Personal profile

Personal profile

Senior Lecturer (equiv. Associate Professor) in Modern History & Political Violence

Director of the Conflict, Violence and Terrorism Research Centre (CVTRC).

I am a historian of political violence and conflict in the modern period, with a particular focus on terrorism, identity, and religion. I am also interested in understanding how the past is represented through popular culture, particularly on film.

I have an unconventional and eclectic research background, having been trained in diverse disciplines including History, Political Science, Anthropology, Population Genetics, Sociology, and the Study of Religion. This is reflected in the broadly interdisciplinary approach to both my research and teaching.

I teach a range of course at undergraduate and postgraduate level including modules on cultural histories of war; conceptual history; orientalism; and 20th century war and conflict on film. Final year students also have the opportunity of taking my special subject course which focuses on a thematic history of terrorism, ranging from the nineteenth century anarchists to the anti-colonial wars of independence after WWII, and from the left-wing terrorists of the sixties to Jihadists today. By adopting this longer view of terrorism beyond the immediate news headlines, I try to help students make sense of the frightening and violent world they see around them by placing current events in a broader historical and political perspective.

I am also a firm believer in research-led teaching, and not only do I use my current research in my teaching, but my students often also end up helping to focus my avenues of research. I like to think of myself as an innovative teacher, bringing new perspectives, methods and approaches to my courses, which is reflected in the award of three Royal Holloway Excellence in Teaching prizes (awarded in 2013, 2015, and 2019).

I am keen to communicate research beyond the academy and regularly engage with governmental organisations, NGOs and other policymakers in my fields of expertise. Over the years I have served in an advisory capacity to the United Nations, UK Parliament, House of Lords, UK Home Office, the Foreign Office, the US State Dept., the US Defense Dept., the US Military, Council of Europe, NATO and the OSCE amongst others.

I also write for the popular press, having contributed to New StatesmanThe National InterestThe IndependentHistory TodayBBC History Extra, and the Conversation.

I co-direct the Conflict, Violence and Terrorism Research Centre at Royal Holloway, and am the founder and Chair of the Political Science Association’s Specialist Group on Political Violence & Terrorism.

My books include Radicalisation and Media: Terrorism and Connectivity in the New Media Ecology (2011, Routledge), Jihadism Transformed: al-Qaeda and Islamic State’s Global Battle of Ideas (2016, Hurst/Oxford University Press), The Crusades in the Modern World (2019, Routledge), Radicalisation: A Global and Comparative Perspective (2023, Hurst/Oxford University Press), and ISIS and its Western Recruits: Narratives, Identities and Radicalisation (2024, Cambridge University Press)

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Twitter - @Akil_N_Awan

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

External positions

Chair & Founder, Specialist Group on Political Violence and Terrorism (Political Science Association)