Drawing The Line: An examination of the boundary rules Prevent referral actors use to define who is extreme or non-extreme as part of their Prevent duty in London from 2015-2018.
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The Prevent duty, part of the United Kingdom’s counterterrorism strategy, is a legal obligation for anyone in a specified sector to have due regard to the need to prevent people from becoming involved in terrorism. This thesis examines the boundary rules used by frontline practitioners in the health and education sectors in the categorisation of extremism. It aims to answer the question “What boundary rules do Prevent referral actors use to define who is extreme or non-extreme in the Prevent programme in London from 2015-2018?” using Tajfel and Tuner’s Social Identity Theory (1979) as the analytical frame and Fearon and Laitin’s definition of Social Categorisation (2000). Data was collected through in-depth interviews with individuals working in the health and education sectors, document analysis of government policies and examination of statistics. My research reveals that the lack of definitional clarity in the academic literature on terrorism, radicalisation and extremism is reflected in the implementation of the Prevent programme amongst the referral actors on the ground. It has shown that Tajfel and Turner’s (1979) assumption of group boundaries is flawed when it comes to extremism, as they are fluid due to the subjective nature of the concept. It has indicated that there are not one set of shared norms amongst the population and content rules used can vary dramatically between categorising individuals. Finally, there are clear sector specific challenges when it comes to Prevent implementation, including information sharing in the health sector and the teaching of British value in the education sector. The results of this thesis led to a number of possible recommendations including further academic research with a larger number of respondents, more communication between policy makers and implementers and a review of the policy to assess the impact of the legal aspect of the Prevent duty and the labelling of the outlined values as British.