The Regional Face of Extremism: A Case Study of the Northern Netherlands


  • Fleur Valk University of Groningen
  • Léonie de Jonge University of Groningen
  • Pieter Nanninga University of Groningen


Anti-Government Extremism, Place Resentment, Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism, Regional Case Study, Right-Wing Extremism, The Netherlands


While the study of extremism has traditionally focused on the national and transnational contexts, systematic studies of extremism at the sub-national level remain scarce. This absence of such research is particularly striking in countries like the Netherlands, where efforts to Prevent and Counter Violent Extremism (P/CVE) are typically delegated to local authorities. Thus, moving beyond the focus on how and why extremism develops, this study analyses when and where it arises. We do so by focusing on the Northern Netherlands (i.e. the provinces of Groningen, Friesland and Drenthe). This region is characterised by specific problems linked to societal discontent surrounding peripherality, the construction of wind farms, reception centres for asylum seekers, and induced earthquakes due to gas extraction. As such, it provides an interesting laboratory environment to study regional and local expressions of extremism. Empirical support is drawn from a wide range of primary and secondary sources, notably semi-structured interviews (N=33) with regional experts, professionals and practitioners, including municipal workers, police officers, and social workers. The findings indicate that the extremist landscape has changed considerably in recent years; specifically, anti-government extremism has become more prevalent than ‘traditional’ forms of extremism (e.g. far-left, far-right and religious extremism). While this is in line with national and transnational trends, the rise of anti-government extremism in the Northern Netherlands appears to be particularly pronounced because of the regional circumstances. This has implications for P/CVE efforts, since the latter remain largely geared towards and focused on countering jihadism. In other words, there is a discrepancy between the nature of extremism on the one hand, and P/CVE approaches on the other.



This article is based on research that was commissioned by the Municipality of Groningen and funded by ‘reinforcement money’ (Versterkingsgelden) from the Dutch Ministry of Justice and Security (see Nanninga et al. 2022).


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