Alternative epistemology in far-right anti-publics: a qualitative study of Australian activists

[thumbnail of Alt epist_final.pdf]
Alt epist_final.pdf - Published Version (717kB) | Preview
Available under license: Creative Commons Attribution

Peucker, Mario ORCID: 0000-0003-1759-2578 and Spaaij, Ramon ORCID: 0000-0002-1260-3111 (2023) Alternative epistemology in far-right anti-publics: a qualitative study of Australian activists. International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society. ISSN 0891-4486


Beliefs in hostile conspiracies against ‘Western civilisation’ or ‘white people’ play a key role in tying divergent far-right tropes together under an internally coherent meta-narrative. Claims of having discovered this conspiratorial truth offer personal pride, create a sense of righteousness and urgency to stand up against these alleged secretive, malevolent forces, and help build a parallel counter-hegemonic community with its own distinct epistemology. Using qualitative interviews and a focus group, this study examines how actors engaged in ‘ordinary’ dissent in Australia developed an antagonistic fringe belief system, and the extent to which this alternative epistemology constitutes a manifestation of ‘anti-publics’ (Davis, 2021). The study found how participants’ ideological mindset has grown from rather benign manifestations of dissent into a hostile, counter-hegemonic, conspiratorial meta-narrative through processes of ‘doing their own research’, sharing their learnings with significant others, and incorporating each other’s ideological convictions. Their ideological radicalisation was characterised by personal feelings of pride and epistemic superiority, which created a sense of meaning, urgency, and purpose, as well as social recognition within their group. These psychological and social processes drew them further into a far-right ‘anti-public’ milieu and away from democratic expressions of dissent. The findings shed new light on how the complex and mutually reinforcing interplay between ideological and socio-psychological factors cements an alternative, oppositional epistemology. The study offers close-up insights into what drives radicalisation processes, creating or reinforcing a parallel ‘anti-public’ in hostile opposition to democratic processes and norms.

Dimensions Badge

Altmetric Badge

Item type Article
DOI 10.1007/s10767-023-09456-z
Official URL
Subjects Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 4410 Sociology
Current > Division/Research > Institute for Health and Sport
Current > Division/Research > Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities
Keywords Australia, activism, far-right, ideology, radicalization
Download/View statistics View download statistics for this item

Search Google Scholar

Repository staff login