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Double trouble – the terrorist’s alter ego

Professor Roger Griffin is recognised world-wide as a major authority on the socio-historical and ideological dynamics of fascism, and various forms of fanaticism, particularly modern terrorism. Roger won an Oxford Brookes Research Excellence Award in 2016/17.

“My new research is going into great depth about a significant theme I first became aware of while writing Terrorist’s Creed (Palgrove, 2007). Time after time I found those who had committed acts of fanatical violence had undergone a process which I termed ‘heroic doubling’.

Someone who had previously led a broadly ‘normal’ existence had produced, either under considerable external pressures or apparently spontaneously, a secondary personality.

This ‘second self’ or alter ego, comparable to a videogame avatar, was prepared to kill and die, or certainly abandon any prospect of a fulfilling existence within society, and do so with no regret or fear, in the name of what had gradually or suddenly become a ‘higher cause’.

My new book, entitled Double Trouble: How alter egos alter history, will among a number of areas, look at the tendency of humans to imagine doubles and avatars as demonstrated through their recurrence as a tradition of folklore, myth and literature as well as in ritual, rites of passage and religion.

I will also argue that the flexibility and capacity for multiple identities that enable modern humans to become addicted, fanatical or terrorists can also enable them to grow healthy doubles committed to humanistic ideals and thus able to make the world a better place.

The growing global crisis of the planet and our species could trigger a mass-production of healthy doubles on the scale necessary to save us all.

The book should be demanding but exciting to write and I intend this analysis of the terrorist double to make a direct contribution not just to understanding radicalisation, but devising strategies to enable family and friends to see early signs of it taking place.”

The Research Excellence Awards were launched in 2016 to support research-active academics. Roger was one of the inaugural recipients.
Find out who won awards in 2017 »