"The Civil Sphere and Radicalization" Conference in Scotland


In October of 2017, I spent a week in Scotland attending "The Civil Sphere and Radicalization" Conference at the University of Aberdeen, co-sponsored by Professor Jeff Alexander (Yale University) and Professor Trevor Stack (Centre for Citizenship, Civil Society, and Rule of Law [CISRUL], University of Aberdeen).

As the program description states, the conference focused on the following: "Constitutional democracies by definition afford a range of opportunities for political expression including protest. Why, then, do some movements choose to engage in more radical forms of protest, such as civil disobedience, hacktivism and jihadi terrorism, and to what effect? Our conference will transform understanding of radical protest, first by cross-fertilizing existing debates through comparing species of radical protest, and second, by explaining radical protest not only in terms of the perceived inadequacy of existing institutional channels for dissent, but also and crucially, drawing on Jeffrey Alexander’s The Civil Sphere, in terms of the lack of response from the mainstream social movements which Alexander dubs the “civil sphere”. For Alexander, Northern media’s response to Martin Luther King’s civil disobedience shows how civil spheres can respond sympathetically to radical protest, recognizing a movement’s causes as “civil”.  Our speakers will focus on the role of established civil spheres in producing as well as responding to radical protest."

It was a great weekend applying Alexander's civil sphere theory to the topic of global radicalism with many great scholars from around the world. I participated as a graduate student, reading the papers, and giving feedback and asking questions during the paper sessions. Thank you to Dr. Alexander for inviting me to attend!

Anne Taylor