Lorne L. Dawson

Distinguished Professor Emeritus
Lorne Dawson photo


519-888-4567 x 45340

PhD (McMaster)
MA (McMaster)
BA Honours (Queen's)

Research and teaching areas

Research: Terrorism, Radicalization, Religion and Violent Extremism

Teaching: Terrorism, Sociology of Religion, Sociological Theory

Biographic statement

Dr. Dawson is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Department of Religious Studies and the Department of Sociology and Legal Studies. He served as the Chair of both departments. He has published three books, five edited books, and 90 academic articles and book chapters. Until 2008 most of his research was in the sociology of religion, in particular the study of new religious movements. Since then, the primary research focus has been terrorism, in particular the process of radicalization leading to violence. He co-founded and co-director of the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society (TSAS, 2012-2023), operating with funds competitively awarded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), Public Safety Canada, and Defence Research and Development Canada. Over his career Dr. Dawson made numerous invited presentations to a wide variety of government, academic, and public groups and was interviewed by the media frequently. He has been involved in the supervision of over thirty PhD students.

  • Outstanding Performance Award (University of Waterloo): 2005, 2007, 2012
  • Biography in Canadian Who's Who: 2000-present

Selected publications


  • 3 books
  • 5 edited books
  • 48 articles
  • 37 chapters
  • 4 research reports


Jeremy Littlewood, Lorne L. Dawson, Sara Thompson, eds., Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press (2020).

Paul Bramadat and Lorne L. Dawson, eds., Religious Radicalization and Securitization in Canada and Beyond. Toronto: University of Toronto Press (2014).

Lorne L. Dawson and Joel Thiessen, The Sociology of Religion: A Canadian Perspective. Toronto: Oxford University Press (2014).

Lorne L. Dawson, Comprehending Cults: The Sociology of New Religious Movements. Second Edition. Toronto: Oxford University Press (2006).

Lorne L. Dawson and Douglas E. Cowan, eds., Religion Online: Finding Faith on the Internet. New York: Routledge (2004).

Recent Articles & Book Chapters:

  • Lorne L. Dawson and Amarnath Amarasingam, “Homegrown Terrorist Radicalization: The Toronto 18 in Comparative Perspective,” in Michael Nesbitt, Kent Roach, and David Hofmann, eds., The Toronto 18 Terrorism Trials. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Law Review 44 (1), 2021: 1-33 (released as an Edited Volume as well).
  • James Khalil and Lorne L. Dawson, “Understanding Involvement in Terrorism and Violent Extremism: Theoretical Integration through the ABC Model,” Terrorism and Political Violence, first online version published 28 Mar 2023.
  • Lorne L. Dawson, “Insights from the Study of New Religious Movements into the Process of Radicalization,” Joel Busher, Leena Malki and Sarah Marsden, eds., Routledge Handbook on Radicalization and Countering Radicalization. London: Routledge (forthcoming).
  • Lorne L. Dawson, “Religion, Radicalisation and Violence: Conceptual and Interpretive Issues,” in Hisham Hellyer and Michele Grossman, eds, Rethinking Religion and Radicalisation: Terrorism and Violence Twenty Years After 9/11, London: Bloomsbury Press (forthcoming).
  • Shandon Harris-Hogan, Amarnath Amarasingam, and Lorne L. Dawson, “A Comparative Analysis of Australian and Canadian Foreign Fighters Traveling to Syria and Iraq,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, first version published online 17 Jan., 2022: 1-31
  • Lorne L. Dawson, “Olivier Roy and the ‘Islamization of Radicalism’: Overview and Critique of a Theory of Western Homegrown Jihadist Radicalization,” Journal of Deradicalization Spring 2022, 30: 81-115
  • Lorne L. Dawson, “The Social Ecology Model of Homegrown Jihadist Radicalisation,” in Akil N. Awan and James R. Lewis, eds., Radicalisation in Comparative Perspective. London & New York: Hurst & Oxford University Press, (forthcoming in 2021).
  • David A. Jones and Lorne L. Dawson, “Re-Examining the Explanations of Convert Radicalization in Salafi-Jihadist Terrorism with Evidence from Canada,” Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression, first online version published 18 May, 2021. 
  • Lorne L. Dawson, “Granting Efficacy to the Religious Motives of Terrorists, A Reply to Schuurman’s Response to ‘Bringing Religiosity Back In, Parts I & II,’” Perspectives on Terrorism 15(6) 2021: 90-96.
  • Lorne L. Dawson, “A Comparative Analysis of Data on Western Foreign Fighters in Syria and Iraq: Who Went and Why?” Research Report, International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, The Hague, 56 pages (10 Feb., 2021), https://www.icct.nl/app/uploads/2021/02/Dawson-Comparative-Analysis-FINAL-1.pdf
  • Lorne L. Dawson, “Bringing Religiosity Back In: Critical Reflection on the Explanation of Western Homegrown Religious Terrorism (Part I),” Perspectives on Terrorism 15 (1) 2021: 2-16, https://www.universiteitleiden.nl/binaries/content/assets/customsites/perspectives-on-terrorism/2021/issue-1/dawson.pdf
  • Lorne L. Dawson, “Bringing Religiosity Back In: Critical Reflection on the Explanation of Western Homegrown Religious Terrorism (Part II),” Perspectives on Terrorism 15 (2) 2021: 1-21.https://www.universiteitleiden.nl/binaries/content/assets/customsites/perspectives-on-terrorism/2021/issue-2/dawson.pdf
  • Lorne L. Dawson, “Terror and Violence” in Robert Segal and Nickolas P. Roubekas, eds., Wiley-Blackwell Companion to the Study of Religion (2nd ed.). Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2021: 440-450.
  • Shandon Harris-Hogan, Lorne L. Dawson, and Amarnath Amarasingam, “A Comparative Analysis of the Nature and Evolution of the Domestic Jihadist Threat to Australia and Canada (2000-2020),” Perspectives on Terrorism 14 (5), 2020: 77-102.https://www.universiteitleiden.nl/binaries/content/assets/customsites/perspectives-on-terrorism/2020/issue-5/harris-horgan-et-al.pdf
  • Lorne L. Dawson, “Taking Terrorist Accounts of their Motivations Seriously: An Exploration of the Hermeneutics of Suspicion,” Perspectives on Terrorism  13 (5), 2019: 65-80.
  • Lorne L. Dawson and Amarnath Amarasingam, “Canadian Foreign Fighters in Syria and Iraq, 2012-2016,” in Jeremy Littlewood, Lorne L. Dawson, and Sara Thompson, eds., Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2020.
  • Lorne L. Dawson, “Clarifying the Explanatory Context for Developing Theories of Radicalization: Five Basic Considerations.” Journal for Deradicalization 18 (Spring), 2019: 50-87, https://journals.sfu.ca/jd/index.php/jd/article/view/191
  • Lorne L. Dawson, “Debating the Role of Religion in the Motivation of Religious Terrorism,” Nordic Journal of Religion and Society 31 (2), 2018: 98-117.
  • Deven Parekh, Amarnath Amarasingam, Lorne Dawson, Derek Ruths, “Studying Jihadists on Social Media: A Critique of Data Collection Methodologies,” Perspectives on Terrorism 12 (3), 2018: 5-23.
  • Lorne L. Dawson, “The Demise of the Islamic State and the Fate of its Western Foreign Fighters: Six Things to Consider,” The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – The Hague, Policy Brief No. 9. 2018. DOI: 10.19165/2018.02.04. Available at: https://www.icct.nl/publication/the-demise-of-the-islamic-state-and-the-fate-of-its-western-foreign-fighters-six-things-to-consider/
  • James R. Lewis and Lorne L. Dawson, “Introduction: Religion and Terrorism,” Special Issue of Numen Vol. 65, No. 2-3, 2018: 117 - 124.
  • Lorne L. Dawson, “Challenging the Curious Erasure of Religion from the Study of Religious Terrorism,” Numen Vol. 65, No. 2-3, 2018:141-164.
  • Lorne L. Dawson “The Failure of Prophecy and the Future of IS.” The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – The Hague 8, no. 3 (2017), https://www.icct.nl/publication/failure-prophecy-and-future
  • Lorne L. Dawson, “Sketch of a Social Ecology Model for Explaining Homegrown Terrorist Radicalisation”, The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – The Hague 8, no.1 (2017), https://www.icct.nl/publication/sketch-of-a-social-ecology-model-for-explaining-homegrown-terrorist-radicalisation/
  • Lorne L. Dawson and Amarnath Amarasingam, “Talking to Foreign Fighters: Insights into the Motivations for Hijrah to Syria and Iraq,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, Vol. 40, No. 3, 2017, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/1057610X.2016.1274216
  • Lorne L. Dawson, “Discounting Religion in the Explanation of Homegrown Terrorism: A Critique,” in James R. Lewis, ed., Cambridge Companion to Religion and Terrorism, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 32-45, 2017.

Recent presentations

“Who Becomes a Jihadi Terrorist, How and Why?” Desmond Pacey Memorial Lecture, Faculty of Arts, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, Feb. 19, 2020.

“Who Becomes a Jihadi Terrorist, How and Why?” Lakehead University, Orillia Campus, Feb. 12, 2020.

“Western Foreign Fighters in Syria and Iraq: What Do We Really Know about Why They Went?” European Consortium for Political Research, Wroclaw, Poland, Sept. 4., 2019.

“Taking Terrorist Accounts of their Motivations Seriously: An Exploration of the Hermeneutics of Suspicion,” Society for Terrorism Research, Oslo, Norway, June 21, 2019.

“Understanding Radicalization,” Countering Violent Extremism Conference, Toronto Police College, June 13, 2019.

Organized a two-day workshop on Radicalization and Countering Violent Extremism, with 6 speakers for the Bi-Annual Staff Conference of the John Howard Society, June 4-5, 2019.

“Radicalization: Insights from Talking with Foreign Fighters.” Security and Religion: Global and Local Perspectives, Centre for Defence and Security Studies, Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand, May 1, 2019.

Invited participant, closed workshop: “Preventing Violent Radicalization and Violent Extremism: Developing Evidence-Based Guidelines to Promote Effective Intervention,” Canadian Practitioners’ Network for the Prevention of Radicalization and Extremist Violence, Ottawa, Mar. 21 & 22, 2019.

“Modelling Radicalization: Returning to the Middle Ground.” ITERP (International Team for Evaluation of Radicalization to Violence Prevention) Workshop, London, UK, March 15, 2019.

“Religion and the Radicalization of Western Jihadists,” 90 mins presentation to classified meeting of “Like-Minded” Senior Counter-Terrorism Officials (9 countries), Ottawa, Global Affairs Canada, Dec. 13, 2018.

“Understanding Radicalization: Critical Reflection,” Partnering in Practice: Preventing Social Polarization, Organization for the Prevention of Violence/TSAS/Canadian Practitioners Network for Prevention of Radicalization and Extremist Violence, Edmonton, Nov. 30, 2018.

“Radicalization: Basic Elements, Processes, and Issues” and “Charismatic Authority and Violence,” Retreat on Frontline Humanitarian Negotiation with Radical Armed Groups (Oct. 14-19), Centre of Competence for Humanitarian Negotiation (Geneva), Caux, Switzerland, Oct 16, 2018.

Participant (two days), “Hackathon on Future Challenges and perspectives on Canadian Defence and Security,” Canadian Network for Defence and Security Analysis, Balsillie School of International Affairs. Sept. 28 & 29, 2018.

“Researching Western Foreign Terrorist Fighters in Syria and Iraq.” Balsillie School of International Affairs, Waterloo, Sept. 20, 2018.

“Modelling the Role of Ideology in Becoming a Jihadist Foreign Fighter,” Society for Terrorism Research, Liverpool, Sept. 5, 2018.

Key Note Lecturer, “Debating the Role of Religion in Religious Terrorism,” Nordic Society for the Sociology of Religion, University of Oslo, Norway, Aug. 3, 2018.

“Understanding Radicalization.” Ontario Crown Attorneys Summer School: Youth Criminal Justice Act.” University of Western Ontario, London, June 19, 2018.

“The Canadian Response to Foreign Fighter Returnees: Context and Options,” École D’été “Terrorismes”: Retour des combattants étrangers, Laval University, Quebec City, May 23, 2018.

“Negotiating the Talk to Action Linkage in Terrorist Radicalization,” Ontario Provincial Police Conference, “Collaborating to Counter Violent Extremism,” OPP General Headquarters, March 29, 2018.

“Foreign Fighters and the Demise of the Islamic State,” CSIS Toronto Regional Office, (40 min talk, 20 Q & A, followed by two hour lunch meeting with analysts), Feb. 21, 2018.

G20 International Conference on Preventing Radicalization – Towards Resilient Societies, by invitation from German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, Nov. 13-15 (one of two Canadians invited to participate on panels), 2018.

Research funding 

Total Research Funding 2012 -2021: $5,492,560.00

2021-2023, Canadian-Swedish Research Collaboration on Organized Violent Threats, Contract with Defence Research and Development Canada, $600,000.

2019-2021, The Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security, and Society, Major Research Grant, “Understanding Canadians Involved in Jihadist Terrorism: A Comparative Study with Australia” (co-PIs Lorne L. Dawson and Shandon Harris-Hogan), $39,976.

2017-2020, Community Resilience Fund, Public Safety Canada, “Testing the Reliability, Validity and Equity of Terrorism Risk Assessment Tools,”(Co-PIs: Paul Gill, University College London; Lorne L. Dawson, University of Waterloo; David Hofmann, University of New Brunswick) $563, 552.

2017-2019 Community Resilience Fund, Public Safety Canada, “Foreign Fighter Radicalization: Advanced Primary Data Acquisition and Analysis,” (PI; collaborators: Dr. Amarnath Amarasingam, George Washington University Program on Extremism and Dr. Derek Ruths, Computer Science McGill University) $256,950.

2016-2018, SSHRC, Subventions de développement de partenariat – Fonds d’innovation sociale destine aux communautés et aux collèges, “Les intégrismes religieux et la radicalisation au Canada: vulgarisation et education populaire,” (PI Martin Geoffroy; one of three Co-Researchers) $240,000.

2015-2022, SSHRC, Partnership Grant, "Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society," (Co-PI with Dan Hiebert, University of British Columbia) $2,150,000.

2014, Public Safety Canada, Kanishka Contribution Agreement Competition, "Canadian Research Network on Terrorism, Security and Society" (with Dan Hiebert, University of British Columbia and Martin Bouchard, Simon Fraser University), $240,000.

2014, Canada Safety and Security Program, Defense Research and Development Canada (with Dan Hiebert, University of British Columbia, and Martin Bouchard, Simon Fraser University), $580,000.