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Transnational nationalism. Far-Right Nationalist Groups in East Central Europe in the 20th and 21st centuries

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Transnat_farright (Transnational nationalism. Far-Right Nationalist Groups in East Central Europe in the 20th and 21st centuries)

Reporting period: 2015-10-01 to 2017-09-30

The project “Transnational nationalism. Far-Right Nationalist Groups in East Central Europe in the 20th and 21st centuries” was led by Dr. Agnieszka Pasieka under the supervision of Prof. Philipp Ther. It was based at the University of Vienna, in the Department of East European History, and it was supplemented by the secondment at the Central European University in Budapest where Dr. Pasieka established cooperation within Gender Studies and Sociology Departments.

The project examined transnational networks of youth far-right nationalist organizations in East Central Europe. The main aim was to highlight an aspect of far-right actors’ operating that until recently had not featured prominently in the scholarship on the subject, namely the fact that being a nationalist activist also entails a transnational cooperation and transnational exchanges. Moreover, the project aimed to fill the gap in existing scholarship by demonstrating the necessity to take into account historical dimension in the analysis of the contemporary far right and the importance of studying far right ethnographically, even if such a study entails a variety of methodological and ethical challenges.

In light of recent developments – the rise of right-wing populist movement, growing political radicalization, widespread anti-immigrant rhetoric - the question of the support far-right movements receive is of big importance. The ethnographic study among contemporary far-right activists offers unique tools to understand the motivations of young people who join such movements and the appeal of nationalist narratives The project’s findings demonstrate that many young people who join the movements do not do it due to their beliefs or ideas they already held, but that what motivates them is search for “community,” for a point of reference, for friends and - sometimes - for clear guidelines and clear authorities. The question that remains to be examined, is, why are far-right movements more successful than left-wing groups in providing such an offer. The project’s historical component, instead, offers an original perspective by drawing parallels between nationalist activities against a multinational federative system, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the contemporary European Union or that between the post-1918 and post-1989 political turmoil. At the same time, it indicates the limit of such comparisons, reminding us about the specific sets of socio-economic factors that shaped the interwar era and that shape the present-day, and consequently forcing us to look for new tools and new vocabulary to describe the ongoing developments.
"Given the difficulty of the ethnographic study of far right, resulting from far-right groups’ lack of openness and suspiciousness, a vast part of the project was spent on research, meaning: establishing contacts, gaining/negotiating access, and eventually beginning fieldwork. Dr. Pasieka conducted fieldwork in Poland, Italy, Slovakia and Hungary. The ethnographic study was supplemented by the analysis of press materials and social media. The second research component consisted of archival research. Thanks to the cooperation with historians from the Institute for East European History, Dr. Pasieka broadened her theoretical and methodological framework. Drawing on historians' guidance, she conducted archival research carried out in Vienna, Warsaw, Lviv, and Trieste, i.e. in the cities were multiethnic before the World War II and as such prove to be interesting venues for checking the extent of “transnational-nationalist” orientation of various nationalist activities.

Apart from conducting research and developing her research skills, Dr. Pasieka gained new experience in teaching thanks to new courses offered at the Institute for East European History and thanks to the work with students at the Central European University. In terms of disseminating her research and further developing her presentation skills and professional networks, she participated in several international conferencse, gave invited talks (University of Bern, Hannah Arendt Center for the Study of Totalitarianism in Dresden, University of Vienna, Institute of Human Sciences in Vienna, Jagiellonian University in Krakow) and delivered two keynote speeches at international conferences in Szeged and Budapest. She organized an interdisciplinary and international conference on transnational far right (“Transnationalization of the far right: the case of interwar and present-day Europe” ) and two guest lectures' series. She has published on journal article and one opinion piece for a broader audience, and she has submitted for review a book chapter. She is currently working on a special issue on transnational far right and two journal publications.

Thanks to the work carried out within the project, she was successful in obtaining a new academic position: Elise Richter Research Fellowship at the Department of Anthropology, University of Vienna. In course of this fellowship, she will expand her project on transnational far right which is supposed to lead to her ""Habilitation.""

"The research carried out within the project enabled to identify several crucial aspects that a study of far right needs to take into account.

- First, the project demonstrates the importance of the study of nonparty sector and grassroots movements, and in the main of the focus on recruitment processes, members' motivations, and community-building aspects. It proves the need of studying far right ethnographically and, as such, it contributes to socio-cultural anthropology by engaging with a series of issues which are pivotal in the discipline: it challenges the idea of empathy with research subjects as a prerequisite of ethnographic practice, exemplifies a need more studies and reflects on the ways of practicing ethnography/doing fieldwork in contemporary world.

- Second, the project shows that a study of both local and transnational dimensions of far-right activism is indeed of big importance, but that it is necessary to probe deeper into the question of what are specific reasons and outcomes of transnational cooperation among far-right groups. Exchanges of knowledge and tools presumably characterize most transnational organizations and movements and what remains to be investigated is what is specific for the operating of the far right on a transnational scale. In so doing, the project also contributes to the discussions on methodological nationalism in that it shows the necessity to move the analysis ""beyond nation-state"" while recognizing the continuous importance of the ""national"" as a point of reference for the studied groups.

- Third, thanks to the focus on the cooperation and exchanges among far-right groups in Western and Eastern Europe, the project provides a critical tool for addressing the presumed differences between “Western” and “Eastern” European socio-political developments, challenging an unidirectional models of modernity and nationalism as well as for recognizing some common aspects of far-right movements. The project's outcomes will constitute an important addition to the scholarship which hitherto highlighted differences, rather than similarities, between far-right scenes in Western and Eastern Europe.