Trauma perspective on vulnerability to radicalization

Project manager on SASS

Assist. Prof. Janja Mikulan, Ph.D.

Foto 1 Janja


Javna agencija za znanstvenoraziskovalno in inovacijsko dejavnost Republike Slovenije – ARIS

Project type/Action: Call for (co-)funding of research projects 2023; Basic Postdoc Research Project

Project duration: 24 months
Start of the project: 2023
End of the project: 2025

Project description: 

In the contemporary global landscape, pervasive traumatic experiences have resulted in substantial human and societal repercussions. Such traumas are frequently precipitated by a deleterious cultural milieu that is maladaptive for human well-being, giving rise to numerous pathologies rooted in stress, economic deprivation, social isolation, climatic alterations, and environmental deterioration. Communities and individuals ensnared within cyclical traumatic responses often become nuclei for intensified sociocultural challenges and aggressive behaviors, inclusive of political violence. While there exist notable theoretical progressions in deciphering the radicalization continuum, elucidating the multifaceted interplay of precipitating factors remains a formidable endeavor. A particularly promising investigational trajectory that has surfaced recently pertains to the application of trauma-informed paradigms to radicalization trajectories, a notion that galvanized the inception of this post-doctoral undertaking. Additionally, the project will integrate a social-ecological systems perspective on radicalization, proffering a cohesive framework to delineate the myriad individual, societal, and cultural determinants and their confluence that potentially catalyzes an individual’s affiliation with extremist factions.

The project will focus on two highly traumatized and radicalized regions, Middle East, and Western Balkans, with special focus on Lebanon and Bosnia and Hercegovina (BiH).

Given the nascent nature of this research domain and the requisite for more empirical substantiation, the project will employ a Mixed Methods Research approach, with an emphasis on the Exploratory Sequential Design. This methodological approach facilitates the extraction of nuanced and comprehensive datasets, facilitating a juxtaposition of quantitative and qualitative insights.

The research outcomes promise to be multifariously advantageous. They aim to furnish avant-garde insights into the intricate radicalization mechanism, capacitating scholars, practitioners, and communities to enhance their grasp of radicalization’s etiology and consequently, devise efficacious strategies for prevention and counter-radicalization. 

Project main aim: 

The main objectives of the project are to a) expand and deepen the knowledge on how trauma increases the vulnerability to radicalization; b) explore the interaction between different factors on micro, mezzo, and macro levels for radicalization.


The project is structured into seven delineated work packages (WPs) which encompass: project oversight and administrative tasks; conceptualization and execution of the qualitative component; methodological extrapolation based on qualitative findings; blueprinting and realization of the quantitative component; analytical interpretation of affiliated outcomes; strategic communication and knowledge dissemination; intrinsic evaluation metrics; and supervisory provisions.

During the project’s initial operational stage, systematic interviews will be administered to individuals in Lebanon and Bosnia and Herzegovina who have undergone radicalization processes. This qualitative exploration aims to: a) delineate traumatic occurrences and individual traumatic histories, emphasizing particularly consequential early-life experiences, while also elucidating the intrinsic significance these individuals ascribe to such experiences; b) discern potential transmutations of individual traumas into narratives of collective experiences; and c) investigate the interconnections between foundational (micro) factors, prominently trauma, and intermediary (meso) and overarching (macro) elements.

Subsequent to this, the second operational stage will leverage insights from the preliminary phase to: a) engineer a quantitative tool geared towards assessing specific variables that elucidate the correlation between trauma exposure and heightened susceptibility to radicalization; and b) quantitatively evaluate the predisposition to radicalization, viewed through the trauma lens, among the youth demographic in both Lebanon and BiH.

Conclusively, the terminal stage of the project will amalgamate all derived insights, which will be articulated cohesively within scholarly articles and disseminated across various publication mediums.

Bibliographical references of the project leader Janja Mikulan (

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