The We in Me. Considering Terrorist Desistance from a Social Identity Perspective.


  • Sigrid Raets Ghent University


Desistance, Disengagement, Deradicalization, Terrorism, Social Identity


At present, the issue of leaving terrorism behind is a widely discussed but poorly understood subject. When compared to the extensive body of literature on the process of radicalization, research on terrorist desistance is both theoretically and conceptually lagging behind. As a consequence, policy makers and practitioners are currently operating in a theoretical vacuum. This article aims to address the pressing need for a better understanding of the discontinuance of terrorism by introducing a social identity perspective to the existing field of re-search. Social identity can be understood as the part of an individual’s self-concept that is derived from membership within personally relevant social groups. As such, the concept of social identity is vital to making sense of the identity transformation intrinsic to walking away from terrorism. Exploring the role of social identity in terrorist desistance gives prominence to the intersection between the individual and the social group. Framing terrorist dis-continuance as a process that emanates from the interface between individual and group-level mechanisms corresponds to the interactive nature of rebuilding a life after terrorism. Additionally, the explanatory value of a social identity perspective has already been demonstrated in the field of radicalisation research. Extending this theoretical framework to the subject of terrorist desistance enables us to connect the dots between two processes that are inherently linked, though frequently analysed as isolated entities.

Author Biography

Sigrid Raets, Ghent University

Email: Ghent University, Department of Criminology, Penal Law and Social Law. Universiteitstraat 4, B-9000, Ghent, Belgium.


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