Collective Identity and Careers in a White Nationalist Forum

  • Amy Ellison Booth

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The career is a sociological concept which explores engagement with a community over time. It has largely been discussed in an abstract way, making it unclear how the concept can be operationalised. Using an inductive, multimethodological research design, this thesis applies sociological and linguistic methods to explore the career in the context of a white nationalist discussion forum, moving beyond teleological radicalisation arguments into a more nuanced understanding of how white nationalist collective identity and authority are developed and expressed.

The study begins with a multiple correspondence analysis as a novel method of
systematically reviewing existing literature on careers. Two defining characteristics of careers are identified. The temporal element, or amount of time dedicated to the community, is investigated with sequence analysis of over 120,000 user careers. The behavioural element, or the nature of individuals’ engagement with the community, is explored using quantitative and qualitative corpus linguistic techniques, characterising language within and across career types.

Four career types are identified based on duration. These career types of different lengths are shown to correlate with the use of several linguistic features, including epistemic stance features and pronominal features. However, analysis of individual careers shows that usage of most of these features decreases across the career, suggesting that no features are specifically associated with the late stages of long careers. Instead, careers are marked by
the accrual of symbolic capital in the form of new linguistic resources, allowing them to perform authority and collective identity in unconventional ways without facing negative social consequences.

The thesis shows that, despite a level of individual variation, typical careers are identifiable on both the temporal and behavioural levels, thus offering a new perspective on this key debate in the literature. The value of the career and collective identity concepts for studies of online communities is demonstrated.

Appendices available upon request
Date of Award2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorTim Grant (Supervisor), Graeme Hayes (Supervisor) & Helen Newsome (Supervisor)


  • white nationalism
  • far-right
  • corpus-assisted discourse analysis
  • multiple correspondence analysis
  • sequence analysis
  • collective identity
  • career
  • linguistic capital

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