White supremacy: radicalization, deradicalization, and public health implications Restricted; Files Only

Seiler, Jessica (Spring 2019)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/hd76s1134?locale=en
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Abstract

After interviewing six self-identified former white supremacists using a semi-structured interview guide, I used grounded theory to build theories of radicalization and deradicalization specific to white supremacy. These models represent the beginning of a process that will involve further theoretical refinement through additional foundational research and eventual intervention development, all allowing us to do anti-racist work in the field of public health.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: introduction........................................................................................................ 6

Research rationale: white supremacy as a public health issue.................................. 6

Radicalization and deradicalization in the public health context............................. 9

Significance of this research............................................................................................. 12

Theoretical framework....................................................................................................... 12

Chapter 2: literature review............................................................................................ 14

Public health contributions to the understanding of racism.................................... 14

White supremacy.................................................................................................................. 17

Radicalization and deradicalization................................................................................ 18

Violence as a public health problem............................................................................... 23

Conclusion............................................................................................................................. 24

Chapter 3: methods.............................................................................................................. 25

Internal Review Board clearance..................................................................................... 26

Population and sample....................................................................................................... 26

The interview guide............................................................................................................. 28

Interview format.................................................................................................................. 30

Data management................................................................................................................ 31

Analysis................................................................................................................................... 31

Grounded theory.................................................................................................................. 33

Chapter 4: results................................................................................................................. 35

Case analyses of former white supremacists................................................................ 35

Janet..................................................................................................................................... 35

Stephen................................................................................................................................ 37

Ben....................................................................................................................................... 38

Zachary................................................................................................................................ 39

Toby...................................................................................................................................... 41

Andrew................................................................................................................................ 42

Important themes in radicalization................................................................................ 44

Aesthetics............................................................................................................................ 44

Identity and identity construction.................................................................................. 46

Feelings of power and self-worth.................................................................................... 49

Intellectual curiosity........................................................................................................... 51

The stigma surrounding taboo subjects.......................................................................... 55

Searching for community.................................................................................................. 57

Escalation of engagement................................................................................................. 59

Violence............................................................................................................................... 62

Ambivalence....................................................................................................................... 64

Important themes in deradicalization............................................................................ 68

New communities.............................................................................................................. 68

Ambivalence........................................................................................................................ 72

Changing identities............................................................................................................ 74

Lingering beliefs................................................................................................................. 76

Healing................................................................................................................................ 79

Proposed theoretical models............................................................................................. 83

Chapter 5: discussion.......................................................................................................... 90

The theoretical models....................................................................................................... 90

Implications and recommendations............................................................................... 92

White supremacy as a public health problem................................................................ 92

The importance of the Internet....................................................................................... 94

Age at time of radicalization............................................................................................. 95

Interventions...................................................................................................................... 95

The “no-platform” practice and other failures.............................................................. 96

Strengths, limitations, and next steps............................................................................ 98

Reflexivity.............................................................................................................................. 99

Conclusion............................................................................................................................. 100

Appendix: the interview guide...................................................................................... 102

Citations.................................................................................................................................. 105

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