- banner1
+ | -

CITIES IN THE 21st CENTURY: A Primer

Book Review

John Matthew Barlow reviews John Lorinc's new book, Cities: A Groundwork Guide. Last year marked the first time that the majority of the world's population lived in cities; Lorinc's introduction to the subject offers a timely, and lively, critique of the issues confronting cities and humanity as a whole as we confront this radical restructuring of our way of living in the urban century.

Read more...

  • Cities: A Guide

    Book Review

    John Matthew Barlow reviews John Lorinc's new book, Cities: A Groundwork Guide. Last year marked the first time that the majority of the world's population lived in cities; Lorinc's introduction to the subject offers a timely, and lively, critique of the issues confronting cities and humanity as a whole as we confront this radical restructuring of our way of living in the urban century.

    Read more...

  • The Hurt Locker

    Review

    Eric Randolph reviews Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker, and notes a shift in film-making sensibilities from the war-as-heroics paradigm of earlier Hollywood, towards the everyman's war-as-hell model that has now lodged itself in Western cultural consciousness.

    Read...

  • Architecture & Biopolitics

    Interview

    Berlin-based writer Daniel Miller's October 2008 interview with Swedish philosopher and SITE Magazine Editor-In-Chief Sven-Olov Wallenstein, on his new book Biopolitics and the Emergence of Modern Architecture (Princeton Architectural Press, 2009).

    Read...

  • Wired For War

    Symposium

    The second symposium in CTlab's 2009 series, focused on Peter Singer's new book, Wired For War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century (Penguin Press: 2009), ran from 30 March to 2 April. Singer and half a dozen scholars from the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and Austria debated the use and ethics of robots in war.

    Read...

  • DEFCON 17

    Current Intelligence

    Tim Stevens reports back from the DEFCON 17 conference in Las Vegas: are hackers thinking meat isn't just meat anymore?

    Read...

CONTRIBUTORS

Editor: Michael A. Innes // posts // web
Contributor: Matthew Barlow // posts // web
Contributor: Christopher Albon // posts // web
Contributor: Charli Carpenter // posts // web
Contributor: Bradley Evans // posts // web
Contributor: Eric Randolph // posts // web
Contributor: Tim Stevens // posts // web
Contributor: Marisa Urgo // posts // web
Alumni: Kenneth Anderson // Marc Tyrrell

From the Bookstore
Comments
Tuesday
12Jan2010

Our Elusive Radicals

Every once in a while, the American media goes through a spasm of reflection where pundits and analysts explore reasons for why terrorists target the United States.  Author and analyst Jessica Stern's Sunday op-ed in the Washington Post provides the most recent example of the genre.  I talk about this, because I sense that an answer to the question of why will probably be found in the suburban ethnic cacophony of Northern Virginia.  It is an ethnically diverse and solidly working and middle class region that happens to produce a large number of radicalized Muslims.
 
There is a Persian kabob house at the intersection of Little River Turnpike and Beauregard Street.  If you take a window seat and look out across the street you will see the typical landscape of Northern Virginia: an ethnic "strip mall" along a busy road.  It's just one small commercial development among thousands in the crowded suburbs of Washington, DC.  
 
The mall's road sign is symbolic of the community that tens of thousands of Muslim immigrants now call home.  At the top of the sign is the Grand Mart logo. Grand Mart is a large ethnic supermarket chain, catering to practically every immigrant community in Northern Virginia (I wrote about a similar store at the other blog last year). There is also a pho, a "pollo place," a traditional Asian cafe, a sizable "dollar store," and, yes, a halal meat market.  Far from being isolated in an urban ethnic ghetto, Northern Virginia's  immigrant Muslim community is solidly working and middle class and coexists within this ethnic cacophony where words like "pollo," "halal" and "pho" are commonly seen and heard side-by-side.
 
Numerous studies including a recent US Department of Justice report released last week, conclude that there is no common narrative for radicalization, and no consistent profile for a violent Muslim radical.  In the words of a recent LA Times article, "...researchers seeking lessons on preventing extremism found no definitive pattern of how the suspects turned to violence and no geographic center of radicalization in the U.S."  However, if researchers can find out why this networked and interdependent community in Northern Virginia produces so many violent Muslim radicals, I think it would greatly improve our ability to understand our adversary.

Reader Comments (3)

proximity to the foreign policy-making elite? (am brainstorming here - no empirical basis for these comments)

this could work in a few ways hypothetically... i'm thinking, do people who live in and around the beltway have a greater consciousness of the political life of our nation and especially its foreign policy? is it possible that whether they do or not they are perceived to do so and to be best networked in that geographic space relative to others who live farther away and are they therefore more likely to be targets of extremist recruiters hoping to exploit those networks and that proximity? or could it be cognitive dissonance? perhaps the juxtaposition of a snail's eye view of US hegemonic practices and embeddedness in a diaspora affected negatively by those practices or in a many-shaded transnational religious identity catalyzes action when combined with other permissive factors in heightened ways...

Jan 13, 2010 at 13:21 | Unregistered CommenterCharli Carpenter

I've linked to you here: http://skepticalbureaucrat.blogspot.com/2010/01/undefined.html

I drive past that particular ethnic strip mall - and many others - on my daily commute, and have often thought along these lines.

Jan 16, 2010 at 17:17 | Unregistered CommenterTSB

Hi, Charli,
I tried to post this the other day, but tech difficulties prevented it:

Good question, Charli, and a good Idea that has me thinking. Proximity to DC's vortex of strategy, policy and personalities could create a greater sensitivity to foreign policy and produce to some extent a generation of young men and women who are clued in and seeking a context. However, I also suspect that ethnic middle class suburban life could also influence the choices these young men and women make. In this context radical Islam could be interpreted as just one type of radical life among many available choices to an educated and networked working- to middle-class generation.

Radical recruiters could just be going to where the Muslims are. Northern VA has a large Muslim population. It's the perfect place to find young men willing to die for a cause greater than themselves. There is also a lot money here, and is a perfect place for fund raising for those "widows and orphans" overseas.

This topic fascinates me because Northern Virginia's characteristics -- suburban, not urban, ethnically integrated, relatively wealthy, educated -- challenges continued conventional wisdom about the motivating factors for radicalization. Oddly, I think it's a conventional wisdom based on European diaspora models where radicalization tends to occur in poor, poorly-integrated communities. I can't say much about, say, Detroit or Boston, but I don't see that model in effect here in NoVa.

There are datasets -- like Sageman's -- that challenge conventional wisdom, but they focus on individuals. There's nothing I've seen that looks at total environments. I hope that a some ambitious sociologists or anthropologist begins to seek answers in this very complex environment.

Jan 18, 2010 at 13:59 | Registered CommenterMarisa Urgo

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
|
 
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>