Radicalisation and Resilience

Description and Timescale: The urban environment: Mirror and mediator of radicalisation? Was a project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council under its New Security and Global Uncertainties programmes. It ran between 2007-2010.

Project summary: The initial assumption underpinning this project was that community polarisation and even radicalisation (as well as its opposite: community cohesion) might have some material aspects and mirror and mediate social trends. The aim of this project was to assist policy makers, planners, architects, urban designers and ordinary citizens in the creation of urban environments that are conducive to the friendly encounter of different social groups and thus help to tackle stereotypisation, societal polarisation and possibly even radicalisation. This required a better understanding of the recursive, socio-technical dynamics in cities with polarisation trends. The project thus examined whether the dynamics between social trends and the urban environment differ in cities with different patterns of polarisation and radicalisation and how this relationship can be steered towards a more amicable constellation of artefactual and social conditions. It did this by:

  • identifying and categorise the ways in which polarisation becomes materially imprinted in cities characterised by conflict, polarisation, stereotypisation and radicalisation;
  • analysing the design features of cities (buildings, infrastructures, public spaces, etc.) that are conducive to the generation and acceleration of polarisation and radicalisation;
  • exploring the possibility of steering the momentum of co-evolution between social conditions and the urban environment in a way to facilitate friendly encounters between groups that would otherwise diverge;
  • assessing the transferability of empirical findings between and beyond the case study cities.

These questions were tested in four carefully chosen cities with different types of tensions between certain sections of the population: Belfast, Beirut, Berlin and Amsterdam.

 Lead partners include: The Project was led by Ralf brand (University of Manchester) assisted by Jon Coaffee (University of Birmingham).

 Supporting Partners: Academic and community partners from the four case study cities (Amsterdam, Berlin, Beirut and Belfast) were engaged in the project from inception to completion.

 Key outputs:

  • Fregonese, S and; Brand, R. (2009) Polarization as a Socio-Material Phenomenon: A Bibliographical Review. Journal of Urban Technology 16, no. 2/3, 9-33.
  • Brand, R. (2009) Urban Artefacts and Social Practices in a Contested City.” Journal of Urban Technology 16, no. 2/3, 35-60
  • Brand, R (2009) Written and Unwritten Building Conventions in a Contested City: The Case of Belfast.” Urban Studies 46, no. 12, 2669-2689

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