School of Politics and International Relations

Best Thesis Prize for 2021/22 awarded to Simone Papale

Congratulations to Simone Papale who has been awarded the School of Politics and International Relations' Best PhD Thesis Award for 2021/22.

Simone's thesis is titled Tackling Terrorism in Africa: Post-9/11 US Security Policies and Radicalisation in Kenya.

Thesis synopsis

Since the beginning of the war on terror, the US has intensified security efforts in Africa, providing local governments with increasing assistance to fight terrorism on the ground. Yet, despite US initiatives, Islamist violence on the continent is on the rise, driven by the expansion of local groups affiliated with Daesh and Al-Qaeda, along with the emergence of new cells in countries historically spared from violent extremism. This thesis explores the impact of post-9/11 US security policies on dynamics of radicalisation in Africa, focusing on Kenya as a case study.

Relying on a critical theory-inspired research orientation, the thesis develops an innovative theoretical framework, integrating analytical tools from the research on remote warfare, African agency and social movement theory. Such an interdisciplinary framework allows to capture the chain of action and reaction linking counter-terrorism efforts to their effects on the ground, analysing the intertwining between US policies and the local socio-political environment.

The thesis shows that the form of intervention adopted by the US turns the local context into a critical variable. Depending on the socio-political environment in which US policies are implemented, security efforts may have different and unexpected effects on radicalisation. Such findings have major implications, pointing to the need for a more context-sensitive approach against terrorism, which, by placing a greater focus on the political drivers of terrorist violence, could help shape more sustainable and effective security policies. 

Simone told us:

"I am honoured and delighted to win the Best Thesis Prize of the School of Politics and International Relations. I would like to thank my PhD supervisors, Prof Andrew Mumford and Prof Louise Kettle. Their support and guidance have contributed significantly to increasing the quality of my work and rendering my PhD at Nottingham a great experience. I would also like to thank my partner, my family and friends for their love, patience and support throughout the course of the PhD. Finally, I am thankful to the panel for selecting my thesis, recognising its value. It is an important recognition for my research and I can only express my sincere thanks."

Simone is now a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Bologna, working on a project on frame analysis and the Ukrainian conflict.

Congratulations Simone from all at the School of Politics and International Relations.

Posted on Tuesday 6th December 2022

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