Emergence of extremism

Friday June 21, 12.45 - 14.15

Session 5, Auditorium 4, Eilert Sundt building

Chair: Vidar Skretting

Paper presenters

  • The Social Ecology of Radicalization: Explaining Concentration at Place - Noémie Bouhana and Sandy Schumann
  • Exposure to extremist settings - Bettina Rottweiler 
  • Pathways to Syria: exploring notes in the leaked IS recruitment files - Sanaz Zolghadrih, Paul Gill and Amarnath Amarasingam
  • Disaggregating lone-actor grievance-fuelled violence: Towards a continuum-based understanding of lone-actor terrorists and mass murderers - Caitlin Clemmow & Paul Gill 


The Social Ecology of Radicalization: Explaining Concentration at Place

Noémie Bouhana and Sandy Schumann, Department of Security and Crime Science, University College London

Relative to research interest in the characteristics of individuals and groups, social ecological features and correlates of radicalisation have been neglected. The radicalising features of settings of radicalisation, and the characteristics of the environments in which these settings emerge, have not been systematically studied. Yet research in crime prevention, arguably a closely related problem space, makes a strong case that many of the causes of criminal development (of which radicalization is a special instantiation) are found at the situational and social ecological levels of analysis. 

Guided by a framework which articulates interaction mechanisms between individuals and their environment in the development of a terrorist propensity, we report on a study of the social ecological correlates of radicalisation, with particular attention to measures of neighbourhood moral context, including informal social control, collective efficacy, and perceived trust. We present preliminary findings from a small-area postal survey conducted in two London boroughs (N = 953), one identified as a "hotspot" of radicalisation and another matched on a number of characteristics. We report on findings comparing measures of social ecological processes at both borough and smaller geographical area levels.

Exposure to extremist settings

Bettina Rottweiler, University College London

The purpose of the analysis is to understand how exposure to extremist settings, familial attachment as well as peer delinquency, predict individuals’ own extremist propensities. This study addresses radicalisation and its predictors from a criminological perspective, combining key theories from criminology, such as social learning theory and situational action theory, in order to understand this complex issue. The analysis aims to predict individuals’ support for extremist groups, individuals’ own extremist attitudes and their willingness to use collective violence to fight for their respective groups. 

Within criminological research, it is acknowledged that parental and familial criminal behaviour and violence are thought to have an intergenerational effect on children’s development of aggression and criminal propensities (Truscott, 1992; Widom and Wilson, 2015). Despite the profound effect highlighted by social learning proponents, very little research has been conducted to study the link between familial extremism and individuals’ radicalisation and therefore this analysis will test this relationship (LaFree et al., 2018). This study is part of a large-scale telephone survey with 1500 respondents, which is conducted in Germany. Using structural equation modeling, the analysis will demonstrate that exposure to extremist and delinquent peers, exposure to extremist settings as well as familial attachment and extremist attitudes, are all important determinants in order to understand and predict individuals’ extremist propensities, irrespectively of the ideology in place.


Pathways to Syria: exploring notes in the leaked IS recruitment files

Sanaz Zolghadriha, University College London, Paul Gill, University College London and Amarnath Amarasingam, University of Waterloo

In 2015, a large quantity of IS documents were leaked to the media, revealing the bureaucratic process of entering Syria as a foreign fighter. These unique files have provided us with a large set of data on the individuals who entered Syria in 2013 and 2014, and has allowed for the possibility to understand some aspects of foreign fighter recruitment. The GRIEVANCE Project is currently applying a holistic approach to the selection procedure of terrorist organizations. Previously, GRIEVANCE presented the use of social network analysis to study the recruitment networks of westerners in the dataset. Now, GRIEVANCE is looking into the notes provided in the forms, to explore the paths taken by these foreign fighters to reach the Syrian border.

The files contain data on the date that each individual entered Syria, the area they entered from, their nationality and residency, their recruiter, and notes on their path to reach the border. This paper will present an account of data driven approach to the leaked IS documents, with the intention to explore if there are patterns of pathways into Syria. Included in the notes are prior memberships in other organizations, any training that may have led the individual to IS, recommendations from family members, and some insights into social media engagement. This information, combined with the social network analysis previously completed by GRIEVANCE, will contribute to our understanding of large-scale foreign fighter recruitment.


Disaggregating lone-actor grievance-fuelled violence: Towards a continuum-based understanding of lone-actor terrorists and mass murderers

Caitlin Clemmow & Paul Gill, University College London

Lone-actor terrorists and mass murderers have been theorised as different presentations of a single phenomenon: lone-actor grievance-fuelled violence. Some consensus exists to suggest that these types of homicide share a common genesis. We sought to disaggregate a dataset of US lone-actor terrorists and mass murderers to extract interactional patterns embedded within the data and find empirical evidence for a continuum-based understanding of this type of homicide. The analysis proceeded in two phases. First, the offending process was theorised as distinct components; distal, proximal, preparatory, leakage and network connectivity components. Two-step cluster analysis disaggregated profiles at each of the components. Bi-variate analysis established the extent to which the components were associated and a model is proposed. Second, further cluster analyses combined the first stage cluster solutions to identify patterns that span the offending process. The results are conceptualised as evidence for a continuum-based understanding of lone-actor grievance-fuelled violence. By disaggregating the continuum, we achieve a more nuanced understanding of this type of homicide and present interactional patterns across the lone-actor offending process.

Published Apr. 23, 2019 1:21 PM - Last modified June 12, 2019 1:54 PM