Research Overview

My name is Mark Youngman and I am a doctoral researcher at the University of Birmingham, UK, exploring the relationship between the ideological evolution of a group engaged in political violence and changes in its internal structure and operating environment.

To do this, I’m using the case study of the North Caucasus insurgency under the banner of the Caucasus Emirate (IK), examining ideological variance and change and their causes. Using Social Movement Theory (SMT), I’m analysing how insurgent leaders have framed the conflict – what they claim to be fighting for and against, and how they seek to mobilise others behind their proposed solutions – and how this framing relates to changes both inside groups and in the environment in which they operate. The research will cover the period between the proclamation of the IK in October 2007 and the death of its third (and, at present, last known) leader in August 2015, and focuses both on the central leadership and that in the republics of Dagestan and Kabardino-Balkaria.

This research seeks to contribute to our understandings of the significance of ideological change using a case study outside of the Arabic-speaking milieu that is the primary focus of research on jihadist groups. In doing so, it will address a neglect in existing literature of the contemporary insurgency’s ideology through a systematic examination of Russian-language primary source material.

My broad research interests cover:

  • Terrorism, insurgency, and other forms of political violence;
  • Ideology and political beliefs;
  • Religion;
  • The North Caucasus;
  • SMT;
  • Leadership;
  • Field research in conflict zones.

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