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Are violent men and women really different? Comparing the biographies of politically violent individuals

Conflict
Extremism
Gender
Political Violence
Terrorism
Julia Canas
University College Dublin
Julia Canas
University College Dublin

Abstract

An important focus of the study of political violence has been the exploration of the connection between individuals’ biographies and their involvement in violent political organisations. There have been in-depth investigations into the effects of education levels (Krueger and Maleckova, 2003; Lee 2011), relative deprivation (Hadjar et al, 2018; Sen 2008), psychology (Horgan 2008, Silke 2008), and external events (Hewitt & Kelley-Moore, 2009) on participation in political violence. These studies almost always look exclusively at men. Studies on the biographies of politically violent women tend to focus more on identifying their levels of agency (Sjoberg 2018) or finding psychological and trauma-related causes for their participation (Webber et al, 2017; Speckhard, 2009; Morgades-Bamba, Reynal, and Chabrol, 2018). Because there is an implicit societal assumption that violence is more closely linked with men and masculinities (Goldstein, 2018), and that ‘normal’ women do not engage in acts of political violence (Auer, Sutcliffe, and Lee, 2019), it is assumed that violent men and violent women are inherently different. Few studies have compared biographical data on men and women who engaged in political violence to identify what differences there may be between them, if indeed there are any. This study will explore if there really is a significant difference by empirically comparing data on men with data on women. Log-linear models will be used to compare data in a new database on 240 Western women and girls who travelled to Syria and Iraq to join the Islamic State with data on Islamist men found in the Profiles of Individual Radicalisation in the US dataset (START 2020). The data will be fitted to log-linear models in order to investigate the relationship between gender and biographies in participants in political violence.