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About this book

In the years since 9/11, terrorism has been transformed into an issue of global significance. Terrorism and the war on terror has affected virtually every aspect of modern life, and a precise understanding of terrorism is now more important – and contentious – than ever.

This innovative text provides a much-needed critical introduction to terrorism. Cutting-edge research on contemporary issues is combined with new insights into long-debated issues such as the definition of terrorism, the nature of the terrorist threat and counter-terrorism strategies. Showing that the methods we adopt as well as the material we study are vital for a clear understanding of the subject, this text goes beyond traditional IR approaches to rethink popular beliefs and assumptions about terrorism. Taking a genuinely global and integrated approach, this book is an ideal entry into the study of terrorism.

The text is supported by:

• International case studies from around the world
• A detailed glossary introducing key actors, events and concepts relating to terrorism
• Learning aids to stimulate critical thinking, including discussion questions, further readings and selected web resources

Table of Contents

Introduction

Introduction

Abstract
In the twenty-first century, terrorism, it seems, is everywhere. It is in the headlines and stories of our newspapers, websites and nightly television news, and in the plotlines and characters of films, TV programmes and plays we watch, and the thriller novels and comics we read. Themes related to terrorism also feature in the popular music we listen to, in the jokes that circulate through society, in the tattoos and T-shirts we wear, and in the sermons and khutbahs we hear in church or in the mosque. Terrorism is also a part of many of the courses we study at school and university, and it features regularly in parliamentary and political debates, community meetings and legal rulings by the courts. Terrorism is often in the mind of police officers who stop and question people at train stations and on the street, and it is part of the rules governing where tourists can take photos, the security measures at airports and football matches, the installation of new CCTV cameras, the routine risk assessments for shopping malls and theatres, and the regulations governing our bank accounts. Terrorism is often stated as one of the reasons for foreign wars and military interventions, and organizations like the UN, the EU and NATO try to coordinate action to counter it. If we look carefully, we can see the traces of terrorism or, more accurately, efforts to protect society against it in numerous aspects of modern life. Yet, most of the time, unless a spectacular terrorist attack is splashed across the media, we hardly even notice its pervasive influence on all of these aspects of our everyday lives.
Richard Jackson, Lee Jarvis, Jeroen Gunning, Marie Breen-Smyth

The Study of Terrorism

Frontmatter

Chapter 1. The Orthodox Study of Terrorism

Abstract
In this chapter we examine the nature and origins of the orthodox terrorism studies field, the way its evolution and practices have shaped our understanding of terrorism, and some of its main weaknesses and failings. We start by describing how terrorism research emerged as a branch of counter-insurgency studies and soon established itself as an influential epistemic community centred on the work and activities of a key set of scholars and research institutions. We then go on to examine in detail some of the main problems and limitations of the orthodox study of terrorism in relation to definition and theory, methodology and research practice, the politics of researching terrorism, and the impact of the war on terror. In the following section we examine how orthodox accounts of terrorism are rooted in a classic problem-solving approach that is insufficiently sensitive to the ways in which knowledge and power are connected. The final section explores some of the popular myths of terrorism, the ways in which they have been propagated by the terrorism industry, and how and why they have dominated policy and public debate for so long. In the conclusion, we reflect on the implications of this analysis of the orthodox field. We describe how its origins in counter-insurgency studies shaped its evolution and character, and suggest that the time is ripe for an explicitly critical approach to terrorism.
Richard Jackson, Lee Jarvis, Jeroen Gunning, Marie Breen-Smyth

Chapter 2. Critical Approaches to Terrorism Studies

Abstract
This chapter introduces the reader to some of the main critical approaches to terrorism research, outlining their unique characteristics and primary commitments, and drawing out their points of difference from the orthodox terrorism studies field. It begins with a brief discussion of what is meant by the term ‘critical’, the broad characteristics of critical approaches to terrorism and a few key differences between critical and orthodox approaches. This is followed by a description and explanation of two long-standing critical approaches to terrorism, namely political-economy approaches and anthropology, sociology and area studies approaches. Scholars from these perspectives have long contested the orthodox approach to terrorism research, but have always done so from outside the main confines and activities of the field. Next, we describe the ‘critical turn’ which has taken place within terrorism studies in recent years, before briefly outlining some of the core characteristics and commitments of the CTS approach. The final section outlines a critical research agenda, arguing for a widening and deepening of research on terrorism, as well as the inclusion of some long-ignored subjects. In the conclusion, we reflect on the current successes of critical approaches, the obstacles that will need to be overcome for their wider acceptance, and how a broadly critical approach helps to frame the rest of this textbook.
Richard Jackson, Lee Jarvis, Jeroen Gunning, Marie Breen-Smyth

Chapter 3. The Cultural Construction of Terrorism

Abstract
This chapter explores some of the main ways in which terrorism has been socially and culturally constructed. In many Western societies, terrorism has come to saturate virtually every area of life and it is now a central element of contemporary culture. Across newspaper headlines, television programmes, films, literature, computer games, internet websites and many other cultural sites, terrorism attracts, excites and frightens us as consumers and citizens. In this chapter, we identify some of the ways in which critical approaches can contribute to an understanding of these social forms and the power/knowledge relations in which they are located. We begin by introducing the concept of media frames to help us explore the importance of the mainstream news media in mediating and reproducing dominant perspectives on terrorism. The next section then investigates some of the ways in which films and other forms of popular culture depict terrorism as a modern taboo. A third section introduces a detailed case study of these processes, exploring the construction and consolidation of a powerful 9/11 narrative in the years since 2001. This remarkably consistent presentation of those events as an exceptional act of terrorism was central, we suggest, to justifying the war on terrorism that followed. In the final section, we investigate the link between representations of terrorism and constructions of national identity by drawing on rhetorical theory to approach terrorism as a negative ideograph.
Richard Jackson, Lee Jarvis, Jeroen Gunning, Marie Breen-Smyth

Chapter 4. Bringing Gender into the Study of Terrorism

Abstract
In this chapter we examine how the issue of gender applies to, and shapes, understandings of terrorism and political violence. We start by introducing key terms such as gender, sex, masculinity, stereo-types and heteronormativity, before explaining the notion of gender hierarchies. This is followed by a critical examination of the reliability of essentialist ideas about men, women and political violence, and the role of hypermasculinity in the causation of violence. To do this, we explore a range of examples of women who have been involved in political violence and terror, both as combatants and victims. Next, we examine gender-based political violence through the example of rape as a war crime, tracing how women’s victimhood is also frequently used to justify the use of force and glorify terror. We then look at how the gendering of terrorism and political violence replicates stereotypical notions of gender roles and patriarchal power arrangements. The chapter concludes by considering how the practices of terrorism and counter-terrorism contribute to a broader heteronormative hegemony that reinforces gender hierarchies and the stereotypes which mask the variety of roles men and women perform in relation to political violence and terrorism.
Richard Jackson, Lee Jarvis, Jeroen Gunning, Marie Breen-Smyth

Key Issues

Frontmatter

Chapter 5. Conceptualizing Terrorism

Abstract
Terrorism is a highly contested concept and no agreement can be found as to what its definition should be. In both the scholarly literature and official documents and laws there are literally hundreds of different definitions and conceptualizations of the phenomenon. In this chapter, we will explore why this is the case and what the problem of definition means for those who adopt a critical approach to the study of terrorism. We begin by exploring the historical, political and philosophical reasons that make reaching a consensual definition of terrorism so difficult and the reasons why scholars continue to search for a solution. The second section then examines a number of common problems encountered within traditional efforts to arrive at a universal definition. Following a discussion of the politics of labelling political violence, we demonstrate how a shift in focus from definition to description can help to highlight the core characteristics of terrorism, whilst avoiding many of the problems that accompany the term. The final section explores the ontological limits of terrorism. In it, we argue that remaining attentive to terrorism’s unstable and unclear status encourages a healthy scepticism towards the use of this terminology, without requiring us to abandon it altogether.
Richard Jackson, Lee Jarvis, Jeroen Gunning, Marie Breen-Smyth

Chapter 6. Reconsidering the Terrorism Threat

Abstract
In this chapter we examine the threat posed by terrorism. We start by looking at how the threat is popularly understood and how the widespread belief in its seriousness forms the basis for the vast efforts made by governments and scholars to understand and prevent further acts of terrorism. We then go on to explore different ways of assessing risks to public safety, before evaluating a range of evidence to see just how serious the threat really is. As we show, a rational evaluation suggests there is a serious gap between the perception and the reality of the terrorist threat in contemporary society: in fact, it can be reasonably argued that terrorism presents a very minor threat to public or personal safety. In the next section we explore some of the psychological, sociological and political reasons why the fear of terrorism has become so out of proportion to its actual risk in the world today. The chapter concludes with a consideration of the social costs of overreacting to the threat of terrorism and we suggest that the terrorist threat should be put into its proper context and responded to with greater sensibility and proportion.
Richard Jackson, Lee Jarvis, Jeroen Gunning, Marie Breen-Smyth

Chapter 7. Types of Terrorism

Abstract
A great many categories have been used by researchers to try and bring analytical order to the diverse range of agents and behaviours associated with terrorism. In this chapter, we examine the main examples used in the field and some of the key problems associated with them. We begin by looking at common distinctions between domestic and international terrorism, state and non-state terrorism, different types of ideological terrorism, and methods-based categories such as suicide terrorism. Next, we examine some of their advantages and limits, including their potential to obscure important differences between groups; their tendency to assign causal power to factors like ideology or organization; the lack of empirical verification for many of the cases included in certain categories; and the political consequences of constructing categories and assigning groups to them. The next two sections critically interrogate two of the most popular contemporary categories, namely, ‘new terrorism’ and ‘religious terrorism’. Here we argue that ‘new terrorism’ is a dubious and ideologically dangerous construction, and that notions of ‘religious terrorism’ might not be very helpful at all. In the conclusion, we reflect on the value of critical approaches towards categorization in the context of political violence.
Richard Jackson, Lee Jarvis, Jeroen Gunning, Marie Breen-Smyth

Chapter 8. Understanding State Terrorism

Abstract
In this chapter we examine the frequently neglected issue of the use of terrorist violence by states. It begins with a discussion of why state terrorism has remained largely unstudied within the broader terrorism studies field, and some of the ideological consequences of this silence. The next section offers a definition of state terrorism. It demonstrates how certain forms of state violence clearly fit the definition of terrorism and interrogates some of the most common arguments that have been used against the concept. This is followed by a brief overview of the nature and extent of state terrorism over the past two centuries and some examples of contemporary state terrorism. This overview reveals that state terrorism is a far more serious and destructive form of political violence than non-state terrorism. The final section analyses the reasons why states employ terrorism, as well as the main actors, methods and outcomes of state terrorism. In the conclusion, we reflect on the implications of including forms of state violence within the study of terrorism and try to suggest a way forward for further exploration of this important issue.
Richard Jackson, Lee Jarvis, Jeroen Gunning, Marie Breen-Smyth

Chapter 9. The Causes of Non-State Terrorism

Abstract
The question of what causes terrorism is one of the most important and hotly debated topics in terrorism studies. This chapter introduces the reader to the main issues and questions surrounding this topic, exploring how we might think critically about causation. We begin by exploring the different ways in which causation has been approached in the traditional terrorism studies and IR literatures, before outlining the key concerns raised by critical scholars. This is followed by a discussion of some of the prevalent myths about the causes of terrorism, such as that it is caused by poverty, psychopathy and religion. Next, we look briefly at some of the macro-level factors, or ‘root causes’, discussed in the literature, before concluding that a macro-approach cannot adequately explain why, how and where violence occurs. We then discuss an alternative approach rooted in social movement theory which looks at the interplay between macro-, meso- and micro-dynamics. In the final section, we put this approach to the test by applying it to a short study of the tactic of suicide bombing.
Richard Jackson, Lee Jarvis, Jeroen Gunning, Marie Breen-Smyth

Chapter 10. Responding to Non-state Terrorism

Abstract
In this chapter we explore some of the central issues concerning state responses to acts of non-state terrorism. We begin with a discussion of the impact of 9/11 on policymakers’ perceptions of how terrorism should be countered. We then explore the social and political impact of post-9/11 counter-terrorism policies. This is followed by a brief description of some of the main counter-terrorism approaches and tools in use by governments today and a short analysis of their evolution. The next section discusses four important issues facing contemporary counter-terrorism: the question of how counter-terrorism policies can be properly evaluated; the debate over tensions between liberty and security; the question of the efficacy and morality of torture as a counter-terrorism method; and the issue of conflict resolution and the ways in which terrorism ends. In the final section, we put forward a series of principles and perspectives which critical scholars typically adopt for understanding and evaluating counter-terrorism. In the conclusion, we reflect on some of the key contributions a critical approach may make to counter-terrorism, including the important but neglected issue of how to respond to the much more serious problem of state terrorism.
Richard Jackson, Lee Jarvis, Jeroen Gunning, Marie Breen-Smyth

Chapter 11. Assessing the War on Terrorism

Abstract
The war on terrorism is the term used to describe the global counter-terrorism campaign that was launched in response to the attacks of 11 September 2001. In its scope, expenditure and pervasive impact on social and political life, the war on terrorism is comparable to the decades of the cold war. In an important sense, it represents the beginning of a new phase in global political relations and has important consequences for security, human rights, international law, cooperation and governance. In this chapter we critically examine this new conflict, beginning with an overview of its major military, intelligence, diplomatic, legal, domestic and discursive dimensions. Following a critical examination of this conflict’s purported successes and failures, the chapter investigates its origins and evolution, and the ways the war on terrorism has become embedded and normalized across the world. Here, we argue that this new security paradigm is likely to be with us for some time, despite moves by some official actors to abandon the term. In the conclusion we reflect on the extent to which the war on terrorism is the logical outcome of the way in which terrorism has been constructed, studied and countered in Western societies in the twentieth century.
Richard Jackson, Lee Jarvis, Jeroen Gunning, Marie Breen-Smyth
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