Spaces, Ties, and Agency: The Formation of Radical Networks

Stefan Malthaner


The literature on radicalization as well as studies on participation in high-risk activism have emphasized the role of personal ties and radical networks in shaping pathways towards political violence. Yet, our knowledge about how these radical networks are formed remains limited. Drawing on an in-depth case study of the network around the so-called “Sauerland-Group” in Germany, this article examines patterns of network-formation, focusing on: (i) the role and function of different types of social ties in creating and sustaining radical networks; (ii) the importance of different spaces and events in initiating and reinforcing connections between activists; and (iii) the role of individual agency and pro-active connection-making in this process. In a more general sense, this article seeks to contribute to a better understanding of radicalization as a relational process, emphasizing the fact that individual trajectories are closely interlinked with radical networks as the dynamic setting of jihadist micro-mobilization.This network facilitates and shapes pathways into violent activism and at the same time is created and constantly re-shaped by militant activists.

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Perspectives on Terrorism is  a journal of the Terrorism Research Initiative and the Center for Terrorism and Security Studies

ISSN  2334-3745 (Online)

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