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The Challenges of Researching Extremism Today

Tuesday 22 June 2021
Online via Zoom

Why is it so difficult to do conclusive research on extremism? How is studying far-right extremism different from Islamist and other types of extremism? What are the ethical dilemmas when working with young people in milieus that are frequently targeted by stereotypes and racism? And what are the dangers researchers face when conducting fieldwork?

This workshop - organised under the auspices of the H2020 DRIVE project - brings together scholars, practitioners, professionals, and community groups who work on understanding radicalisation to address these questions. The DRIVE project specifically focuses on the need to understand the significance of social exclusion in radicalisation, which necessitates carrying out research on hard-to-reach communities and involves asking complex and sensitive questions. In order to ensure that quality data can be generated, free from bias and prejudice, we need to remain understanding of the sensitivities and at the same time introduce initiatives that help generate in-depth, viable, and penetrating insight.

This workshop, open and free to all, explores the challenges of doing research on extremism presented by some of the leading scholars in the field in Europe.


11.00-11.05 Tahir Abbas (Leiden University): Welcome and introduction to DRIVE project
11.05-11.15 Catherine Thorleifsson (University of Oslo): DRIVE’s approach to balancing the online and offline
11.15-11.30 Joel Busher (Coventry University): Key challenges, opportunities, and dilemmas in researching the far-right
11.30-11.45 Jennifer Philippa Eggert (University of Warwick): Intersectional approaches to gender-inclusive research on sensitive topics'
11.45-12.00  Chris Allen (University of Leicester):  The risks of participant observation and mitigating the problematisation of Muslim communities
12.00-12.30 Q&A chaired by Anouk de Koning (Leiden University)

About the speakers

Tahir Abbas

Tahir Abbas FRSA is an Associate Professor in Terrorism and Political Violence at the Institute of Security and Global Affairs at Leiden University in The Hague. He holds a PhD in Ethnic Relations from the University of Warwick (2001). His current research interests are the intersections of Islamophobia and radicalisation, gender and violence, inter-generational transmission of Islamism, and ethnic relations. He is the author, editor, and co-editor of 14 books (18 vols) and over 70 peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, and encyclopaedic entries.

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Cathrine Thorleifsson

Dr. Cathrine Thorleifsson (b. 1982) is a Researcher at the Centre for Research on Extremism at the University of Oslo. Cathrine holds a PhD in Anthropology from the London School of Economics and Political Science (2012). Her chief theoretical interests lie in anthropological approaches to the study of nationalism and the far (populist, radical and extreme) right.

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Joel Busher

Joel's research addresses three main intersecting areas:
1) Far right and anti-minority activism
2) The escalation, de-escalation and non-escalation of political violence
3) The implementation of counter-terrorism policy and its societal impacts

Running through all his work is a broader empirical and theoretical interest in the processes of mobilization, collective action and social control and how these intersect with the everyday efforts of human beings to live what they consider to be good lives. As well as generating research publications, Joel’s research has led to frequent and on going engagement with policy and practitioner communities at local, national and international levels.

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Jennifer Philippa Eggert

Jennifer Philippa Eggert is a researcher and practitioner working on violent conflict, development and migration, with a focus on gender, faith and local actors in Europe and the Middle East. She also has an interest in conducting fieldwork under difficult circumstances and in diversity in the academy.

Jennifer Philippa Eggert currently works as Senior Research Associate for the Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities / University of Warwick. She is also Research Advisor for the Women Muslim Advisory Project, Non-Executive Director with WeRise, and Research Advisor for Syria Bright Future.

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Chris Allen

Dr. Chris Allen is an Associate Professor in Hate Studies at the Centre for Hate Studies, which is based in the School of Criminology. For almost two decades, he has been researching Islamophobia, counter-extremism and counter-terror, and wider issues relating to the ‘problematisation’ of Muslim communities. This has included but not been limited to undertaking research seeking to understand the experience of Muslim women victims of street-level hate crime, anti-Islam ideologies of the far-right, the impact of counter-terror legislation, and governmental engagement with Muslim communities. His research has also focused on wider issues relating to the role of religion and faith in the contemporary political and policy spaces as also issues relating to Britishness, cohesion, integration and identity. In doing so, he has been funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council, the Economic & Social Research Council, British governmental departments including the Department for Communities and Local Government, local authorities, the European Union and a wide range of state agencies, third sector organisations and charitable bodies.

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The Q&A will be moderated by Anouk de Koning.
Anouk de Koning is associate professor at the department of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology. Her current research project, 'Reproducing Europe: Migrant Parenting and Contested Citizenship' documents the shaping of a new, diverse Europe by examining welfare encounters between migrant parents and professionals in Amsterdam, Milan and Paris. 


Please sign up via this form to join this online workshop.

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Questions & Contact

To answer any questons about this event, please contact Dr. Lianne Vostermans or Dr. Tobias Muller for content related matters if you would  like to receive updates on project DRIVE, please contact DRIVE.eu@fgga.leidenuniv.nl

Questions about the confirmation e-mail? Please contact communicatie@fgga.leidenuniv.nl



What are the main drivers of far-right and Islamist radicalisation? What is the role of social exclusion within radicalisation processes? How can we design better policies to safeguard young people from radicalising? The DRIVE project, led by Leiden University in The Hague seeks to address these questions, working with a consortium of eight partners from across North-Western Europe (two civil society organisations and six universities).

DRIVE: Social inclusion against polarisation
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