From Cognitive Environment to French Youth Engagement in Jihad

Photo credit: Eduardo Soriano-Castillo via / CC BY-ND

This essay explores the cognitive environment of radicalised youth and describes how the path of engagement in the Syrian revolution is radicalised. Using a case study, I analyse the experiences, personality and motivation of Elodie, a young woman from Saint-Denis in France. Elodie's story provides a context to examine how socially constructed processes become individualised. The approach taken in the study adopts anthropologist David Mandelbaum's concept of engagement to understand its meaning. Based on this approach, the study considers engagement as a phase of shaping convictions, not as its result. As such, engagement does not appear to be fixed, final, and unchangeable; rather it is dynamic. Constructing Elodie's trajectory will help in understanding the present pattern of meaning of what I call the ‘space of jihadist (fighters)’ and revolutionaries, as related to the Syrian conflict.