Most research on how individuals join terrorist groups focuses on either macrosociological risk factors for terrorism or choice making by individual joiners. In a new approach, this research examines the social dynamics of terrorism recruitment by conducting a social network analysis of three two-mode networks of individual fighters who joined the Islamic State (ISIS). For this, I translated and hand coded 3,581 registration forms of foreign fighters who joined ISIS at the height of their recruitment, from 2013-2014. Studying social networks of fighters in these forms from Europe and the Arabian Peninsula, this study finds, firstly, that fighters from Europe are less interconnected than those in the Arabian Peninsula, both in the number of ties and the strength of those ties. Secondly, it finds that subnational origins of foreign fighters are more likely to predict a tie among Arabian Peninsula fighters than they are in Europe, suggesting the phenomenon of terrorism is more widespread in the former than the latter. Mechanisms considered to explain the breadth, depth, and dispersion of Arabian Peninsula recruits as compared to European ones are linguistic commonalities and proportion of Muslim population. However, a theory of socio-cultural ‘permissiveness’ of communities in the Arabian Peninsula for jihadist recruitment is also posited.
This event is part of the Nuffield Social Networks Seminar Series.