Understanding Youth Participation Across Europe: From Survey to Ethnography

Editors: Hilary Pilkington, Gary Pollock, Renata Franc

Understanding Youth ParticipationThis edited volume presents findings from a major cross-European research project mapping the civic and political engagement of young Europeans in the context of both shared and diverse political heritages. Drawing on new survey, interview and ethnographic data, the authors discuss substantive issues relating to young people’s attitudes and activism including: attitudes to the European Union and to history; understanding of political ideologies; how attitudes to democracy are shaped by political heritage; activism in radical right wing groups and religion-based organisations; and digital activism.

These contributions make the book’s case that transnational and multi-method projects can enrich our understanding of how young people envisage their place and role in Europe’s political and civic space. The book challenges methodological assumptions that survey research shows the big picture but at the cost of local nuance or that qualitative research cannot speak beyond the individual case, and demonstrates the added explanatory value of triangulating different kinds of data.

Radical Futures? Youth, Politics and Activism in Contemporary Europe

Radical_FuturesEditors : Hilary Pilkington, Gary Pollock

Radical Futures? Youth, Politics and Activism in Contemporary Europe features a collection of articles originating from MYPLACE (Memory, Youth, Political Legacy and Civic Engagement), which has mapped the relationship between political heritage, forms and levels of civic and political engagement of young people in Europe, and their potential receptivity to radical and populist political agendas.
Explores the meanings of activism among young people engaged in a range of organisations and movements

  • Draws on new primary data sets from 14 countries collected under a common research design by the authors
  • Challenges claims of rising ‘apathy’ among young people as well as counter-claims that their participation has simply shifted to ‘informal’ activities
  • Makes critical interventions into theory underpinning the fields of youth studies, democratic theory and participation, memory studies, and far right studies

Loud and Proud: Passion and Politics in the English Defence League

Loud_and_Proud  Author : Hilary Pilkington

Loud and proud is an ethnographic study of grassroots activists in the English Defence League (EDL). Setting the findings within contemporary debates on race and racism, Islamophobia, social movements and the far right, the author draws on interviews, informal conversations and extensive observation at EDL events to explore and explain the gap between the public image of the movement as a violent Islamophobic and racist organisation and individual activists’ understanding of it as ‘one big family’. Presenting them neither as duped by a charismatic leader nor working class anti-heroes, this book introduces EDL activists as individuals with real lives whose diverse trajectories in and out of activism are embedded in personal life stories.
The book will be of value to those researching or studying in the disciplines of sociology, political science and anthropology as well as those with an interest in contemporary political issues and the populist and radical right.


‘These voices of English nationalism make for difficult listening. The great strength of Hilary Pilkington’s unflinching ethnography is her capacity to confound and challenge our political preconceptions and makes us think harder. This is an important, difficult and brave book.’ Les Back, Professor of Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London

‘Pilkington offers fresh and crucial insights into the politics of fear. Her unflinchingly honest depiction of the EDL breaks apart stereotypes of rightist activists as simply dupes, thugs, and racists and makes us confront the complexities of anti-Islamist/anti-Muslim fervour. This terrific, compelling book is a must-read for scholars and readers concerned about the global rise of populist movements on the right.’ Kathleen Blee, Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research Distinguished Professor of Sociology Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences

Download: The book is available open access here.

Podcast:  A discussion of the research behind the book is available here.

Radicalism and indifference:  Memory transmission, political formation and modernization in Hungary and Europe
Radicalism and indifference  Author: Domonkos Sik

Most theories of radicalization focus on the birth of antidemocratic ideas, semantics, behavior patterns and organizations. However such focus is one-sided: radicalization is as much about the forgetting of historical lessons and the weakening of a democratic consensus, as the spreading of populist ideas. A case study of public and private processes of memory transmission in Hungary reveals how the ambiguous relation to modernization affects political formation: the failures provoke populist reactions, while the successes result in political indifference. The combination of these two political cultures creates a dangerous compound including both the opportunity for the birth of antidemocratic semantics and their ignorance. The author analyzes the potential of such «incubation of radicalism» on a European survey.