The Case for a Critical Terrorism Studies

Richard Dean Wells Jackson

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Abstract

This paper was written in response to three recent developments in the field of terrorism studies. First, since 2001 there has been a tremendous growth in terrorism-related research and teaching activities. Following the attacks in America, terrorism studies rapidly expanded from a relatively minor sub-field of security studies to a large stand alone field with its own dedicated journals, research centres, leading scholars and experts, research funding opportunities, conferences, seminars and study programmes. As a consequence, it is now one of the fastest expanding areas of research in the English-speaking academic world, with literally thousands of new books and articles published over the past few years, significant investment in terrorism-related research projects and increasing numbers of postgraduate dissertations and undergraduate students. Such phenomenal growth calls for critical reflection on the state and direction of terrorism research. Second, there has already been a growing dissatisfaction with the quality of the voluminous output of the field. As detailed below, a number of authoritative scholarly reviews have maintained that much of the new research – and much of the early research on political terrorism – fails to meet rigorous standards of scholarship. Related to this, it is also possible to discern a growing and deep-seated sense of unease about the progress and consequences of the global war on terror (WOT). In late 2006, for example, the Iraq Study Group noted that, 'Many Americans are dissatisfied, not just with the situation in Iraq but with the state of our political debate regarding Iraq… Our country deserves a debate that prizes substance over rhetoric.‟ In other words, in a political environment characterised by decreasing public and academic confidence in official approaches to counter-terrorism, we argue that it is intellectually and politically timely to consider how a new, more critical approach might offer an alternative paradigm for considering political terror.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2007

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