The Concept and Practice of De-radicalisation in the PREVENT Strand of the UK Counter-terrorism Strategy: What is De-radicalisation?
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
In case of commercial publishing
De-radicalisation has become increasingly prevalent in the UK’s counter-terrorism policy as a strategy for tackling the threat of religiously inspired violence/extremism. Recently, British citizens fighting in Middle Eastern conflicts have rekindled the preoccupation of policymakers with the radicalisation of British Muslims. In fact the work of PREVENT post 2011 has primarily been recalibrated towards a greater focus on de-radicalisation interventions, which is delivered by the police through the Channel programme. Channel is perceived by policy-makers to be a more streamlined and effective way of dealing with radicalised/extremist individuals than the wide remit of PREVENT initiatives between 2006 and 2010. Indeed since becoming placed on a statutory footing in 2015, PREVENT requires public institutions, like schools and universities, to identify ‘vulnerable’ individuals’ at risk of radicalisation. And yet despite the greater attention on de-radicalisation, very little continues to be known about what makes violent individuals leave terrorism behind. De-radicalisation in PREVENT is characterised by the absence of credible research, little or no empirical evidence for policy development, confusion surrounding its conceptual framework, and conflicting policy logics. The following thesis is based on a case-study examination of de-radicalisation with 27 PREVENT practitioners. Through qualitative semi-structured interviews, my investigation seeks to address the problems that arise from the concept and practice of de-radicalisation in PREVENT by ascertaining (a) an ontological understanding of de-radicalisation and (b) the practice of de-radicalisation. The findings of the fieldwork data revealed the existence of multiple conceptions of de-radicalisation and a number of conceptual features unique to the UK context. Despite yielding a more fruitful conceptual and empirical understanding of de-radicalisation, the data in itself nevertheless could not fully explicate the relationship between several critical themes comprehensively within an analytically generative framework. With the inductive method falling short, I draw on Michel Foucault’s concept of the ‘technologies of the self’. Comprising of discursive, disciplinary, and confessional technologies, it is argued that the technologies of the self allows us to reframe the concept beyond the narrow confines of counter-terrorism policy and place it within wider governmental relations. Situated within neo-liberal governmentality, the technologies of the self encourage individuals to work on themselves and regulate their behaviour through a wide range of discursive, practical, and technical interventions. Seen in this way, de-radicalisation is therefore less about the mitigation of violence and more about the making of a particular political and ethical subjectivity. Ultimately, the technology of the self eschews the conceptual problems inherent in the PREVENT conception of de-radicalisation, the limitations evident in the literature, whilst amplifying the salient findings of my fieldwork data. It provides a more robust concept and theory that successfully captures and explains de-radicalisation in the UK context. This thesis thus makes an original contribution to knowledge by (1) being the first study to gather primary data on de-radicalisation in the UK; (2) offering an alternative concept of de-radicalisation; and (3) contributing to theories on the governmentality of radicalisation policies, focusing on the micro-politics of identity in neoliberal governance.
PhD in Ethno-Political Studies