The Radicals and the Radicalized – Placeless Souls in the Illusive Search for Heroism and Meaning

Monday, 11 July 2016: 09:10
Location: Hörsaal 48 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Joe ALIZZI, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
Implicit in the term ‘radical movements’ is the under-analysed idea of a physical and conceptual shift from one locus to another. What encourages individuals to move from a particular centre of experience to another? What is attractive about joining a group such as ISIS, where often one will potentially face life-threatening situations and an unclear future? This paper seeks to explore the points of movement – the constructed centres of identity and security, examining reasons why individuals and groups ‘move’ from what is considered ‘moderate’ positioning to what is considered a ‘radicalised’ locus. The paper utilises phenomenological reasoning that arises from geographical concepts proposed by Edward Relph and expanded upon by David Seamon to sociologically examine the construction of individual and social group identities connected to spaces and contingent places (locus) of security, and how a disrupted ‘existential insideness’ leads to a loss of meaning. To facilitate an understanding of the human search for meaning, the paper also utilises key concepts such as heroism and socio-cultural construction of meaning put forward by Ernest Becker to explore the construction of ‘place’ as a centre for action. It is argued that when a secure locus is disrupted, so is the possibility for individuals and communities to pursue meaning. This prompts individuals and/or groups to restore their existing locus or make ‘moves’ to re-establish their ‘significant centres of [their] immediate experiences of the world’ (Relph 1976:141). Through culturally constructed conceptualisations of heroic acts, ‘radical movements’ are effectively individual and group efforts to seek meaning through heroism and to restore a locus of security where the pursuit of meaning is possible for the rest of the group.