The Process of Radicalization: Transforming the Habitus to Become a Religious Radical

Monday, 11 July 2016: 09:40
Location: Hörsaal 48 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Andre ARMBRUSTER, Helmut Schmidt University, Germany
A religious radical is not born as such; he or she is being socialized to become a radical. Relying on Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of habitus, becoming a religious radical implies a change in the personal habitus. The habitus of an individual structures his or her actions by enabling some and by barring others. Bourdieu (1984) distinguishes between a primary and a specific habitus. The primary habitus depends on the family, the possession of the different kinds of capital (economic, cultural, and social) and the position within the class structure (e.g., lower-class worker). The specific habitus is by contrast related to a field; for example, the habitus of an experienced broker allows her to know where to invest next. My hypothesis is that being a religious radical is strongly connected to a specific habitus. In this paper I will examine the process of radicalization, and more specifically, how the primary habitus of an individual transforms into the specific habitus of a religious radical. In addition I will focus on what kind of primary habitus (e.g., middle class) is necessary in order to transform it into a specific habitus of a religious radical.

Empirically I will focus on the recruitment process of the Lebanese militant organization Hezbollah. Becoming a member of Hezbollah is a lengthy process of religious and political education that usually lasts for years. By conceptualizing the Hezbollah as a “greedy institution” (Coser 1974), I will focus on the various strategies that Hezbollah utilizes so that the recruit will finally adopt the classificatory schemes of Hezbollah. These strategies affect all domains of the social life of the recruit: the personal relationships are regulated, the life style is determined (e.g., clothing, food consumption, etc.) and personal habits will be changed (e.g., how to speak or to behave).