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PhD projects

Social movements; mobilization; dynamics of political violence; counter-terrorism and its societal impacts

  • 5 h-Index

Research output per year

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Personal profile


Joel's research addresses three main intersecting areas:

1) Anti-minority politics

Joel's initial work in this area comprised an ethnographic analysis of anti-minority activism, resulting in his monograph The Making of Anti-Muslim Protest: Grassroots Activism in the English Defence League, for which he was awarded the British Sociological Association’s Philip Abrams Memorial Prize, 2016. His research here addresses questions about how and why people become involved in anti-minority activism; what sustains, energises or undermines such activism, and how it evolves through interaction with other actors.

He has subsequently carried out mixed-methods research on the dynamics of anti-minority politics; theoretical and empirical work on processes of 'cumulative extremism' or 'interactive escalation'; is joint editor of the forthcoming Routledge volume, Researching the Far Right: Theory, Method and Practice; and is currently PI on a project that examines the pathways towards and away from violence during periods of heightened activity by organised anti-minority groups, funded by the Centre for Research and Evidence on Security Threats (CREST).

2) The escalation, de-escalation and non-escalation of political violence

Joel’s work on anti-minority politics – in particular on processes such as 'cumulative extremism', 'reciprocal radicalisation' and the pathways towards and away from violence during periods of heightened activity by organised anti-minority groups – is also informed by a wider theoretical and empirical interest in the social ecology of political violence. Here, for example, Joel has recently led a project on the 'Internal Brakes on Violent Escalation', also funded by CREST, and continues to undertake research on processes of restraint within militant groups.

3) The implementation of counter-terrorism policy and its societal impacts

Joel has led research on the interpretation and implementation of the Prevent duty in schools and colleges. This research, funded by the Aziz Foundation, gave rise in 2017 to the first major public report on this topic. He has presented on this research to a range of national and international academic and policy practitioner audiences. He is currently working with a network of local authorities across the UK to explore how they respond to, interpret and implement counter-terrorism and counter-extremism policy. He is also about to begin a project, funded by the British Academy, that examines the impacts of the UK’s deradicalisation ‘Channel’ programme on former mentees.


Running through his work across these areas is a broader empirical and theoretical interest in the processes of mobilization and collective action and how these intersect with the everyday efforts of human beings to live what they consider to be good lives. As well as generating research publications, Joel’s research has led to frequent and on going engagement with policy and practitioner communities at local, national and international levels.

Joel joined CTPSR in 2014. Prior to joining CTPSR, he held post-doctoral fellowships at Huddersfield University and the University of East London, and worked as an analyst for the Defence Science Technology Laboratory (DSTL). He holds a PhD in Development Studies from the University of East Anglia and an MA in Philosophy and Italian from The University of Edinburgh. He is a fluent Spanish speaker.

Research Interests

Social movements; Mobilization; Political violence; Anti-minority activism; Counter-terrorism; National and transnational identities; Policy enactment; Mixed methods

Vision Statement

The broad aim of my research is to document and enhance understanding of how human interaction – the rituals that shape and comprise our everyday lives; the cognitive and moral orders that we make, break and patch together again; and the emotional rhythms of our lives – gives rise to or undermines harmonious social relations and human well-being.

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Research Output

Chicken suits and other aspects of situated credibility contests: Explaining local trajectories of anti-minority activism

Busher, J., Harris, G. & Macklin, G., 4 Mar 2019, In : Social Movement Studies. 18, 2, p. 193-214 22 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access
  • 3 Downloads (Pure)

    How can analysis of 'credibility contests' help us understand where and when anti-minority activism is more likely to gain momentum?

    Busher, J., Harris, G. & Macklin, G., 1 Dec 2019, In : Interventionen. December, 14, p. 39-43 5 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Open Access
  • 4 Citations (Scopus)

    The internal brakes on violent escalation: a typology

    Busher, J., Holbrook, D. & Macklin, G., 1 Jan 2019, In : Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression. 11, 1, p. 3-25 23 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Open Access
  • 1 Citation (Scopus)
    14 Downloads (Pure)

    The Internal Brakes On Violent Escalation: A Descriptive Typology

    Busher, J., Holbrook, D. & Macklin, G., 25 Feb 2019, Centre for Research and Evidence on Security Threats (CREST). 108 p.

    Research output: Book/ReportOther report

    Open Access
    17 Downloads (Pure)


    Roundtable participant for session on 'Human Factors and Human Impacts in Online CVE'

    Joel Busher (Invited speaker)
    26 Mar 2019

    Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk

    Center for Research on Extremism (C-REX), University of Oslo

    Joel Busher (Visiting researcher)
    May 2019 → …

    Activity: Visiting an external institutionVisiting an external academic institution

    Council for European Studies (External organisation)

    Joel Busher (Chair)
    Aug 2018 → …

    Activity: MembershipMembership of network

    Humanity & Society (Journal)

    Joel Busher (Guest Editor)
    Nov 2018

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial workEditorial activity


    Philip Abrams Memorial Prize (British Sociological Association)

    Joel Busher (Recipient), 7 Apr 2016

    Prize: Prize (including medals and awards)