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The Global Appeal of ISIS by Dr Lydia Wilson

  • Seminar Room G, Manor Road Building, Manor Road Oxford OX1 3UQ (map)

A light sandwich lunch is provided for seminar participants at 12:50.

Over 100 countries worldwide have seen citizens go to join ISIS, mostly fighters, but also wives, single women and families. Two and a half years after the Caliphate was declared by self-proclaimed Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (June 2014), the Islamic State is on the defensive militarily, but the fundamental appeal of an Islamic utopia on earth, free of Western decadence, run according to God’s own law, has not diminished. This talk uses extensive interviewing with former ISIS fighters from Iraq to Kosovo to illustrate just what these drivers are, in the process illustrating what is resonating from the propaganda of the Islamic State, and shows that this threat is not going away: we are simply not dealing with the root causes, which are inextricably linked with issues of identity and belonging far more than the Islamist theology which dominates Western analysis.

Lydia Wilson is a Research Fellow at the Centre for the Resolution of Intractable Conflict, Harris Manchester College, University of Oxford, a Senior Fellow and Field Director at Artis International, and holds affiliated research positions at the University of Cambridge and City University New York. Current research involves extensive fieldwork in the Middle East exploring motivations and pathways to violence, interviewing a range of those involved in conflicts. Before coming to Oxford, Lydia was a Mellon Fellow at City University New York’s Graduate Center, collaborating on a project for the study of religion. Lydia holds a PhD in medieval Arabic philosophy, an MPhil in History and Philosophy of Science and a BA in Natural Sciences, all from the University of Cambridge. She edits the Cambridge Literary Review and writes journalism as well as academic articles. A book on ISIS, based on experiences in the field in Iraq, is in preparation.