Radicalisation, extremism, terrorism and exit from extremist groups are topics that are the subject of daily debate in the media. But what do the words actually mean? Why do some people become extremists? What does it take to leave an extreme group – and why is it so hard?
The lectures present case studies and perspectives from the latest research in the field, providing concrete knowledge on how ‘radicalisation’ occurs, the reasons why people join and leave extremist groups, and how they can be supported to disengage from them.
All of the lectures are based on research projects into pathways into extremist groups, radicalisation processes, movements within and across extremist organisations, criminal groups and gangs, as well as the exit process that the individual goes through when he or she leaves these environments.
I have taught practitioners in Denmark and abroad on the basis of specific case studies, as well as I have done research and interviews with former extremists and practitioners working in the field in Denmark and abroad.
The tuition is aimed at anyone who is interested in radicalisation, extremism and exit processes, and it can take the form of a lecture or a workshop. Workshops make use of dialogue-based teaching that is linked to case studies, so that the workshop serves as an exercise session for practitioners and others working in the field.
You are welcome to contact me if you would like to focus on cross-cutting themes in the lectures.
AND BETWEEN EXTREMIST GROUPS AND GANG ENVIRONMENTS
‘Radicalisation’ – what does it mean? Ways into extremist groups
Radicalisation, extremism, terrorism: these words have become regular elements in our daily lives, but what do they really mean? How does someone become ‘radicalised’? Does it happen to particular kinds of people? Is ideological conviction the cause of participation in an extremist group? Or is it, on the contrary, participation in an extremist group that makes people develop an extremist mindset? What characterises an extremist worldview, and does extreme thoughts lead to extreme actions?
The lecture focuses on these questions and on pathways into extremist groups through examples and interviews with former participants in extreme right-wing, extreme left-wing and Islamist groups.
Crossover – movements within and across extremist groups, gangs and criminal environment
‘Cross-over’ is a category that covers movements across criminal groups, gangs and extremist environments. Involvement in an extremist and/or criminal group causes a person to be positioned in relation to the wider society, and to develop an identity informed by the group in which he or she engages. Participation in extremist groups also gives rise to social relationships within and across related environments, as well as the individual’s development of daily routines and (criminal) skills.
This lecture provides a picture of the pathways into and between extremist groups and gangs. The lecture illustrates how participation in a criminal and/or extremist environment facilitates access to other criminal networks and persons, and highlights how participation in, for example, religious communities can help an individual to change a criminal lifestyle.
The lecture provides a nuanced view of the pathways, processes and perspectives that we must understand if we wish to work on and develop methods to prevent ‘radicalisation’.
EXIT PROCESSES, METHODS AND PROGRAMMES
How do we mange returned foreign fighters and other Syria travellers?
It is a challenge to find the right balance of interventions aimed at real and potential foreign fighters. The interventions must be able to handle the dangerous minority, but at the same time avoid overreacting by criminalising all potential and returning Syria travellers, and thereby unintentionally causing the harmless majority to feel stigmatised. The lecture highlights existing knowledge, skills and experience, and identifies ‘what works’, both nationally and internationally. The lecture also provides exemplary cases, in order to help create better possibilities for building up competencies in relation to the reintegration of current and future foreign fighters from Syria and elsewhere.
Life goes on after involvement in an extremist group – but how do you support individuals who are searching for a way out?
What kinds of problems do former extremists need help with, in order to develop an alternative identity and create a new life? Does it require special training to help a person in an exit process? What is it important to be aware of in the process? What are the methods used in exit programmes? Why and how do exit programmes support the individual?
The lecture is based on research into exit programmes in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, as well as a PhD project on the Swedish EXIT organisation. EXIT is the oldest organisation of its kind, and is regarded as a great success among practitioners and policy-makers. The organisation was founded by former neo-Nazis, and since 1998 it has encouraged right-wing extremists to leave right-wing extremist environments using mentoring, dialogue and activities.
The lecture focuses in particular on: (1) methods and practices used in exit work and exit programmes, (2) why it is important to involve former extremists in exit programmes – but also what challenges this may entail, and (3) how participation in new environments helps people to gain further social and professional skills, and how it changes their identity as well as their embodied knowledge and routines.
The experience of former extremists as useful knowledge – leaving an extremist group is a complicated affair
The mentor-mentee relationship and the use of role models has become a recognised tool in social work. But why is human commitment, empathy and a common past not always enough to ensure the success of a mentor-mentee relationship? When members of the mentor group are former extremists, it seems, on the contrary, that is necessary for them to reinterpret their own past before their experiences can become useful knowledge and provide support for others seeking to leave extremist groups.
The lecture highlights conversation techniques and the things the mentor should be aware of in his or her cooperation with the mentee, and focuses on how former extremists can use their own experience to help others to leave extremist groups. Many examples are provided of the methods used in this form of support.
The mentor-mentee relationship as a method of support for people seeking to leave extremist groups
Following a disengagement process, former extremists can struggle with a black-and-white mindset, aggression, paranoia and behavioural problems – issues that mentors can help to ameliorate. A mentor-mentee relationship supports the (young) person in developing alternative, new and different ways to act. What methods are useful, and why do former extremists feel that these initiatives have helped them?
Using material drawn from interviews with former mentees of the Swedish organisation EXIT, the lecture focuses on the mentor-mentee relationship, particularly from the mentor’s point of view. The lecture provides insight into specific issues that many former extremists struggle with, as well as into what it is in the specific relationship that helps the mentee to identify with the mentor, and thereby how the mentee can both imagine a different life and develop a new identity. The lecture also describes how the successful mentor-mentee relationship can provide a mentee with concrete tools for his or her further development.