Why wouldn't you consult us? Reflections on preventing radicalisation among actors in radical(ising) milieus


  • Hilary Pilkington University of Manchester
  • Ajmal Hussain University of Warwick


Radical Milieus, Countering Violent Extremism, Youth, Ethnography, Situated Knowledge, Dialogue


This article engages the situated knowledge of actors in radical(ising) milieus to enhance our understanding of radicalisation and how to counter it. The article draws on interviews and observations from two ethnographic case studies in the UK – one with young people from an ‘Islamist’ and one from young people in an ‘extreme-right’ milieu – as well as three mediated dialogue events organised with participants from these milieus. The article explores how actors in these two milieus themselves understand what ‘drives’ and what might ‘prevent’ radicalisation and the degree to which such emic understandings concur with, or deviate from, etic (academic, policy, practice) conceptualisations – in particular on actors’ understandings of the role of the state, and its counter-terrorism policies and agencies, in driving radicalisation. We outline the views and experiences of Preventing or Countering Violent Extremism (P/CVE) interventions among milieu actors, which they encounter through the ‘Prevent’ arm of the UK’s counter-terrorism strategy but also in the form of curtailment of their activity (prevention from attending events and bans on social media). Finally, we consider how these emic understandings and personal experiences are expressed in milieu actors’ own practices of preventing or constraining trajectories into extremism and the openness of research participants themselves to engaging with agencies involved in P/CVE employing dialogic approaches. The article brings new insight to the field by considering the understandings and experiences of counter-extremism policies and practices among those targeted by them and argues for the importance of engaging with individuals as subjects not objects of counter-extremism policy and practice.


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