements in contemporary Europe. This will be done through a comparative analysis of activism in two populist radical right parties: an ethnographic and documentary study of activism in the social and cultural associations linked to the Northern League party (NL) in Italy and to the National Front party (NF) in France. During the applicant’s earlier research on the NL, it became clear that the themes of women’s rights and gender equality are increasingly mobilised in instrumental ways by this party, seeking to attract women’s votes. This corresponds to a recent radicalisation of the NL’s discourse, which in the past decade has increasingly targeted migrants coming from Muslim countries: in this discourse, immigration is associated with sexual violence and gender conservatism. The research will mobilise these earlier studies while expanding their focus through a comparative perspective. In examining current developments in the ideology and politics of the NL and the NF, and their attempt to modernise their public image, the proposed comparative research will contribute to ongoing theoretical debates about the articulation of racism and gender as well as about the role played by gender in collective action. The proposed research is ground-breaking in two ways. First, only a minority of ethnographic studies exist which focus on activism in radical right organisations, as sociologists have tended to focus on left-wing social movements. More specifically, very few studies have investigated the role played by women in radical right social movements. Second, the few existing qualitative studies of women’s activism in these organisations fail to compare systematically the practices women and men. As opposed to these existing studies, the proposed research will examine both women’s and men’s involvement in these organisations.

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