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Research Prevents Radicalisation

Dr Maja Halilovic-Pastuovic’s research focuses on issues of ethnicity, conflict and radicalisation in Europe and the Balkans. Halilovic-Pastuovic came to TCD in 2003 to complete an MPhil in Ethnic and Racial Studies, writing her dissertation on the experiences of Bosnian refugee women in Ireland, followed by an IRC-funded PhD in the Department of Sociology. Her approach is one which seeks to bridge the gap between sociology and peace studies, offering not only insight into the context of ethnic and religious conflict, but practical resources to tackle them.

An important question emerged while Halilovic-Pastuovic was conducting research for her master’s dissertation: why did Bosnians living in Ireland not wish to return to their homeland?

The Bosnian conflict began in 1992 following the breakup of former Yugoslavia and was fought between the region’s three major ethnic and religious groups: Bosnian Muslims, Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats. This bitter conflict included acts of ethnic cleansing and resulted in the deaths of around 100,000 people and the displacement of 2.2 million. Although the conflict was brought to an end in 1995 following the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement, many Bosnians still have not returned.

Halilovic-Pastuovic’s interviewees suggested that one of the major reasons for not returning was that they did not want their children to receive segregated schooling. Many schools in Bosnia operate under the ‘TSUOR’ or ‘two schools under one roof’ principle, where students from differing ethnic groups attend separate classes and have separate curricula. This segregation can be written into schools even at an architectural level: separate corridors conveying groups of students to their classrooms, ensuring different ethnicities do not mix. Halilovic-Pastuovic’s theory that segregated schooling was escalating national tensions lead her to begin her next major research project, GATED.

Halilovic-Pastuovic received funding for GATED in 2016 as part of a prestigious Marie Curie Individual Global Fellowship. The project forms a collaboration between Trinity and the University of Denver in the US, investigating whether segregated education is a potential factor in youth ethno-radicalization, which could lead to future violence and political instability in the region.

Halilovic-Pastuovic’s research on youth radicalisation has since expanded: in 2016 she received an Enterprise Ireland Travel Grant that allowed her to travel to Brussels and explore opportunities for future international research collaboration. This led on to a successful application to the EU Horizon 2020 ‘Secure Societies’ programme to research new policies and communication tools for the law enforcement and security agencies tasked with preventing violent radicalisation.

The PERICLES project brings together researchers from Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands, Greece, France, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Spain, and the UK in order to propose a comprehensive approach to preventing violent radicalisation and extremism. Unlike other projects that focus on particular extremist groups or areas of the political spectrum, PERICLES considers violent left-wing and right-wing, as well as religious, ideologies. It focuses on the role of digital propaganda and whether radicalisation can occur solely or primarily through the internet. The project’s outcome will be a toolkit that can be used not only by law enforcement and security agencies, but also prison officers, social workers, teachers, and family members of those affected by – or vulnerable to – violent radicalisation.

PERICLES reflects two values which are central to Halilovic-Pastuovic’s research: interdisciplinary knowledge – bridging the gaps between different fields and approaches – and research that results in practical outcomes. In the future she would like to see European funders opening channels to help young people already involved in social movements get funding and opportunities to be more socially active.


- Article written by Dr. Kate Roddy, Research Projects Officer, Trinity Research & Innovation

Trinity Research and Innovation (TR&I) provides support and advice along the ‘concept to impact’ continuum, starting with research funding applications, through to contract negotiation and signature, intellectual property management, the exploitation of research outputs via consultancy, licensing, and formation of campus spin outs.  For more information: 

Maja Halilovic-Pastuovic

Maja Halilovic-Pastuovic is a Senior Research Fellow and Marie Curie Research Fellow in the School of Religion.

Maja holds a BSc (Hons) degree in psychology, an MPhil in ethnic and racial studies and a PhD in sociology.

A graduate of Trinity, her current research focuses on radicalisation related issues.