The Radicalization of Youth

Gaby Small '16

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The project: Through an examination of the history of the Shining Path terrorist organization formed in Peru in the 1970s and 80s, Ms. Small explored how societal and cultural issues can lead to the radicalization of young people.

Biggest challenge: “I wanted to find a firsthand account of someone who was involved or had family involved, but I wasn’t able to find anyone. I had a bit of a time constraint; I needed more time. I kept finding little pieces and little directions that I wanted to follow. My original project was completely different and I only found this niche halfway through the trimester. It was kind of an evolving project the whole time.”

Surprising discovery: “I learned a lot about Peru and Peruvian history. I had really never studied Latin America, so I was enthralled. Another surprising aspect was, I thought it was shocking how almost all of the political activists for Shining Path came out of [founder Abimael] Guzman’s classroom. He was the leader of Shining Path, a professor of philosophy. So this level of radicalization that happened in the university was terrifying.”

Tip for future scholars: “Start writing as soon as possible. I spent a lot of time reading, and watching videos, and making an annotated bibliography that was so long, and I had all these different theories that I didn’t write down. I could have benefited from starting the writing process much earlier and letting it evolve, and not waiting until I had a solid outline of exactly what I wanted to do. I think it could have flowed more organically like that.”