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Born radicals? Prevent, positivism, and ‘race-thinking’

Discussions on Policy

Palgrave CommunicationsJournal abstract

In the contemporary Western climate, counter-terrorism discourse dealing with so-called Islamic extremism appears to be obsessed with trying to understand the motives behind what prompts somebody to turn to terrorism. This paper will argue that attempts to locate extremist motives in such a way can be seen to reinforce earlier iterations of positivist criminology and race-thinking. Through a critical examination of the works of criminologist Cesare Lombroso, this paper will tease out the interconnections between his ‘criminal types’ thesis, and the British government’s current Prevent policy that seeks to identify ‘extremist types.’ By developing a rich critique of these positivist approaches, the paper will go on to question how we might think beyond the essentialism, reductivism, and racism/Islamophobia inherent within such frameworks. In this way, the paper raises a series of conceptual implications for criminology and terrorism studies, while at the same time, develops a contribution to critical race and ethnicity studies.

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