BSA Philip Abrams Memorial Prize winner - Joel Busher

We are pleased to announce that author of The Making of Anti-Muslim Protest, Joel Busher, has been awarded with the BSA Philip Abrams Memorial Prize.

About the Author

Joel Busher is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations, Coventry University, UK. His primary research interest is in the micro-social processes through which people achieve, or are frustrated in their attempts to achieve, sustained mobilisations, and how understanding these processes can inform policy and practice.

Reviews of The Making of Anti-Muslim Protest

"A deeply penetrating study of a movement that shatters conventional ideas of left/right and racist/antiracist. Busher's skilled and sensitive ethnography provides new insight into how the EDL created a shared world of anti-Muslim activism, and how this world unraveled in a cycle of resentments, infighting, and skepticism." -- Kathleen Blee, Distinguished Professor of Sociology, University of Pittsburgh, USA

"Approachably written and closely observed, this book gets inside the life world of EDL activists – a bunch of people more complicated and varied than commonly imagined. Anyone wishing to understand the complexity and the contradictions at the heart of the English Defence League should read Joel Busher’s fascinating book." -- Tim Bale, Professor of Politics, Queen Mary University of London, UK

"Political causes emerge, change, cross-breed, and subside in complex ways. The English Defence League is a fascinating case, which emerged from networks of football hooligans, became a lightning rod for anti-Muslim sentiment, and yet resisted the racist slogans of the far Right. This fine book takes us inside the heads -- and hearts -- of the League's participants."-- Professor James M. Jasper, the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, USA

"Stepping in the shoes of English Defence League activists, Joel Busher paints an insightful inside-picture of the British anti-Islam movement. Years of carefully documented fieldwork yield a thick and rich description of a movement that rocked Great Britain for some time."-- Bert Klandermans, Professor of Applied Social Psychology, VU-University Amsterdam, the Netherlands

"The English Defence League has been labelled fascist, racist, and extremist; its foot-soldiers have been disparaged as mindless thugs. Joel Busher is no EDL-sympathizer, and yet confronts such glib generalizations in this lucid and penetrating book. Busher really gets up close to reveal the essential heterogeneity of those who took to the streets and marched under the EDL banner. This is a superlative study. Everyone with an interest in anti-Muslim activism should read it." -- Professor Nigel Copsey, Teesside University, UK

"Busher’s The Making of Anti-Muslim Protest: Grassroots Activism in the English Defence League is a masterful piece of story-telling, sewn together with solid theoretical insights into the individual and ecological dynamics that help to explain the rise, fall, and continuity of the EDL. This "boots on the ground" approach allows us to hear clearly how members at once distanced themselves from "racist" identities while nonetheless avowing "racist" sentiments".-- Professor Barbara Perry, University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Canada

About the Prize

The BSA Philip Abrams Memorial Prize is for the best first and sole-authored book within the discipline of Sociology.

It was established in honour of the memory of Professor Philip Abrams whose work contributed substantially to sociology and social policy research in Britain. He is remembered for the encouragement and assistance he provided to many young sociologists at the start of their careers.

In recognition of his commitment to sociology as a discipline, the British Sociological Association established this prize to stimulate new ideas and fresh research in sociology by encouraging new British authors.

1. Congratulations on winning the BSA PAM Prize! What lead you to writing The Making of Anti-Muslim Protest?

The idea of writing the book came to me while sat on a train on the way back from a demonstration in Blackpool. When I started conducting my ethnographic research with EDL activists I wasn’t planning on writing a book. But as I wrote in my field diary that day I started to think that I really couldn’t do justice to the data I was collecting through articles alone. Every activist had their own story, their own journey; every clique within the movement its own slightly peculiar dynamic.

2. What would you say makes your title unique and stand out?

The EDL activists I met are described first and foremost as human beings. While the book lays bare some of the deeply unpleasant behaviours that take place in groups such as the EDL, such behaviours are not sensationalised and the book gets beyond caricatures of ‘angry white men’, ‘racist hooligans’ and so forth. Since the book has been published several of the EDL activists who I spent time with have read it. So far all those who have, have told me they found it to be ‘honest’ and ‘fair’.

3. Did you find anything surprising about the subject whilst you were researching content and sourcing material for this title?

Perhaps most surprising to me, at least initially, was the ease with which I was able to gain access to the activist community and EDL events. As I discuss in the book, this porosity of the group’s boundaries was actually an important feature of the movement, affecting organisational systems, movement discipline and activists’ self-concept.

What also came to intrigue me was the richness of the emotional culture of the group. I had of course expected to find anger and fear, hate and pride – the standard emotions of ‘the far right’. What was interesting however was how feelings of pride were often not just chest-beating nationalistic pride but a sense of pride in being a good friend to fellow activists or pride in having ‘done their research’ and feeling that they really knew what they were talking about. Similarly, there was a whole range of other emotions that were fundamental to shaping activists’ experiences and group dynamics: boredom, amusement, solidarity, resentment, anxiousness, admiration, shame, suspicion and vindication, to name but a few.

4. Do you have a favourite example in the book, and if so what is it?

Some of my favourite bits of the book are where I describe how intra-movement debates about who they are and what they represent came to a head: the local organiser berating some young activists who were intimidating a family of Asian origin telling them ‘no, no, we like Sikhs!’; the fallout from a brawl on a supposedly peaceful march; the almost comical discussions in a Muslim-run roadside café after an EDL demonstration about whether or not it was appropriate or advisable to eat the food.

5. Can you describe your title in one sentence?

The book is about how quite ‘normal’ people develop and sustain a deep commitment to what many, including some of their friends, would see as a pariah group; and it is about the ebb and flow of the viability of this group.

6. Will you be attending any upcoming conferences, or events?

After the BSA conference I am attending the Council for European Studies conference in Philadelphia, USA, where I am contributing to one of the panels organised by the Radicalism and Violence network. I’m also attending the International Political Studies Association (IPSA) conference in Poznan, Poland, in July and a conference on the so-called ‘Counter-Jihad movement’ organised by Hope not Hate in May.

7. What’s next in the pipeline for you? Do you have any plans for future books?

I’m currently writing some theoretical papers out of this research and developing work that explores and explains cross-national and cross-locality differences in the trajectories of anti-outsider activism. I have just returned from South Africa where I have been conducting research on the evolution of insider-outsider tensions there, and am about to start conducting fieldwork for a project looking at the impacts of the new Prevent (counter-terrorism) duty on schools and further education colleges. 

20% Discount...

Simply use the code EDC16 when you check out from our websites to redeem the discount.

*Discount is only available on print books purchased from, and cannot be combined with any other offer or discount. Valid until the 31st May 2016.