Countering radicalization: a life story approach
The Lifestories Approach: A life story is a personal narrative, a story of personal experience, and thus a subjective view of one’s own life. It consists of important events, experiences and feelings in life, and may cover the time from birth to the present. The lifestories usually uncover the silenced voices of vulnerable individuals.
Lifestories are authentic, people-centred, personal experiences depicting everyday life. They emerge from personal struggles and are filled with emotion, which help establishing genuine personal connection with the “other”. They cross boundaries, as everybody has a life story that needs to be told. For instance, the story of Anne Frank has come to represent the experience of not only one child but six million victims of the Holocaust, and has thus made an indispensable contribution to our understanding of the Holocaust. They impact the subjective perceptions of human beings by building empathy, relations with others and ultimately constructing alternative spaces for dialogue and peace.
Successes have been reported in psychology and sociology by using life story interviews to enhance the identities of patients and citizens. Therefore, lifestories have capacity to reduce complexity in challenging and taboo topics, and humanize and destigmatize on the one hand, but on the other hand also provide a deterrent. By using lifestory interviews to enhance the identity, then the life story approach presents a theory of change that could successfully alleviate security challenges such as, decrease ethnic, far right, and religious challenges. This is an innovative way of countering and preventing violence.
Lastly, the lifestories can be used for dual purposes: researching and creating impact in the society. They provide an opportunity to conduct in depth interdisciplinary research, combining oral history and security studies. In addition, the lifestory interviews can also be used in practice by translating them into videos to increase societal impact and valorize the research.
Lifestory Narrative Types: The narratives show stories of individuals who have disengaged from violence, or who have been exposed to violence, whether directly or indirectly. These individuals show how they reject the violent path, and instead endorse peaceful means to resolve their conflicts. Broadly speaking, lifestory videos provide solutions on how to counter, prevent and resist violence, and most importantly they portray the roles that one can play in supporting vulnerable individuals and communities at risk. Thus, there are six types of lifestory narratives, namely (i) resilient, (ii) alternative, (iii) counter and (iv) destigmatization.
Interviewee Types: The interviews are authentic and given by different types of individuals, such as directly affected individuals, and exposed individuals to conflict. The directly affected individuals are formerly radicalised individuals, both homegrown and foreign fighters. The exposed individuals are (i) family members, such as mothers, fathers, children, siblings, cousins, (ii) friends, (iii) community observers, (iv) religious and ethnic officials, and (v) individuals approached by terrorist organizations.