Digital Theses Archive


Tesi etd-09052018-140402

Type of thesis
Enabling Agency: What Made Them Go? Foreign Fighters from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo
Scientific disciplinary sector
SCIENZE POLITICHE - Politics, Human Rights and Sustainability
Presidente Prof.ssa HENRY, BARBARA
  • Agency
  • Balkans
  • Foreign Fighters
  • Radicalization
  • Recruitment
Exam session start date
Abstract<br><br>This PhD dissertation analyses the process of the recruitment of foreign fighters from the Western Balkans, specifically Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo, to Syria and Iraq from 2012 to 2015. In studying this phenomena, the core research questions that this thesis address are: What were the processes and circumstances leading up to the departure of foreign fighters from Bosnia and Kosovo? What were the key mechanisms and who were the key actors that enabled, mobilized, facilitated, and finally organized their departure?<br><br>Foreign fighters are not just a contemporary phenomenon, but their recent reemergence and proliferation in the context of the Syrian civil war have expanded and intensified scholars’ and practitioners’ attention to the issue. Nevertheless, the preceding and new focuses have not resulted in an overwhelming number of studies that utilize primary accounts or display strong theoretical underpinnings. The vast majority of existing studies employs secondary sources, and therefore necessitated further testing in order to contribute to or validate the existing body of research. To compensate, some of the literature has varied their methodologies and embraced quantitative methods utilizing open-source datasets. However, these generally fail to take into account crucial nuances and details.<br><br>To address these gaps, this thesis approaches the study of a specific contingent of foreign fighters from a qualitative perspective, thus establishing a primary account database. The research utilizes in-depth, semi-structured interviews with former foreign fighters and their families, as well as a number of relevant stakeholders. It supplements the interviews with software analysis of a significant amount of internal intelligence documents and court transcripts acquired through extensive field work. By focusing on primary accounts, the thesis offers a more comprehensive and accurate understanding of the radicalization and recruitment pattern for a particular foreign fighter group. The research design’s central assumption is that scholars must examine the motivation and enabling circumstances surrounding the recruits, as well as the network that sustained their recruitment. In this sense, the thesis draws on the theories of social movement approaches, more specifically, contentious politics literature. It utilizes the specific concepts of triggering mechanisms, which refer to the enabling circumstances that make the radicalization and departure possible, and pleasure in agency, to elaborate on individual motivation.<br><br>The findings demonstrate that there is no ideal profile of a recruit and that each account is specific and context-dependent. In some cases, a few common denominators, such as the role of family and local community, exist and are crucial; but the role of the family varied in Bosnia and Kosovo. Furthermore, loyalty to the group was sustained either through the new concept of “inexpensive prospect” or by means of tight-knit relationships. Research also found that personal experiences with corruption and parallel networks that had developed as a result of systematic failures aided the recruitment. Finally, this work found that an incomplete process of post-war transition can fuel the process of political and religious radicalization and create a wider enabling web for recruitment. To this end, the thesis argues for further research that employs much more individual setting and evidence based inquiry.<br>