Postdoctoral Fellow : Dr Dylan Marshall

Dr Dylan Marshall, Politics and International Relations, Aberystwyth University 

Title: ‘Expertise’ in International Politics: What can the case of ‘experts’ on the Islamic State group tell us?  

As major recent developments from Brexit, to climate change, to COVID-19 have revealed, the social and political construction of ‘experts’ is pivotal in determining the knowledges that are produced. Both in-turn shape the way policy elites and wider societies understand and respond to global challenges.   

While these events brought the contested nature of expertise to public attention, this contestation has also been playing out in the study of ‘terrorism’ for decades. My PhD research explored the emergence of the Islamic State group (IS) in 2014 and construction of ‘ISIS experts’ in response.   

My research has revealed that there was no consistency amongst IS knowledge producers (academia, policy and private sector analysts, journalists among others) and elite consumers (e.g., government, media) as to who is an ‘expert’ and what attributes constitute ‘expert’ authority. Amidst this uncertainty, it examined the different sources of legitimisation experts used and the strategies they employed to gain recognition from different audiences. My research further examined how different spaces, from conferences to social media, shaped the circulation of knowledge and creation of experts and communities of expertise.   

During this fellowship, I will be utilising this research alongside further research to produce a book manuscript. This will present these findings and further apply them to wider questions about the evolution of expertise in contemporary international relations. I will also be working on a publication that seeks to further innovate the theoretical tools used in this project. I plan to attend several UK and European academic conferences to further develop this work, as well as present my research to foreign and security policy stakeholders interested in how terrorism ‘experts’ are determined and utilised in policy making.