Youth and the Jihadist Temptation: Social Scientific Dilemmas on the Tunisian Street

15 November 2018, 16:00 - 17:30

Room S1, Alison Richard Building, Cambridge, CB3 9DT

In the aftermath of the  2011 Arab Spring, Tunisia quickly emerged as a major contributor of foreign fighters to ISIS and other jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq. Nevertheless, the question of why jihadists gained a following in some communities while others stood resilient against the movement continued to defy scholarly explanation.

Visiting Fellow Michael Marcusa spent 14 months between 2013 and 2016 on the ground in Tunisia conducting research on youth politics and radicalisation in the country’s marginalised interior region. In this seminar, he will lead a discussion on the methodological dilemmas inherent in conducting field research on sensitive research topics in politically volatile climates. Issues of scientific rigor, ethnographic rapport, sample representativeness, and objectivity will be discussed, as well as the challenges of building theory from imperfect data. The talk will culminate in a discussion of friendship with field informants and the ethics of enculturated research.

Michael Marcusa is a Visiting Fellow with the ERC-funded project Qualitative and Quantitative Social Science: Unifying the Logic of Causal Inference? Before coming to Cambridge, he served as a Policy Advisor to the Task Force on Extremism in Fragile States at the United States Institute of Peace. He holds a PhD and MA in Political Science from Brown University and a BA from Dartmouth College in Government and Asian/Middle Eastern Studies.


This lecture is hosted by the ERC-funded project 'Qualitative and Quantitative Social Science: A Unified Logic of Causal Inference?'. QUALITY is funded by the European Research Council under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (ERC grant agreement no. 715530).