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 Katherine Williams

Katherine Williams

Research student,

Overview

I am an ESRC-funded PhD candidate in the School of Law and Politics, Cardiff University. My research investigates the role and motivations of women in the Alternative for Germany (AfD).


I completed an MSc in Social Science Research Methods (SSRM) at Cardiff University in 2018. My MSc dissertation, “Grab ‘em by the pussy”: Investigating why women voted for Donald Trump, attempted to determine the socio-cultural, historical, and economic factors that influenced women’s support for this controversial candidate.  


Prior to this, I graduated from Swansea University with a BA in German and Politics (2007-2011) and an MA in International Security and Development (2013-2016). My MA dissertation, Deconstructing the Demon Lover: Unpacking the Role of Women in the IRA and ETA, investigated the factors behind women’s membership of these two groups, and critically examined the theory that women only become involved in political violence because of romantic relationships with male comrades, i.e., a Demon Lover.


My research interests include women’s involvement in terrorism and political violence, political subjectivities, the populist radical right in Europe, feminist research methods, and gender. 

Research

Thesis

Assessing the role and motivations of women in the Alternative for Germany (working title)

The re-emergence of the populist radical right (PRR) comes at a time when political and social disillusionment is at an all-time high. In the last decade, European PRR parties have done increasingly well at the polls: Hungary’s Fidesz returned to power in 2010; Poland’s Law and Justice hold a parliamentary majority; Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National (formerly Front National) won 33.9 percent of the national vote in the 2017 French presidential election, and in the same year, the Alternative for Germany won 94 seats in the Bundestag. This represents a major turning point in global politics. Such events have led us to question what it means to be a political subject in a changing world and reassess normative ideas surrounding women and men's political behaviour. Women have played an instrumental role in the election of PRR candidates and parties and the shaping of our political landscapes across Europe and beyond. My research focuses on the Alternative for Germany, the first right-wing party since WW2 to make significant electoral gains in Germany. 


Why do women join the AfD? To what extent do issues relating to gender play a role in women’s recruitment to the AfD? Is this the same for male peers? What does the AfD offer members that the mainstream German parties cannot? Which issues are most important to those joining the party? How do they reconcile party politics with their own lives and experiences?


Subject agency is one of the central tenets explored in my research. I will attempt to unpack how members of the AfD navigate their political agency in different ways, be that within the party itself, in the eyes of peers, or through self-representation in interview and media accounts. By identifying common themes across both documentary sources and semi-structured interview transcripts, my research attempts to get an idea of the factors that have motivated AfD members, as well as unpack the sometimes contradictory intersections of gender, race, and class. 


My research aims to:
-Unpack the role of women in the AfD, how they fit into the party, their political agency, and how this political agency may or may not be shaped by the ideological and programmatic goals of the party.


It will achieve its objectives by:
-Employing a feminist poststructuralist epistemological lens that casts a critical eye over the potential gender-based appeal of the AfD and how this may prove attractive to members;
-Constructing a case study with comparative elements that critically examines the issues or themes which appeal to AfD members through the utilization of qualitative research methods, including semi-structured interviews and discourse/documentary analysis. 

Funding source

Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

Supervisors

Claudia Hillebrand

Dr Claudia Hillebrand

Senior Lecturer in International Relations

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Professor Hanna Diamond

Professor of French History