Projects of the Research Group

PhD projects within the Research Group focus on different aspects of terrorist organisations’ learning and cover different levels of the framework-dimensions accordingly. Find below short descriptions as well as illustrations delineating the scope of the various projects.

Recruitment of Foreign Fighters to Violent Islamist Groups/Organisations

Recruitment of 'foreign fighters' has been crucial to the survival and development of violent Islamist groups/organisations in a dynamic environment. This can be seen from the exponential upsurge in recruitment with the rapid development of various Islamist militant entities in Syria and Iraq since 2013. This research project examines recruitment of 'foreign fighters'. The main research focus is, first, on the methods of recruitment and, second, on the motivations of individuals to join violent Islamist organisations. Theoretically, this touches upon the meso (group/organisational) and micro (individual) levels of analysis. Specifically, this study addresses how violent Islamist entities recruit individuals and why individuals enter these groups/organisations (motivating factors). The project aims to explore the cases of 'foreign fighters'' recruitment from Central Asia within the wider context of recruitment.

Lost in Fighting? Dynamics of Interaction between Armed Opposition Groups in Syria (2012 – 2017)

Scholars and the public alike usually look at the Syrian insurgency through the lens of Hobbes's war of all against all. Yet, when zooming in it becomes evident that cooperation has been quite common among armed opposition groups even resulting in the emergence of small-scale forms of local order. In order to make sense of this I propose to look at insurgent dynamics of interaction in terms of three consequential ruptures that created the set of groups fighting on the same side of the Syrian conflict, ranging from local battalions using the FSA-label to independent Islamist and Salafist groups like Ahrar al-Sham to – until recently – Jabhat al-Nusra. These large-scale divides structure the interaction between groups not only in the military realm but also in two other semi-autonomous fields, an insurgent administration and a judiciary which vary in terms of conflict and cooperation between same-side groups.

Between Gun and Olive Branch: Collective Consciousness and Strategy Change in Palestinian Nationalist Organisations

This research project addresses the decisions of nationalist organisations in Palestine regarding the strategies they employ in their efforts to create a Palestinian state and particularly aims to understand the motivation and rationale underlying a groups' decision to choose a certain strategy. It is argued that the collective consciousness of an organisation, meaning the values and beliefs that its members share, plays a crucial role in this context: The collective consciousness is the lens through which the environment is analysed and the fundament on which a decision is based.

By discovering the respective collective consciousness of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), the Palestinian Liberation Movement (Fatah), and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and by analysing their strategic histories, the above mentioned ideas will be put to the test. Of particular interest will be to find out why or why not organisations changed their strategies and how change or continuity is related to an organisation's collective consciousness. It is assumed that differences between the groups vis-à-vis their strategies can be traced back to the characteristics of their particular collective consciousness.

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