The Westergaard Annual Lecture with Professor Hilary Pilkington

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The Diamond

Lecture Theatre 4

32 Leavygreave Road

Sheffield

S3 7RD

United Kingdom

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The Westergaard Annual Lecture will be given by Professor Hilary Pilkington, Professor of Sociology at the University of Manchester.

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Understanding ‘real-life extremisms’ (and why failing to do so matters)

Violent extremism is the defining challenge of our age; our failure to understand it has huge real-world consequences. However, persistent conceptual slippage and political re-framing mean signifiers of terrorism and extremism have converged in recent political discourse such that non-violent extremism is increasingly framed as a pathway into terrorism. This has led to a significant gap between extremism in theory (the ‘staircase to terrorism’) and extremisms in real life, where ‘extremists’ rarely understand themselves as such and their extremisms are lived out amidst the everyday realities of largely ‘normal’ lives. The paper starts by assessing the empirical evidence to date about the relationship between inequality and radicalisation. It demonstrates that while there is an inconsistent and complex relationship between the two, we find most consistency between perceived (rather than objective measures of) inequality and radicalisation and between socio-political (rather than socio-economic) inequality and radicalisation. An illustration of how this presents itself in the form of feeling a ‘second class citizen’ whose grievances are ‘silenced’ in the political arena is provided drawing on ethnographic work conducted with activists from the English Defence League. The paper suggests, moreover, that the perceived and socio-political nature of the inequalities identified opens the possibility for positive intervention. It provides an example of this by drawing on the recent experience of conducting a ‘mediated dialogue’ intervention with young people from ‘extreme right’ and ‘Islamist’ milieus. It shows that while the opinions and beliefs of these young people may meet standard criteria of ‘extremism’ - in as much as they differ from established norms and have potentially dangerous consequences - they are far from the closed-minded, dogmatic individuals lost to the political mainstream that the ascription of ‘extremist’ suggests. It concludes that close-up empirical research with ‘real-life extremists’ not only provides a richer picture of the spectrum of contemporary extremisms but can help us move beyond (often counter-productive) condemnation strategies in challenging extremism by revealing and mobilising the capacity of ‘real-life’ actors in the extremism field to reflect, interact and work to counter extremism.

Welcome refreshments will be available from 5:30pm .

The Lecture will begin at 5:50pm with a welcome talk given by Professors Alan Walker and Sarah Neal. The Lecture will begin at 6pm.

Biography

Hilary Pilkington is Professor of Sociology at the University of Manchester and Fellow of the UK Academy of Social Sciences. Her, largely ethnographic, research has focused on understanding marginalised and misrecognised groups - from youth subcultural actors in Soviet Russia to young British Muslims ‘anti-Prevent’ activism. She is currently coordinator of the H2020 DARE (Dialogue about Radicalisation and Equality) project, which considers the social origins and effects of radicalisation, focusing on ‘Islamist’ and ‘anti-Islam(ist)’/extreme right radicalisations across Europe.

Her book Loud and Proud: Passion and Politics in the English Defence League (Manchester University Press, 2016) won the 2017 BBC Thinking Allowed Ethnography Award. She has recently served as an independent Commissioner on the GMCA Preventing Hateful Extremism and Promoting Social Cohesion Commission established by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority in the wake of the MEN Arena attack and is currently a member of the Expert Group on UK National Countering Extremism Commission.

About The John Westergaard Annual Lecture

The Department of Sociological Studies is proud to host an annual lecture in honour of the late Professor John Westergaard. John was Professor of Sociology from 1975 to 1986, Deputy Dean and Dean of the Faulty of Social Sciences from 1982 to 1986, and thereafter Professor Emeritus.

John Westergaard championed the study of class inequality long before its importance became widely acknowledged with such seminal texts as Class in a Capitalist Society (1975) and Who Gets What (1995), and played key roles in the development of the discipline of sociology both in the UK and internationally. He was at the centre of the wider sociology community and served as President of the British Sociological Association from 1991 to 1993 and Vice President from 1994. He was also a leading member of the Council for Academic Freedom and Democracy.In line with John Westergaard’s career-long application of sociological insights and methodology to major social policy issues, this lecture series will seek to address some of this century’s most pressing concerns. We aim to attract speakers at the cutting-edge of sociology and social policy who are able to stimulate a public debate in Sheffield and beyond.

Date and Time

Location

The Diamond

Lecture Theatre 4

32 Leavygreave Road

Sheffield

S3 7RD

United Kingdom

View Map

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