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Man-made Radical? Constructing Masculinity in White Nationalist Groups Open Access

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For some men in the rural Midwest, their livelihoods are at risk. The jobs filled by their fathers have long disappeared and the realities they live fall short of the legacies left behind by their grandfathers. Urban flight has left dwindling rural populations to handle the massive economic downturn they’ve experienced over the past 20 years. The multitude of white nationalist and separatist parties emerging out of this context suggests that a large response to these symptoms of trial in the region is not only the racialized separation of populations, but a total return to a certain time in America’s history. Drawing on a series of semi-structured, open ended interviews with white nationalists in the United States, this work seeks to understand the formation and function of masculinity in white nationalist groups in the rural Midwest. In describing this relationship, it examines the potential implications of masculine ideals and conceptions of manhood present in American society today; in doing so this work interrogates the ways that these constructions interact with policy and society in the US. In addition to interviews with group members, this work examines the literature created and utilized by white nationalist groups, their propaganda, and online forum interactions as well as interviews with white nationalists. By demonstrating that white nationalists may be motivated by a desire to fulfill societal expectations around masculinity and that these men often attach themselves to the groups because of the personal achievement the group provides, the research offers insights for theorists seeking to better understand the process through which individuals adopt extremist views and actions. The findings are simultaneously relevant for policy, as they suggest that to successfully prevent radicalization and counter extremism, policy initiatives must address these individuals’ desire to be seen, and see themselves, as masculine.

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