13 September 2018

Maja Touzari Janesdatter Greenwood defends her PhD thesis at the Department of Political Science

Maja Touzari Janesdatter Greenwood defends her PhD thesis "Becoming a Foreign Fighter. The Ethics and Agency of fighting Jihad" on Monday September 24 2018 at the Department of Political Science, University of Copenhagen. 

Time and venue

Monday 24 September, 2018 at 14:00 at the University of Copenhagen, Centre for Health and Society, Department of Political Science, Øster Farimagsgade 5, DK-1353 Copenhagen K., room 4.2.26. Kindly note that the defence will start precisely at 14:00

Assessment committee

  • Professor Karen Lund Petersen, Department of Political Science, University of Copenhagen (chair)
  • Professor Olivier Roy, EUI, Florence, Italy
  • Professor Cecelia Lynch, UC Irvine, USA


This dissertation presents the story of six men who chose to leave Denmark to become foreign fighters on behalf of jihadist groups in the Middle East during the conflicts that followed in the wake of the revolts that have been termed the ‘Arab Spring’. It is based on a four-year interview and fieldwork study and takes an existentialist perspective to answer the question of what meanings these men as-cribe to fighting jihad abroad. To understand the context of these meanings, the analytical view in-cludes their life situations prior to travelling and reflections between journeys, as well as their expe-rience fighting abroad and subsequently return to Denmark. The analysis highlights how the promise of jihad and the experience of fighting resonated with their life situations in ways that made their experience meaningful to them, and includes discussions of agency, ethics, and embodied ways of practicing masculinity. This dissertation argues that fighting jihad offered participants a chance for moral transformation and absolution. Yet, their fighting represented an ambiguous redemption, be-cause the meanings that the journeys have for the participants were negated by the communities and wider society to which they return. This study offers an original contribution to conceptualisations of European jihadism, unique and rare empirical material, and a set of methodological reflections on ways to generate such data in ethically responsible ways.