The University of Manchester is set to lead a new €5million international project, which explores how and why young people become radicalised.
The DARE (Dialogue about Radicalisation and Equality) project includes 15 partners in 13 countries - Belgium, Croatia, France, Germany, Greece, Malta, Norway, Poland, Russian Federation, The Netherlands, Tunisia, Turkey and the UK - and will run for four years. Funded under the EU Horizon 2020 framework, it will investigate young people’s encounters with messages and agents of radicalisation, how they receive and respond to those calls, and how they make choices about the paths they take.
It aims to broaden understanding of radicalisation, demonstrate that it is not located in any one religion or community, and to explore the effects of radicalisation on society.
DARE will focus on people aged between 12 and 30, as they are a key target of recruiters and existing research suggests they may be particularly receptive to radicalism. It will approach young people neither as victims nor perpetrators of radicalisation, but as engaged, reflexive, often passionate social actors who seek information they can trust, as they navigate a world in which calls to radicalisation are numerous.
It will focus on environments in which radicalisation messages are found, rather than terrorist events or individuals. By observing everyday encounters, researchers will be able to study people who hold radical ideas without becoming extremists, and thus help to understand what pushes others across the threshold into violence.
Perhaps most importantly, this social approach will allow the researchers to map and understand the everyday strategies already used to challenge radicalisation, and to recognise the potential for people to influence their peers positively.
“Radicalisation is a politically charged and divisive discourse,” says Hilary Pilkington, a professor of sociology at The University of Manchester and coordinator of the project. “Social scientists can keep their hands clean by disengaging from it – but if they do, they duck the responsibility to understand and respond to the mainstreaming of hate speech and radicalism of all persuasions.”
By separating radicalisation research from terrorism studies, we can look at a process and thus allow for intervention. Moreover, we can understand people as active agents - reflecting on their journeys - not pathological extremists, and we can create the possibility of reaching our goal of a more secure, but not more hostile, society by learning from those who resist radicalisation.
Through sustained engagement in the lives of young people navigating personal and collective uncertainty and insecurity, DARE aims to critically review existing, and generate high quality new, empirical data that will raise the bar in radicalisation studies and significantly improve our understanding of the scope, origins, causes and psychological, emotional and social dynamics of radicalisation.
The research is directly linked to policy and practice objectives - among its outputs will be educational toolkits for use with young people in formal and informal educational settings, and a toolkit for evaluating existing deradicalisation programmes.