Understanding radicalised movements through social movement theory

by | 24 Jan 2018 | Events | 0 comments

Thursday 22nd March 4-6pm

2nd Floor Board Room, Arthur Lewis Building, University of Manchester

All welcome, no need to book in advance.

Kevin McDonald: Rethinking radicalisation: networked affect, imagination and subjectivity

This paper explores the potential for the sociology of experience that has emerged out of the sociology of social movements (Dubet 1994, McDonald 1999) to help us make sense of contemporary radicalisation pathways evident in contemporary jihadism.  The paper highlights the agency and self-transformation involved in radicalisation, focusing on the ‘experiential grammar’ evident in the primacy of personal experience over organizational structure and the critical role of affect and embodied experience. It presents analysis of social media communications of British and French young people, as well as interviews undertaken with members of the al-Muhajiroun network in the UK.

Three pathways are identified.  The first is a communitarian pathway centred on ‘us’, constructed in response to mediated suffering, embedded in the affects of disgust and humour.  Here jihadism manifests many of the characteristics of racism and hate crime. Here visceral and embodied experience plays a critical role, from the place of humour as an embodied practice of integration, to disgust and the grotesque.  The paper introduces two further pathways: one centred on the ‘I’ (evident in suicidal/depressive as well as ecstatic violence), and another centred on ‘you’, drawing on contemporary cultural models of the hidden/revealed, conspiracy and practices of gamification.

This paper considers theoretical and methodological challenges involved in attempting to understand such practices. It also points to the importance of new approaches to embodiment and affect for a sociology of experience, in this case a sociology of radicalised movements.

Kevin McDonald is Professor of Sociology at Middlesex University, London, and has recently completed a study of jihadist radicalisation to be published this year as Radicalization (Polity, 2018). Other publications include ‘From Indymedia to Anonymous: rethinking action and identity in digital cultures’, Information, Communication and Society (2015), Our Violent World: terrorism in society, Palgrave (2013), and Global Movements: Action and Culture (Blackwell 2006).

Matthijs Gardenier: Sauvons Calais: Vigilantism as a social movement

This presentation focuses on a French anti-refugee vigilante group: Sauvons Calais. Linked to the radical far-right, it aims to mobilize the population against the presence of migrants in Calais. The goals of this nationalist group are the establishment of self-defense groups against refugees and the expulsion of all migrants. Its activities also take the form of vigilantism: calls for self-justice, patrols, direct action. We will also dwell on the cloudy relationship between the group and law enforcement agencies.

Matthijs Gardenier is currently associate lecturer at University Paul Valery in Montpellier, France. After a completing a PhD in Sociology on public gatherings and crowd control, he is working currently on vigilantism in France as a form of social movement. More broadly, his research interests are focused on social movements that challenge the state’s monopoly on legitimate violence.


Hilary Pilkington

Hilary Pilkington joined the School of Social Sciences at the University of Manchester in 2012. She was previously Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick (2005-2012) and Director of the Centre of Russian and East European Studies, University of Birmingham (2002-2005).