One for all, all for one? A research into the steps towards violent Islamist extremism: what it takes to make costly sacrifices.

01 October 2018 → 30 September 2023
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Social sciences
    • Other economics and business
    • Citizenship, immigration and political inequality
    • International and comparative politics
    • Multilevel governance
    • National politics
    • Political behaviour
    • Political organisations and institutions
    • Political theory and methodology
    • Public administration
    • Other political science
Islamist extremism
Project description

This research examines the process towards Violent Islamist Extremism and explores what it takes
to make costly sacrifices. We start from an integrated theoretical framework combining the
Significance Quest Theory (SQT) and the Devoted Actor Theory (DAT). According to both theories,
‘the need for personal significance’ is the dominant motivational force underlying the process
towards Violent Islamist Extremism. This process contains three crucial drivers: the motivational
component (the quest for significance), the ideological component (the violence-justifying
ideology) and the social process of networking and group dynamics through which the individual
comes to share in the violence-justifying ideology. Although the SQT and the DAT are both
supported by empirical research, important gaps need to be filled concerning: (1) the role of the
quest for significance in the process towards Violent Islamist Extremism, (2) the Collectivistic shift
and (3) the group-elements underlying the willingness to make costly sacrifices. In order to do so,
qualitative fieldwork will be carried out, triangulating different methods of empirical inquiry. Data
will be obtained on the basis of qualitative in-depth interviews with 60 violent Islamist extremists,
combined with the use of vignettes and photo-elicitation. In addition to the already obtained data,
we will conduct qualitative in-depth interviews with 30 family members of violent Islamist