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Current Postgraduate Research Students

Sarah Marsden supervises 6 postgraduate research students. If these students have produced research profiles, these are listed below:

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Dr Sarah Marsden

Lecturer in Radicalisation and Protest in a Digital Age

Sarah Marsden

Lancaster University

County South



Tel: +44 1524 592496

Office Hours:

My office hours are Wednesdays 9-11am

Research overview

My research is concerned with resistance, power, political violence, protest, and social change. I'm interested in how and why people practice resistance, how activists pursue political change, and how people make sense of their journeys through political contention. My approach is interdisciplinary, employing primary and archival data to understand different forms of contentious politics, from transnational social movements to violent militant networks, grassroots activists, and those practicing everyday forms of resistance. I have explored movements committed to a range of ideological positions including militant Islamists, anti-fascists, radical environmental activists, and far-right religious nationalists. I am also interested in understanding the relationship between space, place and protest, both in the UK and internationally.  

PhD supervision

I would be happy to collaborate with students in the following areas: terrorism and political violence with a particular focus on militant Islamism and religious nationalism; 'radicalisation' and the psychological and sociological processes associated with involvement in violent politics; social movements, activism and protest, in particular the role of ideology and identity in political contention. I am currently working with the following PhD Candidates: Susie Ballentyne: co-supervision with Psychology; Sarah Green: co-supervision with Law; James Lewis: ESRC funded; Samantha McGarry: Faculty funded; and Rosamund Mutton: ESRC/CREST funded.

Web Links


Current Research

From 2018, I will be a Co-Investigator on the second phase of the Centre for Research on Security Threats (CREST), working with Prof. Kim Knott on the Ideas, Beliefs and Values in Social Context work programme. 

Beyond CREST, I’m currently engaged in three projects. The first is my book Violent Legacies: Why Militant Movements Endure, which is due for completion in 2019 and is under contract with McGill-Queen’s University Press. The book offers a comparative account of the political, organisational, and cultural legacies of the far-right in Israel, and militant Islamism in Yemen. It shows that terrorism’s effects are most usefully interpreted by examining how violence changes relations between identity groups over the long-term, rather than by assessing short-term political gains. Breaking down the dichotomies of success and failure, and state and non-state actor goals, the book demonstrates how the ongoing interaction and periodic convergence of state and non-state actor goals can create the conditions for militancy to endure. 

The second project brings together my ongoing interests in transnational militancy, and how and why people move away from political violence. Working with Mohammed Ali Amla, and funded by Security Lancaster, the project involves carrying out life history interviews with ‘foreign fighters’ involved in historical Islamist mobilisations. The aim is to develop a rich, storied account of the routes into, through, and out of jihad to understand what shapes these trajectories. 

Working with Chris Boyko (LICA), and involving an interdisciplinary team from religious studies, politics, and urban design, Remembering Resistance is a project that examines the relationship between power, protest, and place. The project takes a novel, interdisciplinary approach to trace the urban environment’s impact on the evolution of political and religious contention. It is concerned with explaining how shifts in power are reflected in the urban environment, how they shape the dynamics of contention, and the implications of these processes for democratic participation, violence, and conflict resolution.

There are several strands to this evolving research project:

  • Remembering Resistance: A Century of Women's Protest in the North of England. This Heritage Lottery Funded project aims to catalogue, celebrate and engage the public in the history of women's invovlement in protest since the Representation of the People's Act gave some women the right to vote 100 years ago. 
  • Remembering Resistance in India: Supported by a FASS Research Grant and departmental Research Incentivisation Fund, this aspect of the project is interested in understanding how contemporary challenges such as rapid urbanisation shape the dynamics of religious and ethnic contention in India:  

Current Teaching

In the department, I convene the core the postgraduate module Theories and Methods in Postgraduate Study, and from 2018 will contribute to teaching on the undergraduate module Understanding Politics and Governance. At faculty level, I run a course on ‘Risky Research: Ethics, Reflexivity and Risk’ for the postgraduate Research Training Programme, and am engaged in cross-faculty teaching on the Cybersecurity MSc, as part of the Security and Conflict in a Digital Age module. 

I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Authority.

External Roles

As book series editor for a new international series on Protest, Power and Resistance for McGill-Queen’s University Press, I welcome book proposals that seek to expand the theoretical and empirical boundaries of research on the full range of political contention. I am also on the editorial board of Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, the Journal of Deradicalisation, the International Journal of Conflict and Violence and Contemporary Voices: St Andrews Journal of International Relations. 

I’m regularly consulted by practitioners and policymakers, including from the Home Office, Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service, the United Nations Development Programme, Public Safety Canada, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the Cabinet Office. I’ve provided written and oral evidence to government committees and enquiries, and serve on several advisory boards, as well as supporting the work of a number of community-based and third sector organisations offering training and advice on questions of violent extremism. I am a frequent contributor to national and international media, and regularly write for audiences beyond the academy.

Additional Information

Working alongside the Council for At-Risk Academics (CARA), and with the support of colleagues from across the university, we have set up a scheme to support academics at risk. The CARA Sanctuary Fellowship will enable academics at risk of persecution, or who are unable to work due to conflict or disaster, to come to Lancaster to continue their research and teaching. The aim is that when they return home they do so with a stronger international network and having been able to advance their research in a safe, supportive environment.

If you have any questions about the Fellowship or if you would like to get involved, please get in touch. To learn more about the scheme or to donate see: http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/giving/sanctuary-fellowship/

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  • Protest and Dissent

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference

  • Remembering Resistance in India

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in workshop, seminar, course

  • CREST conference

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in workshop, seminar, course

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