International Symposium about Extremism and Education at the University of Oxford

Growing up radical -research group organised an international symposium “Identities and Resilience in Times of Enhanced Nationalisms: Perspectives from Finland and the UK” at the Department of Education, University of Oxford,on the 25th of October 2019. The event was supported by a grant received from the Finnish Institute in London. 

The symposium focused on offering critical multi-disciplinary analyses of these geopolitical complexities by focusing on young people’s values and worldviews constructions. The event consisted of five keynote presentations. 

Professor Masooda Bano, Department of International Development, University of Oxford, UK gave a presentations about Islamic education and Muslim Identity Formation in the UK. Her presentation addressed the social contexts and platforms that have helped you Muslims in their identity negotiations as British Muslim. Her presentation brought forward that the ways in which the Muslim identity was supported through Islamic schooling differed in the two cities that the study focused on. However, in both contexts there was strong commitment to the transferring of Islamic knowledge as well as as the will to find ways of to connect the British identity and the Muslim identity was considered important. Masooda also brought forward the role of public schools as potential places that induce segregation and othering. 


Professor Essi Viding, Faculty of Brain Sciences, University College London, UK gave a presentation about the development of psychopathology. In her presentation she addressed the complex relations that genes and environments play in shaping people’s behaviour. Her presentation brought forward the complex ways in which genetic factors, neural features and pscyhological factors may influence people’s behaviour and how these are further shaped by environmental factors. Her presentations underlined the importance to provide support for parent, educator and clinicians to better understand difficult behaviour and for findings ways to implement socialisation strategies. Essi also emphasised the importance of having genetically informative and neurocognitive research included in studies aiming to understand the environmental risks of psychopathology. 


Professor Ann Phoenix, UCL Institute of Education, UK, gave a presentation about Masculinities and Ethnicities in New Times. Her presentation was based on a study conducted together with Marja Peltola with 11-14-year-old boys living in Helsinki, Finland. In her presentation Ann provided examples about the ways in which young males discussed issues related to masculinity, racism, and multiculturalism. Her presentation brought forward ways in which racism is normalised both by young people and adults. It also shed light on the ways ‘dissing’ is a part of the interaction between young people and thus it cannot always be taken as face value. Ann’s presentation highlighted the intersections of masculinities, space and place as an element that shapes the way young males engage with ethnicity and multiculturalism. 


Professor Quassim Cassam, Department of Philosophy, Warwick University, UK, presented a philosophical analysis of what he defined as an ‘extremism mindset’. He framed a mindset that includes typical patterns of preoccupations, attitudes, emotions, and thinking styles shared by extremists and focused on identifying elements that make an extremist mindset distinctive. In his talk Quassim presented the idea of epistemic vices, such as close-mindedness, and epistemic virtues, such as cognitive openness that may be useful notions in educational contexts. His presentation brought forward that extremism is fuelled by certain natural human tendencies, but that through education its is possible to cultivate those types of virtues that act as corrective and help buffering extremism. 


Professor Arto Kallioniemi, Professor of Religious Education, University of Helsinki, FIN, UNESCO Chair on Values, Dialogue and Human Rights provided an introduction to the work that UNESCO has done for the prevention of violent extremism. Arto also presented some key ideas from the Finnish teacher education that highlighted the importance of providing in-service training for teachers about extremism. 


In addition to the invited keynote speakers our Growing Up Radical -research team, professor Arniika Kuusisto, associate professor Liam Gearon and post-doctoral researchers Pia Koirikivi and Saija Benjamin, presented the theoretical and pedagogical framework of the project and shared some initial findings from the survey data (N=3405) that the project has collected from Finnish upper-secondary educational institutions during the autumn 2019. The initial findings highlight the important role that educational institutions may have as places for open and critical discussions, but this necessitates that the school structures support the creation of safe and trustful interaction between teachers and students.