Lighting the female fuse: group fusion, devoted actors, and female suicide bombers
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This thesis intends to revise and update devoted actor theory (DAT) by introducing a neglected dataset—female suicide bombers. DAT provides one such theoretical framework for understanding extremist group behavior and, to a lesser extent, suicidal bombing. DAT is largely satisfying: its claims and conclusions address relevant issues and provide compelling answers to critical questions. However, it is not without its analytical and empirical gaps. Crucially, DAT does not explicitly account for the narratives and characteristic motives of female suicide bombers—which often differ in logic, content, and tone from those of their male counterparts. In addition, DAT assumes that people who are fused with extreme groups are willing to self-sacrifice for their group, but the theory does not account for how this fusion process transpires. Therefore, I propose two amendments to DAT that not only address theoretical issues, which arise partially from the lack of female terrorist accounts, but also creates a narrative that bridges the gap that would explain how an individual progresses from bonding to a group to making the decision to die for it. Accordingly, I also propose to theorize a psychosocial process that links the way in which individuals, specifically females, become fused to a group and edge closer to the most extreme of extremist decisions: to annihilate their bodies and selves, while at the same time annihilating or wreaking havoc upon the lives of others whom they have deemed enemies of themselves or their group.