Dr Akil Awan

Personal profile

Dr. Akil N. Awan is Senior Lecturer (equiv. Associate Professor) in Modern History, Political Violence and Terrorism at Royal Holloway. 

His research interests are focused around the history of terrorism, political violence, social movements, protest, and new media, and he has written widely in these areas, both academically and in the popular press.

He is regularly consulted by government bodies, think-tanks, media and other organizations in his fields of expertise. He has served in an advisory capacity to the United Nations, UNDP, 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. Most recently, he served as special advisor on Radicalization to the UK Parliament; as academic expert to the UK House of Lords delegation to Srebrenica; and as expert advisor on Youth Radicalisation to the United Nations. 

He also served as the Director of Undergraduate Studies in History and the Deputy Director of the Humanities and Arts Research Centre at Royal Holloway. In addition, he is also Research Associate with the New Political Communication Unit, with the Centre for Public History, and the Centre for Minority Studies. Previously he held a 5-year RCUK Fellowship in 'The Contemporary History of Faith, Power and Terror', as well as serving as a researcher on the ESRC project Shifting Securities: News Cultures Before and Beyond the Iraq War.

He is Founder and Chair of the Political Science Association’s Specialist Group on Political Violence & Terrorism.

Follow him on Twitter @Akil_N_Awan. 

Research interests

  • Radicalisation - Causes, Processes & Consequences: His principle research concern over the last few years, has focused largely on processes of political radicalisation and the growth of violent extremismHe has published widely on these topics, writing on political disenfranchisement and failed political socialisation; contested identity construction; the role of religion and sacralised violence; legitimation of violence; the role of new media, as well as pioneering the study of 'autonomous radicalisation online' in 2006. Moreover, he has held a number of major research awards in order to explore this field, including a prestigious 5-year RCUK Fellowship in the 'Contemporary History of Faith, Power and Terror' and a major 2-year ESRC-research grant on Legitimising the Discourses of Radicalisation: Political Violence in the New Media Ecology.  

In addition to his major book and ongoing research on Radicalisation, Akil is currently also working on the following major projects:

  • Religion, Conflict, and Digital Communication in the Greater Muslim World: A British Council funded project in collaboration with Georgia State University, and the Carter Center that seeks to explore whether Muslim religious authorities, institutions and local networks can provide solutions to the shared global challenges of social conflict and political violence, and the role digital communications technologies might play in this process?
  • ‘Taking Liberties’ with Magna Carta: Violence and Injustice or ‘Lawful Rebellion’: a 2-year project that problematises the forthcoming 800th anniversary commemorations of Magna Carta, exploring contemporaneous acts that have betrayed its legacy and ethic, including detention without trial, extraordinary rendition, torture, extrajudicial killings, and even the creation of internment camps like Guantanamo Bay. The project explores how Magna Carta might retain relevance and meaning for a new generation, in light of the moral dissonance engendered by this knowledge.
  • Engaging with the Crusades: Politics, Polemics, and Radicalisation: A new project that seeks to assess the degree to which tendentious historical interpretations of the Crusades and their associated radicalising discourses have been employed by violent extremists like Anders Breivik or al-Qaeda to propound extremist views and negatively influence mainstream audiences. The project also seeks to assess mainstream and popular interpretations and perceptions of the Crusades and the consequences and ramifications of these understandings, which is of particular importance when attempting to gauge audience resilience to radical discourses and narratives, and to assess whether popular countervailing discourses on the Crusades can prove sufficiently inoculating against extremist messages.
  • Young and Radical: Failed Political Socialisation and Radicalisation to Violence - A Comparative Study of 1968 and 2013:  
  • Humanities and Arts Research Institute (HARI) Academic Fellowship – “Kinder Gentler Politics”: ‘The Impact of Heated Political Debates and Abuse on Young People's Democratic Participation’

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