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AHESS Kemp: Developing safer online communities: an evaluation of disruptive strategies to break the link between incel ideologies, online extremism and violence against women and girls

Faculty: Arts, Humanities, Education and Social Sciences

Supervisors: Dr Christian Kemp, Prof Tanya Horeck, Dr Lottie Herriott

Location: Chelmsford

The interview for this project is expected to take place on Friday 26 April.

Apply online by 3 March 2024

This proposed PhD will be an impact-driven and multi-disciplinary project, scrutinising the threat posed by online misogynistic radicalisation within the so-called ‘manosphere,’ with a focus on developing recommendations for effective interventions, policies, and public awareness campaigns to address this threat.

Amid the ongoing, rapid development of online technologies globally, we are increasingly seeing online platforms and forums being exploited as a means to spread weaponised misinformation, hate speech and extreme ideologies (Ribeiro et al., 2021).

Though online radicalisation itself is not a new concept, in recent years, the emerging threat posed by an online matrix of toxic masculine communities referred to as ‘the manosphere’ has gained significant media attention and international governmental concern.

Defined as a “network of online men's communities who are against the empowerment of women and who promote anti-feminist and sexist beliefs” (Aiston, 2021), the manosphere has been widely linked to extreme misogyny, violent hate speech and numerous offline incidents of violent crime, particularly violence against women and even mass murders (Ging, 2017).

Given the threat posed, the manosphere has been identified by the UK Government as an urgent societal concern, with young, school-aged boys particularly vulnerable (Hansard, 2023).

It identifies attitudes and ideologies spread via the manosphere as precipitating an increase in harassment, sexist comments and assaults in the classroom, thereby placing schools and the education system as a priority area to respond to this growing threat (Hansard, 2023).

Similarly, the criminal threat posed by the manosphere has been flagged by the National Police Chief’s Council (2023) as a rapidly growing area of concern for the perpetration of violence against women and girls.

Despite significant media attention and a clear identification of the potential risks posed by the manosphere and associated subcultures such as the incel movement, much less is known about how to effectively respond to this ever-growing and developing online sphere of harm.

With this in mind, this project will seek to address this issue while remaining impact-driven and policy focused.

Whilst the exact methodological approach will be developed with the candidate, it is suggested that rich, qualitative data will be gathered through semi-structured interviews and/or focus groups with a range of stakeholders and frontline professionals.

These will include police officers, teaching staff and other professionals who work directly with potentially vulnerable cohorts, such as social workers and youth workers. The supervisory team have strong links with both police forces and schools across the eastern region, and therefore will be well placed to help the candidate recruit suitable participants.

By working in collaboration with key stakeholders, this project will offer an important contribution to academic/theoretical knowledge whilst also boasting real-world applicability and recommendations.

In doing so, it will be unique and innovative, creating new, joined-up knowledge about the risks associated with the manosphere and, importantly, clarity around best practice for interventions, prevention efforts and responses.

If you would like to discuss this research project please contact Christian Kemp: [email protected]

Apply online by 3 March 2024

Funding notes

The successful applicant for this project will receive a Vice Chancellor’s PhD Scholarship which covers the tuition fees and provides a UKRI equivalent minimum annual stipend for three years. For 2023/4 this was £18,622 per year. The award is subject to the successful candidate meeting the scholarship terms and conditions. Please note that the University asserts the right to claim any intellectual property generated by research it funds.

Download the full terms and conditions.