Cathrine Moe Thorleifsson, Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Oslo

Imagined enemies: Nationalist responses to forced migration in Europe

Across European contexts the unfolding ‘migration crisis’ is fueling re-nationalization processes. Radical right wing parties and anti-Muslim movements have gained strength on a platform protesting European and global integration. Based on multi-sided anthropological fieldwork in the postindustrial towns of Doncaster and Ózd in 2015, this paper compares nationalist responses to forced displacement in England and Hungary. Through participant observation and personal interviews with Ukip (United Kingdom Independence Party) and Jobbik (Movement for a Better Future) politicians and supporters, the paper examines how transnational imaginaries of migration are produced, circulated and contested. It argues that the radical right exploits the issue of refugees negatively to ignite fears, strengthening populist securitization and everyday conspiratorial thinking. In a discourse that conflates displacement with terrorism, migrants from Muslim lands are marked as posing threats to national security, culture and welfare. The unknown migrant serves to re-imagine the boundaries of the nation and European civilization, informing practices of inclusion and exclusion. Opposing the supposition that the economy does not matter for the rise of the radical right, the paper argues that local resistance to cross-border mobility must be analysed in the context of long term existential insecurity. Residents of towns that have been hard hit by economic transition turn to ethno-nationalism both as a protective strategy and a source of identity and future.

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