Christopher Ruddy's Thesis Presentation

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Christopher Ruddy's Thesis Presentation

We invite you to attend the Thesis Presentation of Christopher Ruddy, a Doctor of Philosophy candidate within the School of Social Sciences, in the Faculty of Arts, Business and Law.

Title: Terrorist Minds: A multi-headed approach to understanding and responding to terrorists

Presenter: Christopher Ruddy

When: Wednesday 5 December from 3.30 to 4.30pm

Where: Building E, 1.04

Abstract: Terrorism continues to threaten peace, stability and state and human security. Organisations subscribing to the Salafi jihadist ideology, such as al-Qaeda and the self-described Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) present a particular threat. These groups remain active across various parts of the world and pose significant and persistent challenges to international peace and security. Adapting to counter-terrorism strategy, ISIL has organised and inspired various unsophisticated, remote-controlled and lone-actor attacks. Governments, researchers, security commentators and others attempt to understand the minds of terrorists, the causes of their behaviour, their motivations, their mechanisms of influence and the structural conditions from which they emerge. This study addresses these challenges.

A literature review was conducted to explore theoretical approaches to terrorist motivation generally. More specifically, case studies examined the structural conditions of locations identified as hotbeds for recruitment into Salafi jihadist organisations, including ISIL. Analyses of the discourses of sheikhs identified as being the most prominent influencers among Salafi jihadist foreign fighters engaged in conflict in Syria were used to investigate mechanisms of influence.

Contemporary empirical research points to the rationality of terrorists. It also underscores the need for a more nuanced understanding of the plurality of terrorist roles, including lone actors, who represent a psychologically distinct group. Case studies of terrorist hotbeds demonstrated particular structural preconditions and precipitating factors help set the stage for terrorists. Discourse analyses revealed the ways in which prominent influencers convey political messages, promote the Salafi jihadist ideology and subtly harness social psychological processes to facilitate the psychological preparation for violence and martyrdom; and ultimately appropriate Sunni Islam to coalesce followers and direct them according to political objectives.

This study helps clarify how individual and social psychology apply to terrorism and it synthesises prior research. Moreover, it argues that earlier theories are limited in scope and lack explanatory power. It proposes Multiplicity Theory of Terrorism as a more comprehensive theory of the causes of becoming a terrorist. This study further argues, reactive, short-sighted, security-only responses which fail to address the root causes that give rise to terrorists will ensure a continued threat.

Bio: Christopher Ruddy is a Political Science PhD candidate at the University of the Sunshine Coast. He previously attained a Bachelor of Psychology with Honours at Griffith University before completing a supervised practice program to obtain general registration as a psychologist with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, whilst employed by Queensland Corrective Services. He has now been employed as a psychologist for more than a decade and has acted in the role, senior psychologist on numerous occasions over the past several years. Christopher also completed a Graduate Diploma in Communication at the University of the Sunshine Coast in 2014, prior to commencing a PhD in 2015.

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We look forward to seeing you there.

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