Mikkel J. Hjelt

The Radical Milieu: A Socio-Ecological Analysis of Salafist Radicalization in Aarhus, 2007-17

The dissertation underlines the theoretical importance of the context when trying to understand radicalization. Empirically, it is the story about a specific Salafi-inspired radical milieu in Aarhus, Denmark (2007-17). The dissertation employs a mixed-methods approach, combining semi-structured individual interviews with focus group interviews featuring multiple respondent types, including 22 interviews with nine former members of the radical milieu. First, different kinds of personal experiences facilitate a susceptibility to moral change through which religious curiosity and searching through face-to-face guidance and online learning are elements in proactive pathways to the radical milieu. Second, the dissertation extends different socializing affordances of the radical milieu, including cognitive, moral, attachment, and social control affordances. Moreover, the participants socialize in a wide range of “open” and more “closed” settings throughout Aarhus for several hours each day, where one activity flows into the next without clear-cut breaks. Thus, non-violent everyday activities and high-risk activism connect in a dynamic relationship. Such activities unfold in an interaction between physical and virtual arenas—a hybrid form of socialization—to create and reinforce a sense of fellowship, common identity and a specific religious orientation. Finally, the fluid transitions exemplify individual withdrawal from the radical milieu as well as the collective disintegration of the milieu. Individual exit processes entail a combination of individual “push” and “pull” factors. In addition, the disintegration of the radical milieu was influenced by different contextual factors. The dissertation also addresses the neglected “why there?” question by analyzing this relation between the radical milieu and the surrounding neighborhood.

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