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Title: Witness to the American apocalypse? : a study of 21st century 'doomsday' prepping
Author: Mills, Michael F.
ISNI:       0000 0004 6061 9104
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis addresses the phenomenon of 21st century "doomsday" prepping. Prepping is a primarily American phenomenon centred on storing food, water, and weapons for the purpose of surviving future crisis or social collapse. Growing rapidly post-2007/8, it is the successor to the right-wing American survivalist movement that flourished (and then disappeared) in the late-20th century. This thesis engages with a lack of scholarly knowledge on prepping, which has resulted in this phenomenon being understood through media-driven stereotypes and theories of older survivalist activity. Such understandings suggest that prepping is apocalyptic, millenarian, politically-extreme, and a product of the United States' fringe right-wing militia culture. Drawing on research that involved 200 online surveys responses, ethnography and interviews with 39 American preppers, and attendance at three prominent prepping conventions, the thesis challenges such dominant ideas. It shows prepping to be a distinct, more moderate wave of American survivalist activity. The thesis establishes that preppers typically do not prepare for an "apocalypse", nor do they think in millenarian terms. Preppers instead use their preparations as precautionary protection against temporary social collapse and job loss. The thesis also reveals that prepping is not as politically-extreme as is often speculated. Rather than militia ideology, prepping intermingles with waves of right-wing "Tea Party" discontent, as well as widespread frustration at the dysfunctional and post-political state of American democracy. Additionally this work reveals that, as far as preppers retreat from political and community life, their withdrawal is symptomatic of wider currents of American individualist values, and processes of civic decline. It is thus argued that prepping must be understood as a product of "mainstream" American society. It is concluded that prepping should be principally explained as a product of: late modern capitalism's effects on democracy, secure employment, and collective sympathies; contemporary media's impact on disaster-related fears; and the American Right's promotion of political anxiety and individualistic thinking.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform ; HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare