Youth extremisms: understanding across ideological and religious contexts

January 2016 – December 2017

Investigators and institutional partners

  • Professor Hilary Pilkington (University of Manchester)
  • Dr Graham Macklin (University of Teesside)
  • Dr Cynthia Miller-Idriss (American University)
  • Professor Fabian Virchow (University of Applied Sciences, Dusseldorf)

About the project

The seminar series builds on the experience of the co-investigators in organising the ESRC Research Seminar Series on Right Wing Extremism in Europe (2014-2015). It arises from the recognition of the benefit of extending the success of the current seminar series in enhancing cross-disciplinary knowledge and creating a safe space to share research and best policy and intervention practice across substantively and ideologically different radicalisms and extremisms. The new series will draw on the wide international academic and non-academic participant network developed through the existing seminar series (focused on anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and right wing extremism) but extend its reach to those engaged in research, policy and practice related in particular to religion-based extremism and extreme left and anti-corporativist radicalism.

Radical and extremist groups have embodied a broad range of cultural and political forms in Europe since World War II. While some groups have remained on the political fringes, others have become known through spectacular acts of public violence - such as bombings by left-wing and right-wing radical groups in Germany or the killing of a British soldier by Islamists on a London street in May 2013. Youth engagement is one of the most pressing concerns for researchers and policymakers who work on radicalism and violence. Young people are easier to recruit and easier to radicalise than older individuals; they are also disproportionately responsible for violent attacks. In this seminar series, we explore comparative trends in youth engagement in radical and extremist movements and subcultures across national, religious, and ideological contexts.

Coming on the heels of significant electoral successes and instances of extraordinary extremist violence, there has been renewed political, media, and scholarly attention to extremist and radical growth in Europe, and in particular to the role of youth in domestic and foreign extremist movements and violence. But there have been few sustained comparative discussions across or between European countries and almost no empirical comparative research on the many dimensions of radicalism and violence. We need more cross-disciplinary conversations as well as more discussion across ideological or substantive areas of focus.  This seminar series provides opportunities  to compare and contrast issues such as radicalist engagement, propensity to violence, or the influence of transnational networks and new media platforms on extremist and radical recruitment and radicalisation of youth across these various disciplinary, national, and ideological spheres. It also creates a series of structured venues for researchers to connect their empirical findings with policymakers and to share  findings in ways that are accessible to the broader public. To this end, seminars will be co-hosted with non-academic organisations, include dedicated space for presentations by non-academic organisation participants and will feature joint academic/non-academic small group discussions feeding in to the production of co-owned 'evidence briefings' related to each seminar theme.

The proposed series focuses on youth engagement in radicalism and extremism across ideological and religious contexts and consists of six thematically focused one-day seminars exploring: paths to radicalism and extremism; global and local horizons of action; social media and corporate responsibilities; terrorism; gender dimensions of radicalism and extremism; and deradicalisation and education.


Project news

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This project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Ref: ES/N008812/1.