Reimagining the Medieval: The Utility of Ethnonational Symbols for Reactionary Transnational Social Movements

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

Reimagining the Medieval: The Utility of Ethnonational Symbols for Reactionary Transnational Social Movements


  • Matthew Godwin Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, UK
  • Elisabeth Trischler Institute for Medieval Studies, University of Leeds, UK


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Abstract:  Scholars have explored the rise of far-right reactionary political parties in Europe over the last decade. However, social movements reflecting similar political orientations have rarely been conceptualized as “reactionary.” To better understand the political orientations of reactionary transnational social movements such as the Identitarians and the Defence Leagues, we explore how and why ethnonational symbols derived from the medieval period are utilized by adherents. This interdisciplinary investigation argues that, through processes of mediated political medievalism, ethnonational symbols are used as strategic framing devices to reimagine an idealized “golden age” of distinct European nations, to assign blame for the erosion of ethnonational identity through multiculturalism, immigration and “Islamization,” to establish an intergenerational struggle against the supposed incursion of Islam in Europe, and to proscribe and justify the use of violence as a means of re-establishing the primacy of European nations.

Keywords:  crusades; Defence League; ethnonational symbols; Identitarians; medievalism; reactionary movements

Published:   27 August 2021


DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/pag.v9i3.3979


© Matthew Godwin, Elisabeth Trischler. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.