Address for correspondence: Denis van de Wetering, Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence, University of Bielefeld, Universitätsstraße 25, 33615 Bielefeld, Germany. E-mail: [email protected].
Abstract: This article reconstructs disengagement of women from extreme right groups not theoretically as individual decision-making process, but empirically as social identity work. A thorough analysis of qualitative interviews conducted with six female and six male former right-wing extremists demonstrates how extreme right membership identities of women are socially produced. In tension-laden interactions between women and men processes of “becoming and being an extreme right woman” unfold in the dimensions of caring feminity, masculinity, disciplined heterosexuality, and political subordination. All interviewed women contributed fundamentally to upholding and disseminating right-wing structures and ideologies. The analysis reveals that the women fashion a disengagement narrative in which they emphasize their true and good core self. The narratives focus on suffering, or demonstrate how the core self was deceived by circumstances into extremist activity. The results correspond with the narrative identity theory of desistance and offer initial starting points for a professional deradicalisation practice that is sensitive to positive self-illusion.
Keywords: Extreme right women, (dis-)engagement, positive illusion, deradicalisation, qualitative study