Free Spaces, Collective Identity, and the Persistence of U.S. White Power Activism

Robert Futrell, Pete Simi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

138 Scopus citations


Drawing upon participant observation and interviews with white power movement (WPM) activists, this article explains how members materialize, communicate, and sustain white power identities under highly antagonistic social conditions. We emphasize the role of the movement's free spaces in movement persistence. In particular, we contrast the social ties and cultural practices that various types of free spaces in the movement both enable and inhibit. WPM. members construct two main types of free space. "Indigenous-prefigurative" spaces involve small, local networks where political socialization, boundary marking, and other cultural practices allow members to participate in relationships that "prefigure" Aryan dominance. These practices are collapsed into otherwise benign, everyday activities in settings such as family homes, Bible study groups, informal parties, and crashpads, where members perform them in relative safety from social controls. "Transmovement-prefigurative spaces" offer opportunities to draw otherwise unconnected local actors and networks into broader webs of white power culture. Intentional Aryan communities, music festivals, and Cyberspace connect individuals to extra-local movement networks which help reinforce solidarity and commitment to the WPM. These free spaces contribute to the persistence of white power activism by creating a bi-leveled infrastructure of spaces that support distinct kinds of network ties and practices to sustain collective identity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16-42
Number of pages27
JournalSocial Problems
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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