GUILTY BY ASSOCIATION
RESEARCHING A PARIAH POLITICAL PARTY
Keywords:far-right, Czech Republic, methodology, participant observation, pariah polotical parties
Protest politics, in its myriad forms, is something we have been witnessing globally with an ever-increasing frequency. While some might view it as the “purview” of political science, some researchers may wish to develop a more sophisticated understanding and then drawing on insights from other disciplines is extremely useful. Anthropology, with its historical background of studying phenomena outside the western setting, including protest movements (such as millennial movements), can provide an angle that political science might overlook or never consider. In addition, anthropology also has much to offer in terms of methodology. The contributions of ethnographic fieldwork, and participant observation in particular, are the focus of this article and my argument will in large part be based on my own original research, which centred on the members and sympathisers of the Czech based “Workers’ Party for Social Justice”. This political party sees itself as radical and anti-establishment, it has links to the far-right underground scene, and protest activities in the form of various marches constitute its major political strategy. First, I conducted my research “at a distance” (e.g., by examining various extreme right websites and studied statistical information on the extreme right available on the website of the Ministry of the Interior of the Czech Republic), but then I engaged in participant observation. On the basis of a comparison of the two approaches I shall demonstrate that avoiding close-up research and relying solely on Internet research, surveys, questionnaires, journalistic accounts or even on interviews not reinforced by participant observation leads to a distorted picture. I hope to exemplify that there are certain types of data that can only be obtained through participant observation and thus that certain research questions can only be answered through this methodological tool. Furthermore, I shall show that participant observation helps to generate original data and offer innovative interpretations unavailable from studies relying on other methods. A case in point is the protest politics practised by far-right entities.
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