Globalized and Agonized?: The Arguments For and Against the Role of Cultural Exchange in Response to the Radicalization Risk of Young Adults


On Thursday, October 11, from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm, START researcher Max Erdemandi will deliver a talk on radicalization at START Headquarters. This event is free and open to the public, but RSVPs are appreciated. If you are not a START affiliate, please email Eva Coll ( if you're interested in attending for more information.

A particular thread of radicalization literature is concerned with identifying and tracing individual, group and environmental radicalization indicators among immigrants in North American and Western European countries. The focus has remained on finding some form of correlation and/or causation among the level of education, employment status, mental health, and family ties of mostly young Muslim immigrants to explain how radicalization occurs and why these individuals turn to violent extremism. From there, researchers have suggested patterns to help develop scientific methods of detection, prevention, and response to radical extremist ideologies.

Dealing with immigrant communities, however, patterns may make more harm than good. I would argue that it rather requires a close examination of the cultural dimension of the phenomenon, and diverting from focusing almost exclusively on one religious community. The experience of a young individual from a particular sociocultural background relocating to a different society, especially during formative years, alters their psychosocial development, and the way they define fundamental ideas like “the self,” “home,” “belonging,” in addition to forming their personal (mis)perceptions and (mis)knowledge about host societies. They question the socio-cultural norms in their “homeland” as well as ingrained views on politics, sexuality, religiosity etc., potentially leading to an identity crisis, clash with both societies, alienation, and loss of purpose - all of which have been established as triggers in the existing radicalization literature. Focusing on the phenomenon of short as well as long-term cultural exchange allows us to approach susceptibility and/or aversion to (violent) extremist ideologies, and design better P/CVE strategies.

Max Erdemandi is a Project Manager & Researcher within the University of Maryland’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). Prior to joining START, Mr. Erdemandi worked as Project Coordinator, supervising a Minerva Grant project (DoD) at Duke’s Social Science Research Institute on understanding, measuring, modeling strategic influence and resilience.  In addition to his Minerva work, Mr. Erdemandi engages in research on U.S.-sponsored education and cultural programs as public diplomacy and counter-radicalization efforts.

Mr. Erdemandi holds an A.M. in Interdisciplinary Studies from Duke University, and an A.B. in American and Cultural Studies from Hacettepe University in Ankara. He has also completed course work in political science, international relations and quantitative methods at Istanbul Bilgi University. Mr. Erdemandi has a strong interest in mixed methods research in a diverse list of areas, including public diplomacy and counter-radicalization, grand strategy and strategic policymaking, cultural and gender studies, popular culture and social media. He has bilingual proficiency in Turkish, and limited proficiency in Italian and German.