Workshop on Radicalization and Nativism on 19 October 2020

We are happy to announce that we have completed our PRIME Youth Workshop titled “Radicalization and Nativism” on 19 October 2020. We shared our initial findings from the ERC-funded PRIME Youth project and presentations from esteemed colleagues on the current debates surrounding radicalisation.

This conference was moderated by Prof. Thomas Faist of Bielefeld University, who is one of the scientific advisors of the PRIME Youth Research Project, in collaboration with Prof. Jörg Hüttermann, a member of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence, Bielefeld University.

Prof. Thomas Faist opened the workshop with a warm welcome speech underlining the importance of the PRIME Youth research project in relation to the similarities to the perceived threats of natives in the US coming from the Socialists and Catholics in the late 19th century. After Prof. Faist pointed out such similarities between native and Muslim youth in Europe on the one hand, and between native and Catholic/Socialist migrants in the US on the other hand, the project’s PI Prof. Ayhan Kaya (İstanbul Bilgi University, European Institute) first thanked Prof. Faist and Prof. Hüttermann for having organized the workshop, and then he presented the PRIME Youth project called “Nativism, Islamophobism and Islamism in the Age of Populism: Culturalization and Religionization of What is Social, Economic and Political in Europe”. Prof. Kaya scrutinized social, economic, political, and psychological sources of radicalization among native European youth and Muslim-origin youth with migration background, who are both inclined to express their discontent through ethnicity, culture, religion, heritage, homogeneity, authenticity, past, gender, and patriarchy. In order to explain the relationship between Islamophobism and Islamism emerging in both national and transnational spaces, Prof. Kaya also shared the main initial findings from the field research in Germany, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. These initial findings focused on the rise of the civilizationist discourse, the discontents accompanying socio-economic deprivation and nostalgic deprivation as well as the terminological confusions surrounding radicalisation. He argued that there is the term “radical” is under attack from several fronts including the central states and the European Union bodies. He stated that the term ‘radical’ has an historical journey especially since the late 18th century addressing at the democrats, liberals, socialists, and others who took a critical stance against oppressive forces, and it cannot be reduced to jihadist, Salafist, white-supremacists, extremist and/or terrorist groups in the present time.

In the second presentation of the first session, Dr. Ayse Tecmen (İstanbul Bilgi University, European Institute) discussed “European Union’s Articulation of Radicalisation: Deconstructing the Discursive Formulation of Radicalism through Counter Measures”. She discussed radicalization and its prevention as a key pillar of EU’s counter-terrorism strategy. Tracing the methods of cooperation and the proliferation of prevention strategies, she analysed the EU’s radicalization discourse through a discourse-historical analysis focusing on the interplay between EU strategies and social, and cultural developments. This illustrated that the EU mainly reacts to the internal and external dynamics influencing the political and public debates. Dr. Tecmen noted that In the EU’s discourse escalation of radicalization to terrorism remains the central premise but in the mid-2010s “root causes” of radicalisation were introduced to partly address individual socioeconomic and psychological factors provoking radicalization.

In the third presentation of the first session titled “Using Values To Guide Analysis: Initial Observations From Our Research Data”, Dr. Aysenur Benevento (İstanbul Bilgi University, European Institute) argued that narrating is purposeful; and that we use it to present ourselves in ways that connect or disconnect with the social and political milieu or to suggest different views of how things should be. Emphasizing the should aspect, she explained why values analysis was selected to analyze the interview transcripts. Dr. Benevento asserted that values analysis is grounded on the idea that values guide individuals’ narratives. People interpret, adopt, and modify existing values of their cultures to be part of or differentiate themselves from other cultures. There is also a broader process for comparing the value enactments across narratives. In the PRIME Youth project context, the narratives represented and organized via the four countries and the native/Muslim status will allow the research team to analyze and compare similarities and differences across groups of people.

In the second session’s first presentation, Lisa Kiefer (Projekleiterin Aktion Gemeinwesen und Beratung e.V.) gave a presentation titled “CleaR - Clearing Procedures Against Radicalization” regarding the utility of the practical aspect of the CleaR project implemented in schools in Germany (see “CleaRTeaching - dealing with neo-Salafist and right-wing extremist attitudes in the school context” is a project to prevent radicalization and to strengthen democratic attitudes in schools. She noted that teachers see students’ concerns and problematic stances they might develop, including cultural suspicion, Islamism, or Islamophobism. She said that assuming the non-linear nature of radicalism, we should be careful not to stereotype people leading to conflict and discrimination. Kiefer also discussed the polarization among the youth and the rise of both Salafi extremism and far-right extremism. She argued that monitored and structured processes introduced at an early age could prevent attacks and conflicts originating from these groups’ tensions. Therefore, schools and extracurricular partners can be sensitized to possible indicators of radicalisation.

As the last presenter of the workshop, in his presentation titled “Nativism and Nationalism among “German” Youth”, Denis van de Wetering (Bielefeld University, Institute for Interdisciplinary Conflict and Violence Research) discussed his findings from interviews with 18 former right-wing extremist men between 2015 and 2016. In the interviews, former right-wing extremist men addressed that they are repulsed by interactions that enforce the superior/subordinate. They noted that they commit violent acts to establish dominance, which results from the combative negotiation of internal orders among right-wing extremist men. Physical and emotional involvement in fights was essential to establish their significance within the right-wing extreme social order. He further discussed that joint fighting creates mutual trust and collectivity in search of confrontation. In this case, solidarity acts to invalidate social norms against hurting others and legitimizing violence.

The workshop came to an end with a fruitful dialogue and fusion of horizons among the PRIME Youth researchers including the PI, post-doc researchers and field researchers as well as the members of the Istanbul Bilgi University and the Bielefeld University.