Julie Chernov Hwang, Ph.D.


Goucher College

Country: United States (Maryland)

About Me:

I am an associate professor of political science and international relations at Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland. I am currently on the job market and am looking for associate professor positions on the East Coast in collegial departments where I can be part of an active community of scholars.  If you are looking for a productive scholar of international security, terrorism, political violence or Southeast Asia, please consider me. I research entry and exit from terrorist groups, particularly in Indonesia and Malaysia. I have had success in securing external funding and this will continue. My most recent book is Why Terrorists Quit: The Disengagement of Indonesian Jihadists was published by Cornell University Press in 2018. It highlights the processes and pathways via which Indonesian jihadists are disenaging from violence and reintegrating back into society. It draws on more than 100 repeat interviews with current and former members of Indonesian Islamist extremist groups between 2010 and 2016. My current research agenda explores (a) the processes and pathways via which Indonesians and Malaysians join and commit to Islamist extremist groups; (b) inter-terrorist group migration; and (c) how deradicalization works.  

Research Interests


Political Violence

Asian Politics

Conflict Processes & War

Religion & Politics

Disengagement And Deradicalization


Terrorist Reengagement/Recidivism

Terrorist Decision-Making

Countering Violent Extremism

Islamist Movements

Countries of Interest





My Research:

My research agenda centers on entry and exit from terrorism. Since 2010, I have been exploring the processes and pathways via which Indonesian jihadists disengage from violence and reintegrate back into society. This research trajectory, funded by small grants from Goucher College and the US-Indonesia Society, culminated in Why Terorrists Quit: the Disengagement of Indonesian Jihadists, published by Cornell University Press in 2018.  Drawing on over 100 interviews with 55 current and former members of 7 Indonesian Islamist extremist groups between 2010 and 2016, Why Terrorists Quit highlights the importance of alternative social networks of friends, mentors and supportive family members in successful disengagement and reintegration. One notable aspect of this research trajectory was that I revisited the same jihadists 2-5 times over the course of the six years. Thus, I followed individuals who had just begun to disengage through to reintegration and sometimes, recidivism and in doing so, built relationships of trust with them. In 2017, with support from the Smith Richardson Foundation, I embarked on a new project exploring how and why Indonesian and Malaysian men and women join Islamist extremist groups. This project examines motivations, pathways, and commitment in the joining process as well as migration between Islamist extremist groups. In doing so, it highlights the role of brotherhood and constructed kinship in the process of becoming a committed member. It also explores the strategic usage of specific social media platforms at different junctures in the recruitment process. This project will culminate in a book and several articles. The book is targeted for Cornell University Press. The first article from this research program has been published with Terrorism and Political Violence. Finally, I am also in the process of using the dataset I built on disengagement to explore deradicalization, specifically, how lived experiences faciliate re-evaluation of previously held views and how the process of that re-evaluation takes place. This article will be targeted for International Security or International Studies Quarterly.


Journal Articles:

(2018) Why They Join: Pathways to Entry among Indonesian Jihadists., Terrorism and Political Violence

Why do Indonesian Muslims join Islamist extremist groups? This article explores four pathways to entry into Indonesian militant groups: study sessions, local conflict, kinship, and schools. It argues that within all four of these pathways, social bonds and relationships are the common thread in encouraging entry as well as in fostering commitment. Specifically, these relationships contribute to the formation and eventual consolidation of one’s identity as a member of the jihadi group through regular participation in activities, attending meetings, narrowing the circle of friends to those within the group, and participating in increasingly risky and possibly violent activities together. Drawing on original fieldwork including 49 interviews with current and former members of Jemaah Islamiyah, Mujahidin KOMPAK, Darul Islam, Mujahidin Tanah Runtuh, Indonesia’s pro-ISIS network, and other jihadist groups as well as 57 depositions and court documents, this article explores the development and evolution of these pathways and how relational ties play a role in each.

(2018) Pathways into Terrorism: Understanding Entry Into and Support for Terrorism in Asia, Terrorism and Political Violence

How do individuals join Islamist extremist groups? Why do individuals support such groups? What factors contribute to a decision to join? What are the pathways into Islamist extremist groups? Drawing on examples from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Philippines, the articles in this special issue address these critically important questions drawing on original fieldwork, new datasets and large scale national survey research. These articles explore the experiences and perceptions of men and women, South and Southeast Asians, living in majority Muslim and non-Muslim nations. Collectively, they illustrate the importance of social bonds&kinship ties, friendship, teacher-student ties and online relationships in creating a powerful sense of community that fosters a sense of belonging and eventual commitment. The goal of this special issue is to highlight the contributions that Asian cases can make to the often Middle Eastern and European-centric discourses on radicalization, joining and support for militancy.

(2017) “The Disengagement of Jihadists in Indonesia: Understanding the Pathways.”, Terrorism and Political Violence

While much research has been conducted on the radicalization of Muslim militants from Jemaah Islamiyah, its spinoffs, and splinter factions; the historical roots of Indonesian radical movements; and their ideological underpinnings, far less analysis has centered on how and why individual militants may come to disengage from violence. Disengagement is defined as a gradual process through which a member of a terror group, radical movement, gang, or cult comes to reject the use of terror methods in pursuit of their goals. Utilizing original fieldwork conducted between 2010 and 2014, with fifty current and former members of Islamist extremist groups in Indonesia, this article will unpack the patterns, pathways, religious considerations, and psychological processes that propel individual militants to turn away from violence.

(2013) When We Were Separated, We Began to Think for Ourselves Again: The Disengagement of Jihadists in Poso, Indonesia, Asian Survey

To what extent are jihadists in Indonesia disengaging from violence? Based on original fieldwork in Jakarta and Central Sulawesi, including interviews with 23 current and former Poso-based jihadists, we examine the emotional, psychological, rational, and relational factors that can lead militants to turn away from terror tactics.

(2012) Terrorism in Perspective: An Assessment of Jihad Project Trends, Asia Pacific Issues

The face of extremism in Indonesia has changed dramatically over the past decade. While the security threat from Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and other Salafi-Jihadist groups remains, it has diminished significantly from its heyday in the early 2000s. With many hardline leaders now in prison or dead and current mainstream leaders reluctant to support terror attacks, violence as a means to establish an Islamic state appears to be losing favor in militant circles. New followers continue to be radicalized through a number of channels, but there are also former radicals who are disengaging as they grow disillusioned with movement tactics and leadership, as they develop new relationships, and as their priorities shift. The organized, large-scale bombings have declined, largely in response to a changing security environment. Small-scale attacks and targeted assassinations are still prevalent, but these are often the actions of small splinter groups or unaffiliated individuals. Within JI itself, support for terror attacks on Indonesian soil is increasingly a minority-held view.

(2010) When Parties Swing: Islamist Parties and Institutional Moderation in Malaysia and Indonesia, South East Asia Research

This article examines the extent to which the Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) are becoming more moderate in their strategy and ideology. The author contends that both parties are struggling over the extent to which they should moderate in response both to strategic incentives present in the Malaysian and Indonesian political systems and to the political learning process whereby both parties are coming to understand the preferences of voters in their respective political systems. This process is complicated by divisions in the parties between pragmatists who would postpone controversial goals to reach out to non-devout voters, and purists who prioritize ideological authenticity.

(2010) Legislating Separation and Solidarity in Plural Society: The Chinese in Indonesia and Malaysia, Nationalism and Ethnic Politics

The Chinese minority plays a dominant role in the economies of Indonesia and Malaysia, a fact that evokes indigenous resentment. However, Indonesia and Malaysia dealt differently with the issue. Malaysia legislated the Malays into the economy and protected Chinese citizenship, making them an integral part of a multicultural state. By contrast, New Order Indonesia adopted policies of economic manipulation, forced assimilation, and unequal citizenship. Only when the New Order regime fell did Chinese integration begin. The policy trajectories of Indonesia and Malaysia offer important lessons for plural states.

Books Written:

(2018) Why Terrorists Quit: The Disengagement of Indonesian Jihadists, Cornell University Press

Why do hard-line terrorists decide to leave their organizations and quit the world of terror and destruction? This is the question for which Julie Chernov Hwang seeks answers in Why Terrorists Quit. Over the course of six years Chernov Hwang conducted more than one hundred interviews with current and former leaders and followers of radical Islamist groups in Indonesia. Using what she learned from these radicals she examines the reasons they rejected physical force and extremist ideology, slowly moving away from, or in some cases completely leaving, groups such as Jemaah Islamiyah, Mujahidin KOMPAK, Ring Banten, Laskar Jihad, and Tanah Runtuh. Why Terrorists Quit considers the impact of various public initiatives designed to encourage radicals to disengage, and follows the lives of five radicals from the various groups, seeking to establish trends, ideas, and reasons for why radicals might eschew violence or quit terrorism. Chernov Hwang has, with this book, provided a clear picture of why Indonesians disengage from jihadist groups, what the state can do to help them reintegrate into nonterrorist society, and how what happens in Indonesia can be more widely applied beyond the archipelago.

(2014) Islamist Parties and Political Normalization in the Muslim World, University of Pennsylvania Press

Since 2000, more than twenty countries around the world have held elections in which parties that espouse a political agenda based on an Islamic worldview have competed for legislative seats. Islamist Parties and Political Normalization in the Muslim World examines the impact these parties have had on the political process in two different areas of the world with large Muslim populations: the Middle East and Asia. The book's contributors examine major cases of Islamist party evolution and participation in democratic and semidemocratic systems in Turkey, Morocco, Yemen, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Bangladesh. Collectively they articulate a theoretical framework to understand the strategic behavior of Islamist parties, including the characteristics that distinguish them from other types of political parties, how they relate to other parties as potential competitors or collaborators, how ties to broader Islamist movements may affect party behavior in elections, and how participation in an electoral system can affect the behavior and ideology of an Islamist party over time. Through this framework, the contributors observe a general tendency in Islamist politics. Although Islamist parties represent diverse interests and behaviors that are tied to their particular domestic contexts, through repeated elections they often come to operate less as antiestablishment parties and more in line with the political norms of the regimes in which they compete. While a few parties have deliberately chosen to remain on the fringes of their political system, most have found significant political rewards in changing their messages and behavior to attract more centrist voters. As the impact of the Arab Spring continues to be felt, Islamist Parties and Political Normalization in the Muslim World offers a nuanced and timely perspective of Islamist politics in broader global context.

(2009) Peaceful Islamist Mobilization in the Muslim World: What Went Right, Palgrave Macmillan

In Peaceful Islamist Mobilization in the Muslim World: What Went Right, Julie Chernov Hwang presents a compelling and innovative new theory and framework for examining for the variation in Islamist mobilization strategies in Muslim Asia and the Middle East. Based on extensive field research in Indonesia, Malaysia and Turkey, Hwang argues that states, through their policies, institutions, and capacities, can influence the mobilization strategies that Islamist groups choose, encouraging peaceful strategies, or sometimes, creating permissive conditions for violence. This book highlights the positive ways that states can influence Islamist group decision-making and answers the question--what went right?