19 December 2018

Al Jazeera Documentary Showcases Professor Mohamedou’s Research on Political Violence

On 18 December 2018, Al Jazeera International (English) premiered a new documentary on violent extremism featuring the work of Graduate Institute International History Professor and Chair of the International History Department, Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou, notably his recently-released book, A Theory of ISIS – Political Violence and the Transformation of the Global Order.

Entitled Rethinking Radicalisation and directed by independent filmmaker Dan Davies of BlackLeaf Films, the documentary follows Professor Mohamedou as he examines the contemporary question of political violence and the different policies that have been adopted over the past years, problematically and inconclusively, to address it and remedy its impact.

The film goes with Professor Mohamedou round the world as he meets with scholars—such as Professor Olivier Roy at the European University Institute in Florence—interviews international think-tank experts at a conference and social workers in London and holds a roundtable with students at the University of London and with Moroccan youth at a music festival in Casablanca to discuss the nature of extremism, the language about it, the representation of political violence and the lesser-discussed social aspects of stigmatisation and discrimination amidst a securitised environment.

Professor Mohamedou explained that “above and beyond the division it sows, the contemporary racialised representation of terrorism has essentially become notionally and practically untenable, with the concept of terrorism itself in effect in a state of deformation because of the elasticity it has been given since the 11 September 2001 attacks.” He remarked that “the weaponisation of social work, the martialisation of education and the nurturing of a Big Brother mentality on this central issue of our times have been dangerously eating away at the fabric of social ties and democracy itself in the North, and things are not much better in a neo-authoritarian Global South replaying that matrix”.

Filmmaker Dan Davies notes that: “Terrorism is horrific, but the fact that something is inexcusable doesn't make it inexplicable. What impresses me about Dr Mohamedou's work as a historian is that he sees violent activism as following in the long history of political violence that stretches from the anarchists in the early 20th century to Baader Meinhof in Germany in the 1960s and 1970s, right up to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group (ISIL, also known as ISIS) and the far right today.”

The 26-minute documentary, which concludes a six-part series entitled “Radicalised Youth”, will be rerun on 21 December at 16:30 GMT. It can be watched online here: https://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/radicalised-youth/radicalised-youth.html

Also, read the new op-ed article by Professor Mohamedou, “Deciphering Extremism” on Al Jazeera.