Emotions, Ideologies, and Unconventional Political Violence

Professor Andrea Ruggeri
University of Oxford
Dr Stefano Costalli
University of Essex


The advent of radical Islamist groups, the birth of Isis and many violent events in the last fifteen years – including the recent attacks in Paris – have shown that ideologies and emotions play central roles in issues related to political violence. On the one hand, it seems clear that massive violence, especially when used against civilians, creates strong emotions that can have dramatic effects on individual and political decisions. On the other hand, emotional shocks due tostate policies that are considered illegitimate can lead individuals toradicalization. Likewise, many insurgent and terrorist groups develop their own ideologies and their strategy can sometimes be understood only taking into account the objectives proposed by those ideologies.

Nonetheless, most of the literature in social sciences on armed mobilization, civil wars and terrorism neglects the role of these non-material factors, focusing only on material factors and developing behavioral models in which rationality is defined in purely utilitarian terms. In a forthcoming piece, output of a project funded by ISRF, on International Security we develop a theory on the role of indignation and radical ideologies in the process of armed mobilization and we test our theory using historical quantitative and qualitative data about the Italian resistance movement against the Nazi-Fascist forces in World War II. We are currently working on a book project to expand our theory to different emotions and other empirical cases.


We propose a multidisciplinary Residential Research Group to further expand our research framework, integrating contributions from political scientists, sociologists, economists and psychologists. The threats that the international system is facing, with the spread of radical ideologies through newmedia and the organization of transnational forms of political violence impose anewway of thinking, integrating knowledge and skills from different disciplines. The finalaim of the workshop is producing a series of contributions to understand how emotions and ideologies enter the processes linked to political violence and what we could possibly do about it. Ideally, these contributions would be collected in a special issue of a scientific journal or in an edited volume, but we also aim at spreading the main results through websites and blogs, using a simple, clear and effective style of communication.

  • Dr Daphna Cannetti University of Haifa
  • Dr Enzo Nussio ETH Zurich
  • Professor Roger Petersen Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Dr Livia Schubige London School of Economics
  • Dr Jacquelien Stekelenburg Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • Professor Thomas Zeitzoff American University