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Normalizing the Far Right

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Design: S. Adamick


Paula Diehl (Kiel, GER)

Birgit Sauer (Vienna, AUT)

Upcoming Events

25 - 29 Feb 2024, Workshop
The Role of Affects and Emotions

Contact at ZiF

Maren Winkelhage

Normalizing the Far Right

Cooperation Group

February 2022 - February 2024

In the last few years, the rise of right-wing populist and right-wing extremist parties, politicians, movements, and groups has become a common phenomenon, contributing to the spread of far-right discourse, imagination, attitudes, and sentiments. In Europe, USA, Brazil or India, far right-wing ideas – whether combined with populism or not – are penetrating democratic public spheres and deeply affecting politics and society. Far-right ideologies question and even contest key democratic principles such as plurality, equality, and human rights. They are usually located outside the realm of democracy and face strong resistance within the democratic public sphere. However, with the rise of right-wing populism in the new millennium, far-right thinking has become more and more normalized. Right-wing populists and extremists have assumed important roles as opposition parties or even government roles. This normalization of the far right is challenging for democracy, since it changes the perception of what is democratically acceptable and what is considered as “normal” – the wide spread of racist and sexist language is a good example.

How do antidemocratic ideas, imagination, attitudes, social practices, and affective politics become socially acceptable and how do they affect identity formation? Are there common normalization mechanisms that traverse all these aspects of social life? Do they pervade different realms of politics and society such as political communication, media, culture, law, 3 etc. in the same way? And what are the resistance strategies to this normalization in politics and civil society? The goal of this cooperation group is to detect the mechanisms that spread and normalize the far-right thinking, and to depict how the boundaries of the normal are shifted through the transformation of what is speakable and doable within democracy. The project is not dedicated to the study of extremism but to the permeation of the far-right ideologemes in the public sphere. This cooperation group therefore adopts an interdisciplinary perspective and works with international comparisons. We aim to promote a dialogue among international scholars in sociology, political science, law, history, media, and cultural studies. We will focus on mechanisms that normalize the far right, their effects on political culture and institutions, and also analyze democratic resilience and resistance within politics and civil society.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the dynamics of normalization of the far right may have considerably changed and will probably continue to change. These new dynamics are not the same everywhere (Brubaker 2020). Victor Órban in Hungary and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, for example, have both developed very different strategies and narratives in the face of Covid-19. In addition, far-right groups are more and more joining “anti-Covid” protests around the globe. Such dynamics and manifold situations will be considered in the project. In addition, the project will carefully observe the radicalization of the far right within the public sphere after Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol. These events were highly mediated around the globe and will probably have an impact on the normalization of the far right worldwide.


Opening Conference

Normalization of the Far Right and its Mechanisms

17 - 19 February 2022


Members Core Group

Paula Diehl (Kiel, GER), Wilhelm Heitmeyer (Bielefeld, GER), Mojca Pajnik (Ljubljana, SLO), Birgit Sauer (Vienna, AUS)


Brigitte Bargetz (Kiel, GER), Mabel Berezin (Cornell, USA), Oliver Decker (Leipzig, GER), Gabriele Dietze (Humboldt, GER), Nina Eggers (Kiel, GER), Thomas Ernst (Antwerp, BEL), Ute Frevert (Berlin, GER), Virág Molnár (New York, USA), Julia Roth (Bielefeld, GER), Daniel Thiele (Vienna, AUT), Volker Weiß (Hamburg, GER), Ruth Wodak (Lancester, USA)

Shifting Democratic and Social Norms

4 - 8 October 2022

Paula Diehl (Kiel, GER), Wilhelm Heitmeyer (Bielefeld, GER), Mojca Pajnik (Ljubljana, SLO), Birgit Sauer (Vienna, AUT)

Théo Aiolfi (Coventry, UK), Adam Knowles (Zurich, SUI), Lena Weige (Kiel, GER), Marlene Radl (Vienna, AUT), Michel Wieviorka (Paris, FRA), Volker Weiß (Hamburg, GER)

Michel Wieviorka (Paris, FRA): Fortune and Misfortune of the Far Right. The French Case

5 October 2022

Graphic format announcing the event
Design: S. Adamick

Video of Michel Wieviorka's talk

The Role of Emotions in Normalizing the Far Right

27 February - 3 March 2023

Paula Diehl (Kiel, GER), Wilhelm Heitmeyer (Bielefeld, GER), Mojca Pajnik (Ljubljana, SLO), Birgit Sauer (Vienna, AUT)

Günther Frankenberg (Frankfurt/Main, GER), Heinrich Schäfer (Bielefeld, GER)

Normalizing the Far Right: Law and Institutions

5 October 2022

Graphic format announcing the event
Design: S. Adamick

Audio file of the panel discussion
(with Alon Harel instead of Kim Scheppele)

Challenging Democracy

16 - 17 October 2023

Paula Diehl (Kiel, GER), Wilhelm Heitmeyer (Bielefeld, GER), Mojca Pajnik (Ljubljana, SLO), Birgit Sauer (Vienna, AUT)


Teresa Koloma Beck (München, GER), Luciana Villas Boas (New York, USA), Katrine Fangen (Oslo, NOR), Anita Nissen (Aalborg, DK), Gabor Halmai (San Domenico, IT), Sara Minelli (Kiel, GER), Lena Weige (Kiel, GER)

The Role of Affects and Emotions

25 - 29 Feb 2024

Paula Diehl (Kiel, GER), Wilhelm Heitmeyer (Bielefeld, GER), Mojca Pajnik (Ljubljana, SLO), Birgit Sauer (Vienna, AUT)


Paula Diehl (Kiel, GER)
Professor of Political Theory, History of Ideas and Political Culture at the University of Kiel. Her research focuses on theory of Democracy, Populism, National Socialism, the political Imaginary and political representation

Birgit Sauer (Vienna, AUS)
Professor of Political Science at University of Vienna, Austria. Her research areas include gender and right-wing populism with an emphasis on anti-gender mobilization, politics and affect, including right-wing affective mobilization and governing, state and democratic theory, comparative gender policy-analysis

Brigitte Bargetz (Kiel, GER)

Mabel Berezin (New York, USA)

Jean-Yves Camus (Paris, FRA)

Priska Daphi (Bielefeld, GER)

Oliver Decker (Leipzig, GER)

Chiara De Cesari (Amsterdam, NLD)

Gabriele Dietze (Berlin, GER)

Nina Elena Eggers (Kiel, GER)

Thomas Ernst (Antwerpen, BEL)

Federico Finchelstein (New York, NY)

Ute Frevert (Berlin, GER)

Ece Göztepe (Ankara, TUR)

Wilhelm Heitmeyer (Bielefeld, GER) (Core-Group)

Christian Huberts (Berlin, GER)

Anders Ravik Jupskås (Oslo, NOR)

Wulf Kansteiner (Aarhus, DEN)

Teresa Koloma Beck (Hamburg, GER)

Christoffer Leiding Kølvraa (Aarhus, DEN)

Barbara Manthe (Bielefeld, GER)

Viràg Molnàr (New York, USA)

Christina Morina (Bielefeld, GER)

Jan-Werner Müller (Princeton, USA)

Mojca Pajnik (Ljubljana, SVN) (Core-Group)

Helen B. Roche (Durham, GBR)

Julia Roth (Bielefeld, GER)

Dieter Rucht (Berlin, GER)

Daniel Thiele (Wien, AUT)

Balázs Trencsényi (Budapest, HUN)

Christian von Scheve (Berlin, GER)

Volker Weiß (Hamburg, GER)

Michel Wieviorka (Paris, FRA)

Ruth Wodak (Lancaster, GBR)


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