SLEEPING BEAUTY'S SECRET: IDENTITY TRANSFORMATION IN FEMALE SUICIDE TERRORISTS
Lynn, Judith W.
Brannan, David W.
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Women have been active participants in terrorism throughout modern history; yet the existing body of literature dedicated to dissecting and understanding the motivations of foreign suicide terrorists largely omits gender as an expression of discourse. This thesis uses a case study method to investigate how identity formation and transformation increases vulnerability to radicalization in women who become suicide terrorists. Social identity theory is applied to two suicide terrorist groups with named female subgroups to look for patterns of dynamics in the women’s social relationships and social and individual identities that indicate how identity transformation influences radicalization. Noted differences in social roles and gender-based in-group expectations between men and women were found to be significant for both groups and contribute to uniquely complex identity formation in the women. Themes of internal conflict from competing influences and shame that threatens in-group connection are common to the women in both groups, and appear to be linked to increased vulnerability to suggestion and engagement in desperate behavior designed to preserve or restore value. The case study analysis shows sufficient cause to indicate further study of radicalization along gender lines is worthwhile, as it may improve early identification of women who are most vulnerable to radicalization and inform counter-recruiting measures for women, both domestically and abroad.
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