Extremism and Subjectivity: Studying the Perspectives of Extremists, Researchers, and Practitioners

April 4, 2024 - April 5, 2024
VU University Amsterdam

OZW Building, Alma 1-2
Boelelaan 1109
Amsterdam 1081 HV

This will be an accessible event, including organized related activities

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This event is available both online and in-person


University of Warwick
University of Kent
Boston University
VU University Amsterdam


University of Warwick
VU University Amsterdam
VU University Amsterdam

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This workshop focuses on the subjectivity of three groups of people. First, extremists, conspiracy theorists, fundamentalists, terrorists, and fanatics. Second, academics studying extremism, conspiracy theory, fundamentalism, and related phenomena. Third, practitioners, such as those working in de-radicalization programs, counter-terrorism measures, and resilience efforts. How do these different perspectives relate to one another and how do or should they interact with each other?  What does it mean to consider the ‘subjectivity’ or ‘perspectives’ of extremists, conspiracy theorists, fundamentalists, fanatics, or other sorts of ‘extreme’ believers? Why, if at all, should it be done? ‘Subjectivity’ is a widely used but poorly understood notion in the interdisciplinary literature, so this conference aims to get a firmer grip on it. Relevant questions include:

  • Why is it theoretically and practically important to engage with the subjectivity of conspiracy theorists, extremists, or fundamentalists?  What does it mean to engage with their perspectives or subjectivity? When (if at all) is engagement necessary and why?

  • What constitutes a person’s subjectivity anyway? How should we understand subjectivity, exactly in these contexts?
  • What is the role of the thinker’s affections, passions, and beliefs in causing and sustaining their extremism or fundamentalism? What about grievances, resentment, or anger, among others?
  • What (if any) is the role of religiosity? (How should we understand what religiosity consists in?) What work can it do as an explanatory factor for extreme, conspiracy theoretic, and fundamentalist beliefs or behavior?
  • What role (if any) do epistemic and moral virtues and vices play in a person’s subjectivity and how do these notions help us to understand fundamentalism, extremism, or terrorism?
  • Which senses of ‘rationality’, ‘justification’, ‘reasonableness’ and similar terms can be applied to individual extremists and groups of extremists, fundamentalists, and conspiracy theorists and what (if anything) does that mean for how researchers study their subjectivity?
  • Can researchers or practitioners ‘see’ what matters to extremists, fundamentalists, conspiracy theorists, or terrorists – their goals, motivations, or reasons – from their point of view? What are the ethical implications of (not) trying to do so?

Keynote speakers:
Karen Douglas (University of Kent)
Quassim Cassam (Warwick University
Paul Katsafanas (Boston University)
Naomi Kloosterboer (VU Amsterdam)

A two-day workshop with sessions consisting of 4 keynote lectures and 12 additional lectures. The focus will be on face-to-face meetings, but there will be room for online participation.

OZW Building
VU Amsterdam
Boelelaan 1109
1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Chris Ranalli, Quassim Cassam, Rik Peels, and Anne Haase.

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April 1, 2024, 9:00am CET

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Custom tags:

#Subjectivity, #Extremism, #Conspiracy theory, #Fundamentalism