ARENAS Spotlight: Work Package 3 – Circulation of Extremist Narratives

This Work Package plays a vital role in understanding and responding to controversial extremist narratives in the ARENAS project. Dr. Steven Forti, an associate professor in Contemporary History at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), leads WP3 as a dedicated researcher at the Center for Studies on Dictatorships and Democracies (CEDID-UAB). Beginning in Italy, and spanning through Spain and Portugal, has fuelled his passion for unravelling the complexities of political history and cultures in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Under Dr. Forti’s leadership, the team at UAB coordinates WP3, bringing together experts from diverse disciplines to delve into the historical roots and contemporary circulation of extremist narratives across Europe. Beyond academia, Dr. Forti and his collaborators endeavour to engage civil society through collective books summarising their research findings and exhibitions showcasing their work. With a transdisciplinary team comprising specialists from contemporary history, political science, sociology, sociolinguistics, and computational analysis, they embrace diverse perspectives to confront complex challenges head-on.

The team decided to address the study of circulation both in the most strictly political space, i.e., Parliaments, as well as in the media space, paying attention to both traditional media and social networks. The WP commences with a meticulous examination of the historical origins of extremist narratives, propelled by data collection and analysis. Through a series of webinars titled “Historical Roots of Extremist Narratives,” the team explores the intricate interplay between Nation, Gender, and Science, laying the groundwork for the first deliverable – the Report on Historical Roots of Extremist Narratives in Europe. The result of WP3 is essential to understand the circulation of extremist narratives and to develop responses to stop its roots among European citizens in the future.

To amplify the discourse and foster collaboration, Dr. Forti and his team are organising the international conference “Going Extreme: History, Narratives, and the Threat to Democracies in Europe” at the Center of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona (CCCB). In September 2024. This gathering of experts from across Europe enriches the dialogue and sets the stage for deeper exploration.

Continuing their journey, the team embarks on dissecting the circulation of extremist narratives in political and media spheres. From seminars in Ljubljana, Slovenia, to conferences in Cergy-Paris, France, and Helsinki, Finland, they scrutinise the mechanisms through which extremist ideologies proliferate. Their efforts culminate in comprehensive reports that illuminate the multifaceted nature of extremist narratives.

As Dr. Forti reflects on the team’s progress in the first year, he is immensely proud of their achievements and the camaraderie that binds them together. The ARENAS project has enriched the WP3 team not only professionally but also personally, reaffirming the profound impact their work can have on society.

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