Trying to communicate my research (and the importance thereof) has long been a struggle of mine. After spending weeks or months absorbed in niche academic journals and self-contained studies, it can be easy to forget that our purpose as researchers is to bring our findings into the world, not keep them for ourselves. I have fallen into this trap time and time again, only to be brought back to reality through the wise words of a mentor or professor. And even now, while trying to explain my work to friends and family, I have trouble finding ways to express clearly and succinctly what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. How do you summarize something as intricate and layered as the development of the Italian neofascist subculture in a casual conversation? And more importantly, how do you get others to care?
This time around, I sought to anticipate these problems by designing my project with the expressed purpose of ensuring that my audience always comes first. One of the first things I decided upon when crafting my proposal is that a traditional manuscript would not be the end goal. I want to speak to people on their level and bridge the gap between academic esoterica and common knowledge, not keep my findings within an inaccessible scholarly bubble. To do so, I decided a podcast format would work best for my research; that way, I could state my purpose up front, packaging my findings in a digestible way. This more casual format allows me to shirk jargon and instead craft a casual yet compelling narrative that emphasizes my belief in the importance of the subject at hand and thus helps others see why it should matter to us all. I want to have a conversation with my audience (well, as much of one as I can have in this pre-recorded format) and inject my emotional energy into the historical digests and analyses that comprise my study.
Even if it was imagined with the general public in mind, my project is made to be equally approachable and useful for academics and policy practitioners as well. Above all, it seeks to raise awareness of the nuanced techniques by which right-wing extremists establish, maintain, and invigorate their bases and, in doing so, get people thinking about how dangerous ideologies seep into the most fundamental aspects of our culture. If I can spark conversations about how the far right (both in Italy and elsewhere) is much stronger and closer to us than we realize, then maybe we’ll be able to devote more energy to the containment of violent extremism in all aspects of society.