CFP: Extremism and Subjectivity: Studying the Perspectives of Extremists, Researchers, and Practitioners

VU Amsterdam

4-5 April 2024

This workshop focuses on the subjectivity of three groups of people. First, extremists, conspiracy theorists, fundamentalists, terrorists, and fanatics. Second, academics studying extremism, conspiracy theory, fundamentalism, and related phenomena. Third, practitioners, such as those working in de-radicalization programs, counter-terrorism measures, and resilience efforts. How do these different perspectives relate to one another and how do or should they interact with each other?  What does it mean to consider the ‘subjectivity’ or ‘perspectives’ of extremists, conspiracy theorists, fundamentalists, fanatics, or other sorts of ‘extreme’ believers? Why, if at all, should it be done? ‘Subjectivity’ is a widely used but poorly understood notion in the interdisciplinary literature, so this conference aims to get a firmer grip on it. Relevant questions include:

  • Why is it theoretically and practically important to engage with the subjectivity of conspiracy theorists, extremists, or fundamentalists?  What does it mean to engage with their perspectives or subjectivity? When (if at all) is engagement necessary and why?
  • What constitutes a person’s subjectivity anyway? How should we understand subjectivity, exactly in these contexts?
  • What is the role of the thinker’s affections, passions, and beliefs in causing and sustaining their extremism or fundamentalism? What about grievances, resentment, or anger, among others?
  • What (if any) is the role of religiosity? (How should we understand religiosity consists in?) What work can it do as an explanatory factor for extreme, conspiracy theoretic, and fundamentalist beliefs or behavior?
  • What role (if any) do epistemic and moral virtues and vices play in a person’s subjectivity and how do these notions help us to understand fundamentalism, extremism, or terrorism?
  • Which senses of ‘rationality’, ‘justification’, ‘reasonableness’ and similar terms can be applied to individual extremists and groups of extremists, fundamentalists, and conspiracy theorists and what does that mean for how researchers study their subjectivity?
  • Can researchers or practitioners ‘see’ what matters to extremists, fundamentalists, conspiracy theorists, or terrorists – their goals, motivations, or reasons – from their point of view? What are the ethical implications of (not) trying to do so?

Keynotes:Karen Douglas (University of Kent)Quassim Cassam (Warwick University)
Paul Katsafanas (Boston University)
Naomi Kloosterboer (VU Amsterdam)

Two-day workshop will be with sessions consisting of 4 keynote lectures and 12 additional lectures. The focus will be on the face-to-face meetings, but there will be room for online participation, if necessary.

Abstracts:Please anonymously prepare your abstract with a title (max 500 words, excluding title).

Send to with your full name and affiliation (if any) in the email no later than Sunday, January 7th, 2024. We will send out notice of accepted abstracts no later than January 22nd 20224. We especially encourage early career and people from underrepresented groups to apply.

Organizers:Chris Ranalli, Rik Peels, and Quassim Cassam.

The workshop is part of a series of workshops facilitated by the Extreme Beliefs: The Epistemology and Ethics of Fundamentalism project at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. The project is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Program (Grant Agreement No. 851613).