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Moral economies of exclusion: politics of fear through antagonistic anonymity

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This article examines the discourse-technical means through which illiberal political logics are legitimised in constructions of xenophobic populism by a ‘prominent’ Norwegian extreme-right organisation, Human Rights Service (HRS). I argue that recent HRS publications featuring six secretly shot photos of Muslims in the Norwegian public sphere engender a moral economy of exclusion in which Muslims consistently are produced as an anonymous yet ubiquitously present threat to liberal democratic and human rights values. Within this framework, micro-humiliating performances against the ‘Muslim other’ are constituted and encouraged as a necessary, morally justified defence of democratic virtues to ensure the existence of a vulnerable majority self. I claim that the HRS circulation of constructions of faceless, yet easily recognisable, categories of designated ‘enemy others’ as a threat to the liberal democratic ethos can ultimately be understood as a hegemonic intervention to push anti-Muslim illiberalism from the fringes towards the dominant cultural outlook.

He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee. (Nietzsche, 1989[1886]: 157)
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Keywords: Human Rights Service; Islam; discourse; fear appeals; immigration; racism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: UiT, Arctic University of Norway, Norway

Publication date: May 2020

This article was made available online on January 10, 2020 as a Fast Track article with title: "Moral economies of exclusion: politics of fear through antagonistic anonymity".

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  • Global Discourse is an interdisciplinary, problem-oriented journal of applied contemporary thought operating at the intersection of politics, international relations, sociology and social policy. The Journal's scope is broad, encouraging interrogation of current affairs with regard to core questions of distributive justice, wellbeing, cultural diversity, autonomy, sovereignty, security and recognition. All issues are themed and aimed at addressing pressing issues as they emerge. Rejecting the notion that publication is the final stage in the research process, Global Discourse seeks to foster discussion and debate between often artificially isolated disciplines and paradigms, with responses to articles encouraged and conversations continued across issues.

    The Journal features a mix of full-length articles, each accompanied by one or more replies, policy papers commissioned by organizations and institutions and book review symposia, typically consisting of three reviews and a reply by the author(s). With an international advisory editorial board consisting of experienced, highly-cited academics, Global Discourse publishes themed issues on topics as they emerge. Authors are encouraged to explore the international dimensions and implications of their work.

    All research articles in this journal have undergone rigorous peer review, based on initial editor screening and double-blind peer review. All submissions must be in response to a specific call for papers.

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