Dr. Akil Awan

Senior Lecturer (equiv. Associate Professor) in
Modern History, Political Violence and Terrorism

About Dr. Awan...

Dr. Awan's research is focused around the history of terrorism, political violence, social movements, protest, and new media, and he has written widely in these areas, both academically and in the popular press.

Dr. Awan is regularly consulted by government bodies, think-tanks, media and other organizations in his fields of expertise. He has served in an advisory capacity to the United Nations, UNDP, UK Home Office, the Foreign Office, the US State Dept., the US Defense Dept., the US Military, Council of Europe, NATO and the OSCE amongst others. Most recently, he served as special advisor on Radicalization to the UK Parliament; as academic expert to the UK House of Lords delegation to Srebrenica; and as expert advisor on Youth Radicalisation to the United Nations.

He also served as the Director of Undergraduate Studies in History and the Deputy Director of the Humanities and Arts Research Centre at Royal Holloway. In addition, he is also Research Associate with the New Political Communication Unit, with the Centre for Public History, and the Centre for Minority Studies. Previously he held a 5-year RCUK Fellowship in ‘The Contemporary History of Faith, Power and Terror’, as well as serving as a researcher on the ESRC project Shifting Securities: News Cultures Before and Beyond the Iraq War.

He is Founder and Chair of the Political Science Association’s Specialist Group on Political Violence & Terrorism.

Institutional Affiliations


Royal Holloway, University of London

Associate Professor / Senior Lecturer in Modern History, Political Violence & Terrorism

- Director of Undergraduate Studies (2013-2015)
- Deputy Director of Humanities and Arts Research Centre (HARC) (2012-2015)
- Lecturer in Modern History, Political Violence & Terrorism (2011-2014)
- RCUK Fellow in Faith, Power & Terror (2006-2011)


Political Science Association

Founder & Chair of the PSA Specialist Group on Political Violence & Terrorism


Select project for brief description

Dr Awan’s principle research concern over the last few years, has focused largely on processes of political radicalisation and the growth of violent extremism. He has published widely on these topics, writing on political disenfranchisement and failed political socialisation; contested identity construction; the role of religion and sacralised violence; legitimation of violence; the role of new media, as well as pioneering the study of ‘autonomous radicalisation online’ in 2006. Moreover, he has held a number of major research awards in order to explore this field, including a prestigious 5-year RCUK Fellowship in the ‘Contemporary History of Faith, Power and Terror’ and a major 2-year ESRC-research grant on Legitimising the Discourses of Radicalisation: Political Violence in the New Media Ecology.

A British Council funded project in collaboration with Georgia State University, and the Carter Center that seeks to explore whether Muslim religious authorities, institutions and local networks can provide solutions to the shared global challenges of social conflict and political violence, and the role digital communications technologies might play in this process?

2-year project that problematises the forthcoming 800th anniversary commemorations of Magna Carta, exploring contemporaneous acts that have betrayed its legacy and ethic, including detention without trial, extraordinary rendition, torture, extrajudicial killings, and even the creation of internment camps like Guantanamo Bay. The project explores how Magna Carta might retain relevance and meaning for a new generation, in light of the moral dissonance engendered by this knowledge.

A new project that seeks to assess the degree to which tendentious historical interpretations of the Crusades and their associated radicalising discourses have been employed by violent extremists like Anders Breivik or al-Qaeda to propound extremist views and negatively influence mainstream audiences. The project also seeks to assess mainstream and popular interpretations and perceptions of the Crusades and the consequences and ramifications of these understandings, which is of particular importance when attempting to gauge audience resilience to radical discourses and narratives, and to assess whether popular countervailing discourses on the Crusades can prove sufficiently inoculating against extremist messages.

  • Young and Radical: Failed Political Socialisation and Radicalisation to Violence – A Comparative Study of 1968 and 2013:  
  • Humanities and Arts Research Institute (HARI) Academic Fellowship – “Kinder Gentler Politics”: ‘The Impact of Heated Political Debates and Abuse on Young People’s Democratic Participation’
  • Mobilizing Media: A Deep and Comparative Analysis of Magazines, Music and Videos in the Context of Terrorism
  • Betraying the Legacy of Magna Carta – Torture, Rendition, and Extrajudicial Killing in the 21st Century
  • New Security Challenges: Political Violence in the new Media Ecology


Mobilizing identities: Narratives of belonging in ISIS media

Awan, A., 2021, (In preparation) Mobilizing Media. Lemieux, A. F. (ed.). Oxford University Press


Historical Approaches to Terrorism Studies

Awan, A., 2020, (In preparation) A Research Agenda for Terrorism Studies. Frumkin, L., Morrison, J. & Silke, A. (eds.).


Radicalisation in Comparative Perspective

Awan, A. (ed.) & Lewis, J. R. (ed.), 2020, (In preparation) Hurst / Oxford University Press.


Radicalisation: Narratives and Identities (Elements)

Awan, A., 2020, (In preparation) Cambridge University Press.


Radicalization as Identity Reconfiguration: the case of ISIS

Awan, A., 2020, (Submitted) Radicalisation in Comparative Perspective. Awan, A. & Lewis, J. R. (eds.). Hurst / Oxford University Press


The Crusades in the Modern World: Engaging the Crusades, Volume Two

Horswell, M. (ed.) & Awan, A. (ed.), 2 Jul 2019, Routledge. 


Weaponising the Crusades: Justifying Terrorism and Political Violence

Awan, A., 2 Jul 2019, The Crusades in the Modern World : Engaging the Crusades. Horswell, M. & Awan, A. N. (eds.). 1 ed. Routledge, Vol. 2. 


The battle for the battle of the narratives: Sidestepping the double fetish of digital and CVE

Awan, A., Miskimmon, A. & O’Loughlin, B., 7 Dec 2018, Countering Online Propaganda and Extremism: The Dark Side of Digital Diplomacy.Bjola, C. & Pamment, J. (eds.). 1st ed. Routledge, (Routledge New Diplomacy Studies).


Jihadism Transformed: Al-Qaeda and Islamic State’s Global Battle of Ideas

Staffell, S. & Awan, A., Nov 2016, C. Hurst & Co.


ISIS and the Abuse of History

Awan, A. & Dockter, W., Jan 2016, History Today, 66, 1.


Islamic State narratives and radicalisation in the West

Awan, A., 2016, Jihadism Transformed: al-Qaeda and Islamic State’s Global Battle of Ideas. Awan, A. & Staffell, S. (eds.). London: Hurst / Oxford University Press


The Impact of Jihadist Narratives on Radicalisation in the West

Awan, A. & Staffell, S., 2016, Jihadism Transformed: al-Qaeda and Islamic State’s Global Battle of Ideas. Oxford University Press


Europe Already Defeated Radical Terrorists—120 Years Ago

Awan, A., 21 Nov 2015, The National Interest.


Hiroshima and Nagasaki: the single greatest acts of terrorism in human history?

Awan, A., 6 Aug 2015, New Statesman.


7/7 Attacks and the New Type of Terrorism

Awan, A., 7 Jul 2015, The National Interest.


Why defeating Islamic State might mean re-reading The Lord of the Rings

Awan, A., Jul 2015, New Internationalist.


Professor Big Brother and his radical students – who should we fear most?

Awan, A., Feb 2015, New Internationalist.


The Charlie Hebdo Attack: The Double Alienation Dilemma

Awan, A., 13 Jan 2015, The National Interest.


The rise of religious identities and the Charlie Hebdo attack

Awan, A., Jan 2015, New Internationalist.


Why jihadism appeals to religiously illiterate loners

Awan, A., Jan 2015, The Conversation.


What Happens When ISIS Comes Home?

Awan, A., 29 Sep 2014, The National Interest.


Terrorism craves an audience and we are playing into Islamic State’s hands by watching

Awan, A., Sep 2014, The Conversation.


Spurning “This Worldly Life”: Terrorism and Martydom in Contemporary Britain

Awan, A., 26 Jun 2014, Martyrdom and Terrorism: Pre-Modern to Contemporary Perspectives. Janes, D. & Houen, A. (eds.). Oxford University Press


Virtual Jihadist media

Awan, A., 2014, Islamic Movements of Europe: Public Religion and Islamophobia in the Modern World. Peter, F. (ed.). London: I. B. Tauris


Jihadi ideology in the new-media environment

Awan, A. N., 22 Feb 2012, Contextualising Jihadi Thought. Deol, J. & Kazmi, Z. (eds.). London: C. Hurst & Co., p. 99-119


Los medios de communicacion virtuales ‘yihadies’

Awan, A., 2012, Los movimientos islámicos transnacionales y la emergencia de un “islam europeo”. Ortega, R. & Peters, F. (eds.). Biblioteca de Casa Arabe


Radicalisation and Media: Connectivity and Terrorism in the New Media Ecology

Awan, A. N., Hoskins, A. & O’Loughlin, B., 1 Feb 2011, London: Routledge. (Media, War and Security)


The Virtual Jihad: An Increasingly Legitimate Form of Warfare

Awan, A., 2010, In: CTC Sentinel (Combatting Terrorism Center). 3, 5


Al-Qa’ida’s Virtual Crisis

Awan, A. N. & Al-Lami, M., 1 Feb 2009, In: RUSI Journal. 154, 1, p. 56-64


Success of the Meta-Narrative: How Jihadists Maintain Legitimacy

Awan, A., 2009, In: CTC Sentinel (Combatting Terrorism Center). 2, 11


The Emperor’s new words: Reporting on terrorism in the media – the misuse of terms like ‘radicalisation’

Awan, A., 2009, In: Britain in 2008. 2008


Antecedents of Islamic Political Radicalism Among Muslim Communities in Europe

Awan, A. N., 2008, In: PS: Political Science & Politics. 41, 1, p. 13-17


Radicalization on the Internet? The Virtual Propagation of Jihadist Media and its Effects

Awan, A., 2007, In: RUSI Journal. 152, 3


Transitional Religiosity Experiences: Contextual Disjuncture and Islamic Political Radicalism

Awan, A., 2007, Islamic Political Radicalism: A European comparative perspective. Abbas, T. (ed.). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press


Virtual Jihadist media: Function, legitimacy, and radicalising efficacy

Awan, A., 2007, In: European Journal of Cultural Studies . 10, 3