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Rik Coolsaet, PhD, is Professor Emeritus of International Relations at Ghent University (Belgium) and Senior Associate Fellow at Egmont Institute (Royal Institute for International Relations) in Brussels. He was appointed a member of the original European Commission Expert Group on Violent Radicalisation (established 2006) and the subsequent European Network of Experts on Radicalisation (ENER). He was also chair of the Ghent Institute for International Studies (GIIS), one of the research groups within the Department of Political Science at Ghent University (now the Ghent Institute for International and European Studies).

From 2002 to 2009, he served as Director of the ‘Security & Global Governance’ Program at the Egmont Institute. Earlier, he has held several high-ranking official positions, such as deputy chief of the Cabinet of the Belgian Minister of Defence (1988–1992) and deputy chief of the Cabinet of the Minister of Foreign Affairs (1992–1995).

In 1998, he published the first comprehensive study on the history of Belgian foreign policy (Belgium and its foreign policy 1830-1990, in Dutch and partly in French). The latest revised edition, released in September 2014, pursues this history until 2014 (published only in Dutch). Two other major studies on Belgian foreign policy deal with Dutch-Belgian bilateral relations since 1945 (Nederland-België. De Belgisch-Nederlandse betrekkingen vanaf 1940, Boom, 2011, with Duco Hellema and Bart Stol) and with the history of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Les Affaires étrangères au service de l’Etat belge, de 1830 à nos jours (Mardaga, 2014) and, in Dutch, Buitenlandse Zaken in België. Geschiedenis van een ministerie, zijn diplomaten en zijn consuls van 1830 tot vandaag (Lannoo, 2014), with Vincent Dujardin and the late Claude Roosens.

He has been coordinating research on terrorism and radicalisation since 9/11. This has resulted in a number of books, essays and articles. His Jihadi Terrorism and the Radicalisation Challenge. European and American Experiences was published by Ashgate in 2011. This volume was included in the 2012 ‘Top 150 Books on Terrorism and Counterterrorism’, established by the academic journal Perspectives on Terrorism. His analysis on the impact of 9/11 on Europe was published in 2013 in a volume edited by Mohammed Ayoob and Etga Ugur of Michigan State University (‘Europe: Reinforcing Existing Trends’, in: Assessing the War on Terror. Lynne Rienner, 2013, pp. 137-159). Between 2016 and 2018, several studies on the so-called ‘ISIS generation’ were all released by the Egmont Institute: Facing the fourth foreign fighters wave. What drives Europeans to Syria, and to Islamaic State? Insights from the Belgian case (March 2016); ‘All radicalisation is local.’ The genesis and drawbacks of an elusive concept (June 2016); Anticipating the post-Daesh landscape (October 2017); and Returnees – Who are they, why are they (not) coming back and how should we deal with them. Assessing policies on returning Foreign Terrorist Fighters in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands (February 2018, with Thomas Renard).

His research on the origins and drawbacks of the novel concept of ‘radicalisation’ resulted in several contributions: Radicalisation – The origins and limits of a contested concept (2019), When do individuals radicalize? (2022) and ‘Radicalisation’ and ‘countering radicalisation’: the emergence and expansion of a contentious concept (2024)All are available on this website.

Finally, he has also written extensively on international relations, mostly in Dutch. His Macht en Waarden in de Wereldpolitiek (Power and Values in World Politics, Academia Press) provided for a yearly overview of major trends in global politics (until 2016).

In 2008, he published The History of Tomorrow’s World (in Dutch). It aimed at connecting the present with the past in order to give some relief to the map with which we look for a path towards tomorrow. It also ventured a prediction. As far as history could be our guide, we had better assume that we were heading for turbulent times. It had only just reached bookstores when the world plunged into the Great Recession. In Europe, this was followed by a banking and debt crisis, which was only overcome a decade later. Then Europe was in the midst of a refugee and asylum crisis. When that subsided, the world was hit by the new coronavirus, which caused the most serious economic crisis in over a century. And parallel to those crises came waves of protest, one after another.

That is the starting point of the updated edition, published in February 2021 under the title Tomorrow’s World Is Not So Much More Complex Than Yesterday’s World (Kritak, in Dutch). In it, he once again takes stock of the state of the world, the large environment of global politics and the small environment of our daily lives. There is no watertight barrier between the two. The book outlines how a torrent – with roots in the 1970s and 1980s – has culminated in a new kind of society, a middle-class society. Uncertainty, individualism, and inequality are its hallmarks. But it has also transformed global politics into a multipolar world, not so different from that of the 19th century. Today’s great powers are once again engaged in a competitive game for influence and leadership, leading to uncertainty, unpredictability, and instability.

And last but not least, a final focus: reconstructing the journey through time of a group of families, not necessarily related, but sharing the same surname – Coolsaet. The Chronicles of the Coolsaet families tell the story of their lives, describing their daily routines, recounting their highs and lows, and highlighting the small and large anecdotes that shaped their daily lives. Some moved, sometimes within a stone’s throw of their birthplace, sometimes further afield where work was plentiful – and some even beyond the horizon to distant lands about which they knew almost nothing. History through the eyes of the Coolsaet tribe. Now posted on this website.