This page lists ongoing and recent research projects in which RURPE members are involved as PIs or co-PIs.
Citizens increasingly engage in political discussions online. Initial optimistic accounts suggested that this could pave the way for more democratic engagement. Instead, however, online politics has been found to be characterized by extreme hostility and the sharing of fake news. Such online political hostility can increase political polarization, depress political participation and, potentially, incite real extremist behavior. Integrating methods and insights from political science, psychology and computer science, Center for Research on Online Political Hostility (ROPH) will investigate the causes and consequences of this online political hostility and advance concrete technological interventions to counter-act the rising hostility.
The project rests upon a core group of six researchers at AU, with Professor Michael Bang Petersen as PI, and the others being Professor Lasse Lindekilde, Professor Anja Bechmann, Professor Jacob Sherson, Post doc Mathias Osmundsen and Post doc Alexander Bor. In addition, the project further includes two postdocs and two PhD students.
The project is funded through a +15 million DKK Semper Ardens grant from the Carlsberg Foundation.
January 2020 – 2025
Preventing radicalization and violent extremism has always been important in modern European countries’ policies. Especially, European governments have increased the focus on preventing for instance jihadism, right-wing-, and left-wing-extremism. Recent events in Barcelona, Paris, Brussels, and Berlin (to mention some) indicate that European governments struggle to eradicate these security threats, although they have tried. Policy makers and researchers ask themselves why this is the case.
This project aims at investigating this puzzle by focusing on policy legitimacy as a root cause to radicalization and violent extremism. I plan to do this in three steps. First, I focus on how individually perceived illegitimacy potentially turn into political grievances. Second, I ask how these grievances become amplified and collectivized through group polarization processes. Third, I address how these processes affect individuals and groups’ acceptance of using violence as a means to an end but also their actual willingness and intentions to do so. My project apply a macro-micro-macro (bathtub model) theoretical approach, and thereby investigates both structural, group and individual factors.
In my project, I plan to conduct both large-scale survey experiments on representative samples of the Danish population to investigate the causal role of these factors. Moreover, I plan to conduct laboratory experiments to investigate specific mechanisms further.
This is a PhD project by Steffen Selmer Andersen in cooperation with the Danish Centre for Prevention of Extremism.
September 2018 – august 2021
In the Nordic countries, prevention of radicalization and violent extremism is layered-on extant crime prevention collaboration within the SSP-framework (school, social services, police). The core tenant of this approach is that early radicalization prevention is best organized as a joint effort, where individual cases are assessed in a holistic manner and relevant information shared. However, despite similarities in the multiagency setup, important national and local difference exists in terms of the legal leeway for exchanging personal information and the practical implementation of preventive measures.
In this project, we investigate how this variation in multiagency approaches to preventing radicalization and countering violent extremism shape perceptions of the approach’s legitimacy and levels of mutual trust – among involved stakeholders as well as among public authorities and citizens – in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland. Furthermore, we investigate to what degree variation in perceived legitimacy, trust and justice is linked to variation in the effectiveness of multiagency collaboration and prevention of radicalization.
As such, the project provides a first comprehensive comparison of legal frameworks, institutional setups, perceptions and practices of the Nordic multiagency approaches to countering violent extremism, as well as a critical analysis of varying implementations, which systematically explore how core components of a Nordic governance model contributes to, and may be preconditions for, effective multiagency collaboration and secure societies. In doing so, the project will provide a more informed platform for spreading Nordic experiences and models of governance to other countries in the area of radicalization prevention and countering violent extremism.
The empirical research of the project is organized in three overlapping work packages, which engage and combine various methods of data collection (surveys, survey experiments, individual interviews, focus groups and participant observation). Data will be collected among the core professional groups of the Nordic multiagency approach to radicalization prevention – school teachers, social workers and police officers – but also among the general public and the policy target groups (vulnerable youth/communities).
The project is carried out by researchers at Oslo University, Gothenburg University, Aarhus University and University of Turku. Professor Tore Bjørgo, Oslo University is PI. Lasse Lindekilde is co-PI.
The project is funded by NORDFORSK.
August 2018 – August 2021.
CPR makes a significant contribution to a problem facing many European states – namely how to effectively utilise strategic communications to counter violent extremism. The project analyses and compares anti-radicalisation strategies in Denmark and the UK, delivering recommendations on how communication can be improved and how radicalised individuals can be more effectively reached. Data collection includes interviews with over 50 counter-terrorism practitioners and three large-scale survey experiments, with over 7,000 members of the public, teachers and students. The research advances knowledge about 1) the factors shaping public intentions to report radicalisation, 2) teacher responses to radicalisation, 3) engaging civil society on radicalisation prevention and 4) the impacts of using former extremist to enhance student resilience to extremist propaganda. The project engages with a wide range of stakeholders to ensure policy relevance, including counter-terrorism policing units and government ministries in both the UK and Denmark. The multi-actor and multi-level analysis in communication designed to counter radicalization moves beyond the state of the art in terms of methods and theory, access to data, and addressing new and broader questions in an under-explored, and empirically lacking, area of research.
David Parker's postdoctoral project is carried out in collaboration with Lasse Lindekilde.
The project is funded through a two-year EC Marie Sklodowska Curie Grant.
November 2017-November 2019
This project explores the connection between individuals and their immediate surroundings in producing radicalization by investigating the ‘where’ of radicalization with a focus on radical Islamism.
More precisely, the project investigates the following elements:
By highlighting these under-researched topics of radicalization, the project – in cooperation with the Minerva research project at large – aims to contribute to the prevention and interdiction of radicalization.
The data collection has been carried out in Aarhus, Denmark, wherefrom e.g. several foreign fighters have left for Syria and Iraq. The data collection applies a mixed methods approach, combining one-on-one interviews, focus groups, and a community survey. Since the project is part of the larger Minerva project, Mikkel will have the opportunity to compare findings from Aarhus and from similar research carried out in London and Belfast.
Criminology constitutes the project’s core theoretical framework, more specifically Situational Action Theory and IVEE (Individual Vulnerability, Exposure, Emergence). Furthermore, the project draws on more specific theories of radicalization and extremism.
Mikkel Jagath Hjelt’s PhD project is part of the Minerva research project The Social Ecology of Radicalization: A Foundation for the Design of CVE Initiatives and Their Evaluation.
The project is partly funded by a MINERVA Research Grant and partly by the Department of Political Science.
Mikkel began his PhD in January 2017 and expects to hand in his dissertation in December 2019.
Why and how do some people accept illegal and sometimes violent acts as a means to political ends, and what psychological mechanisms drive this process of radicalization? Providing qualified answers to these questions is at the heart of national governments’ anti-radicalization efforts. In recent Western history, radicalization is readily associated with violent acts of terrorism, where culprits go through a process of gradually accepting political violence as legitimate.
The focus areas of my PhD project are the predictors of early radicalization, specifically the role of personal uncertainty, dispositional factors and small group dynamics. The project focus is on the micro and meso levels of individual and group factors.
In my project, I conduct large-scale survey experiments on representative samples of Danish and US respondents to investigate the causal role of these factors. My first results from large survey-experiments point to an effect of uncertainty about group membership and the impact of an extremist mindset. Planned future research includes bringing likeminded individuals into the laboratory to investigate the combination of group threat, dispositions and extremism as in-group defense. Further, I plan to study other violent groups in society – such as those involved in organized crime – and the practical lessons we might draw from these groups in terms of radicalization and extremism.
The PhD project by Oluf Gøtzsche-Astrup is a part of the larger RARE project.
I began the project in September 2016, and plan to finish in August of 2019.
This project asks
(1) how self-uncertainty interacts with personal risk factors and small group dynamics to produce radicalization and, based on these insights,
(2) how radicalization can be prevented and countered.
Responding to major shortcomings in the literature on radicalization and counter-radicalization, the project has two main research objectives:
1) Outline and test an integrated theory on radicalization. The project takes interdisciplinary guidance from personal and social psychology as well as political sociology. The main hypothesis is that individually experienced self-uncertainty is linked to a higher propensity to embrace radical behavioral intentions, including political violence, especially when combined with personal risk factors (e.g. intolerance of ambiguity, impulsivity, aggression etc.) and/or exposure to small group dynamics (especially group polarization).
2) Develop new evidence-based methods for the study of radicalization and counter-radicalization. Supporting research goal 1, the project aims to tackle issues of causality in extant research on radicalization and counter-radicalization making use of, as a first in the field, survey experiments and lab experiments that allow for controlled testing of causal relations. Data collection focuses primarily on Denmark and the US, but also includes other Western countries.
The project is funded through an AUFF Associate Professor Starting Grant.
September 2016-December 2019
This three-year project aims to investigate the neglected 'where' of radicalization. With few exceptions, research on homegrown radicalization has privileged investigation of individual-level attributes (e.g. socio-demographic and psychological characteristics; life experiences; grievances; social bonds; religious and political beliefs). Much less attention has been paid to the immediate socio-physical environment in which radicalization takes place and the processes through which individuals interact with this environment. Yet research in the neighboring domain of crime prevention shows that the development of criminal propensities (radicalization being one instantiation of this process) is the outcome of a particular kind of interaction between people with specific characteristics and propensities and environments with specific socializing features. Furthermore, evaluations of crime prevention programs show that the manipulation of situational and ecological features alone can result in effective interventions, often with the added result of empowering the communities in which these initiatives are implemented. This suggests that improving our knowledge of the 'where' of radicalization is likely to lead to the development of effective new social technologies for countering violent extremism (CVE).
This project capitalizes on knowledge and methods accrued in criminology to investigate 1) the social and physical characteristics of radicalizing settings (places where individuals undergo all or part of the process of radicalization, both geographic and virtual); 2) the processes of self- and social selection through which individuals end up exposed to radicalizing settings; and 3) the systemic processes that promote (or suppress) the emergence of radicalizing settings and, hence, a social ecology favorable (or unfavorable) to radicalization.
To address these questions, we make use of a mixed-methods comparative design, involving a) interview- and survey-based fieldwork in England, Denmark and Northern Ireland, b) systematic collection of open-source data on the ecology of radicalization in the United States and the United Kingdom, and c) logic-driven approaches recently applied to crime science, in order to formulate a robust general explanatory model from our context-specific data.
The project consortium consists of University College London (PI Noemié Bouhana), University of East London, Imperial College London and Aarhus University (co-PI Lasse Lindekilde).
The project is funded through a grant from the MINERVA Research Program under the US Department of Defense.
September 2016-September 2019
This PhD project investigates the engagement of British Muslims in activities against Islamist extremists. It does so by using theoretical and analytical tools developed to study mobilization, activism and collective action.
The overall research question guiding the project is: Why do British Muslims engage in counter-extremism activities against Islamist extremism and what facilitates or hinders this type of activism?
The case of the United Kingdom was selected because it offers an ideal case to study Muslim-led counter-extremism engagement. The UK has the most robust community-oriented counter-terrorism and counter-extremism policies in Europe and probably in the world, which include many incentives for its Muslim communities to take action against Islamist extremism. The British approach has inspired countries like the US, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark. At the same time, the British Muslim communities have established over a thousand civil society organizations in the past four decades, some of which are regional or national in scope with a history of activism over various issues. Given the incentives provided by the British state and the existing Muslim organizational structure, one would expect to see a number of Muslim-led counter-extremism activities, which can be then studied to reveal the facilitative and hindering factors that enable mobilization of Muslims against Islamist extremism.
The question of Muslim counter-extremism engagement is interesting for two reasons. First, this case arguably represents a mobilization against a radical or extremist social movement, similar to anti-fascist or anti-neonazi activism. It is quite conceivable that such activism and the mobilization process leading up to it differ from the usual type of studies theorized by social movement/collective action scholars. However, the relevant literature does not apply existing theoretical and analytical tools to see whether they are sufficient or in need of extension or refinement. In doing so, the project can make steps towards generalizing the case of British Muslims to instances where parts of the civil society mobilize against extremists within the same society.
A second and related contribution of the project lies in the widely accepted notion among policy makers that it is the (Muslim) communities that ultimately defeat (Islamist) extremism. Taking this policy maxim at face value, the project will examine how such community-led counter-extremism efforts can be facilitated.
This is a PhD project by Sadi Shanaah.
The project started February 2016 and will run through January 2019.
Since 2011 over 50.000 foreign fighters, defined as ‘non-citizens of a state experiencing civil conflict who arrives from an external state to join an insurgency’, travelled to Syria and Iraq. The transnational mobilization is paralleled by increasing academic interest into foreign fighting. However, while researchers focused on foreign fighters’ pre-conflict and post-conflict behavioral patterns, the notion of their potential impact on conflict dynamics has almost completely evaded systematic research.
The thesis argues that recent research on foreign fighters lacks conceptual disaggregation. The dominant ‘foreign fighter narrative’ portrays foreign fighters as young individuals being pulled and pushed into a conflict as inexperienced newcomers to global jihad. Consequently they are considered as subservient agents to local groups.
However, besides these newcomers there also exist well-organized groups of veteran foreign fighters. These ‘vanguard groups’ regularly pursue independent objectives that are not necessarily aligned with those of their local hosts.
The thesis closes a substantial gap in the literature by illuminating these groups’ activities and interactions with local actors. More specifically, I investigate the recruitment and defection of locals into foreign fighter groups, the logic and outcomes of alliances between local actors and foreign fighter groups, as well as the strategies local actors apply to control foreign fighters.
Empirically, the thesis combines more than 50 in-depth qualitative interviews with former mujahedeen with extensive archival research.
This is a PhD project by Jasper Schwampe.
January 2015 - Expected hand-in date; June 2018
Collaborative project funded by the EU seventh framework programme. The aim of the project is to better understand the emergence of extremist propensities (radicalization), the emergence of the preparedness to act (motivation and attack capability) and the dynamics of extremist action (the attacks themselves) of lone actor extremists, in order to further preventive approaches as well as interdiction- and mitigation-oriented measures.
The main purpose of the PRIME project is to deliver a knowledge base capable of informing the development of counter-measures to defend against lone actor extremist events. Concretely, PRIME aims to inform the design of social and scientific technologies for the prevention, interdiction and mitigation of attacks carried out by lone extremists, through the development of a multi-stage, cross-level model of lone actor extremist events.
The PRIME project's foremost ambition is to support local and national stakeholders so that they can better prevent, prepare against, and protect themselves from the potentially devastating consequences of lone actor extremism.
The partners of the project are: University College London (PI Noemié Bouhana), King's College London, University of Warsaw, The Hebrew university Jerusalem, University of Leiden and Aarhus University. Lasse Lindekilde has been PI of the Danish research team, leading the work package on the radicalization of lone actor extremists.
The project is funded by a ERC FP7 Collaborative Grant, contract number 608354.
May 2014-May 2017
In April 2020, the Danish Commission on Freedom of Speech noted that there is a concerning tendency to use threats or harassment, when people encounter opinions that they do not agree with. On that basis, many people refrain from engaging in public discussion, and similar trends are observed in the abroad including in the UK and the US. As political deliberation and exchange of opinions are increasingly occurring on online platforms, these trends raise import questions such as why online environments are particularly hostile and what are the motivations for people to engage in online political hostility?
This project aims at answering these questions by examining the causes of online political hostility, particularly why people are motivated to engage in hostile behaviour in online settings, and how it affects recipients and bystanders. To do so, I employ both experimental and qualitative methods in cross-national contexts.
This is a PhD project by Jesper Rasmussen.
In this PhD project, Johan Gøtzsche-Astrup is interested in how the boundaries between political protest, violence, and social disorder are drawn in liberal democracies. That is, how societies construct the space of proper political protest and distinguish it from unacceptable forms of political violence, such as terrorism, and social disorders, which usually take the form of riots.
This is a PhD project by Johan Gøtzsche-Astrup.