Disengagement and Deradicalisation: A Critical Discussion

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Disengagement and Deradicalisation: A Critical Discussion

24th March 2021 @ 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Disengagement and deradicalisation are terms often used interchangeably, with little meaningful inquiry as to what either imply. Accusations abound of the failures and deficiencies of the measures employed to ‘cure the terrorist’, often with little appreciation of the complexities of human behaviour and the plethora of social, psychological and environmental factors which can influence behavioural and attitudinal change.


Neither disengagement nor deradicalisation is necessarily a permanent state, nor a reflux valve. Just as an individual can radicalise, so can they deradicalise and even reradicalise. While no disengagement or deradicalisation programme can ever completely preclude the risk of recidivism, their effectiveness can be maximised by both continued efforts to increase their resonance at the individual level, and ongoing independent evaluation. Critical voices have called for the abolition of disengagement and deradicalisation programmes in favour of indefinite imprisonment for terrorist offenders. But even then the risk of terrorist offenders radicalising their fellow inmates or even carrying out terrorist attacks cannot seemingly be fully mitigated. Disengagement and deradicalisation is not a silver bullet, but done well can represent an important component part of our collective efforts to prevent and counter violent-extremism and terrorism.


This event will address the definitional ambiguity surrounding the terms disengagement and deradicalisation, before making a number of tangible recommendations for practitioners and policy-makers based on years of industry-leading research and analysis. We will then turn to the counter-narrative, discussing the role of persuasion employed by terrorist recruiters, and how this can be modified to help draw people away from terrorism.




John Horgan is Distinguished University Professor at Georgia State University’s Department of Psychology where he also directs the Violent Extremism Research Group (VERG). His work is widely published, with books including The Psychology of Terrorism (now in its second edition and published in over a dozen languages worldwide), Divided We Stand: The Strategy and Psychology of Ireland’s Dissident Terrorists; Walking Away from Terrorism, Leaving Terrorism Behind, and Terrorism Studies: A Reader. He is an Editor of the journal Terrorism and Political Violence, Consulting Editor of American Psychologist, Consulting Editor of Psychology of Violence, and serves on the Editorial Boards of several additional publications including Legal and Criminological Psychology, Journal for Deradicalization, Dynamics of Asymmetric Conflict and Journal of Strategic Security. He is a member of the Research Working Group of the FBI’s National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime. He has held positions at the University of Massachusetts (Lowell), Penn State, University of St. Andrews, and University College, Cork. His research has been featured in such venues as The New York Times, Foreign Affairs, CNN, PBS, NPR, Vice News, Rolling Stone Magazine, TIME, Nature, Scientific American and the Chronicle of Higher Education. Horgan’s latest book, Terrorist Minds, will be published by Columbia University Press in 2022.



Dr Kurt Braddock is an Assistant Professor of Public Communication in the School of Communication at American University. Kurt also holds faculty fellow positions at the SOC’s Center for Media and Social Impact (CMSI) and the Center for University Excellence’s Polarization and Extremism Research and Innovation Lab (PERIL). His research focuses on the persuasive strategies used by violent extremist groups to recruit and radicalize audiences targeted by their propaganda. Kurt also explores how theories of communication, persuasion, and social influence can be used to inform practices meant to prevent radicalization among vulnerable audiences. His first book, titled ‘Weaponized Words: The Strategic Role of Persuasion in Violent Radicalization and Counter-Radicalization’, provides examples of how terrorist groups persuade audiences to adopt their ideologies, and how this process can be fought. Kurt is presently interested in the development of communicative counter-radicalization strategies that prevent white supremacism, neo-Nazism, and the adoption of other violent far-right ideologies. In addition to publishing his work in key communication and security journals (e.g., Communication Monographs, Terrorism and Political Violence, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism), Kurt also provides input to key institutions in D.C. to inform how they fight terrorism. Some of these institutions include the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Department of Defense. His work has also been used at the international level, where Kurt has advised the U.K. Home Office, Public Safety Canada, the United Nations Counterterrorism Executive Directorate, and others.



Dr Julie Chernov Hwang is an associate professor of political science and international relations and Director of the International Relations Program at Goucher College. She is the author of  ‘Why Terrorists Quit: The Disengagement of Indonesian Jihadists’,Peaceful Islamist Mobilization in the Muslim World: What Went Right’; and the co-editor of ‘Islamist Parties and Political Normalization in the Muslim World’. Her articles have been published in Political Psychology, Terrorism and Political Violence, Asian Survey, Contemporary Southeast Asia, Asia-Pacific Issues, Southeast Asia Research, and Nationalism and Ethnic Politics. Her new book project explores how and why Indonesian and Filipino Muslims join Islamist extremist groups. She is a former 2012 Luce Southeast Asia Fellow and is on the editorial boards of Terrorism and Political Violence, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, Asian Security, and Journal of Deradicalization.



Matt Dryden is an experienced practitioner in preventing and countering violent extremism, having worked at strategic and operational levels on U.K. government PREVENT and CHANNEL programmes, and at the pan-European level on radicalisation prevention. Matt holds a BSc in Criminology, PGCert in Investigating Vulnerability Crime, MSc in Counter-Terrorism, and is currently completing a PhD in Terrorism Studies. Matt has published research and policy papers in leading peer-reviewed academic journals on issues pertaining to radicalisation and terrorism. Matt’s research focuses on radicalisation processes and the psychological and behavioural aspects of terrorist offending. He is a Research Fellow at the Henry Jackson Society.


You can RSVP for your tickets HERE




24th March 2021
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm


United Kingdom


Henry Jackson Society
+44 (0) 20 7340 4520


John Horgan, Kurt Braddock, Matt Dryden, Julie Chernov Hwang


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