Killing in the Name
: Searching for ‘the Political’ in Political Violence

  • Charlotte Heath-Kelly

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis explores the politicality of political violence through the consideration of two conflicts: the EOKA organisation’s struggle against the British administration of Cyprus (1955-59) and the Italian anni di piombo (years of lead) where armed organisations challenged the state between 1972 and 1987. Academic literatures have often attributed the moniker of politicality to terrorism, but such ascriptions have regularly been shallow. They signify the adherence of militant groups to certain ideologies without interrogating the dynamics of power and resistance which characterise the deployment of counter-discourse, or that constitute struggle. This thesis uses an understanding of politicality which relates to the disruption of discourse. Through interviews with the protagonists of armed organisations it explores the ways in which political violence might be considered political, but also the constraints that can engender the reproduction of politics within resistance. The contrasting post-conflict situation of interviewees from the ‘victorious’ EOKA organisation and the defeated anni di piombo groups enables the thesis to introduce considerations of victory and defeat to literatures on terrorism, but also to engage with literatures on memory. The thesis develops the engagement of Critical Terrorism Studies (CTS) with armed groups by exploring how memories and narratives of political violence are altered in divergent post-conflict scenarios. It also appropriates the concept of ‘counter-conducts’ from Foucault’s work to model political violence within the dynamics of power and resistance, where practices of governmentality can produce instances of reversal. Counter-conducts can enable critical engagements with militant groups and the transition of persons into armed struggle – disrupting discourses of radicalisation. The thesis attempts to contribute to literatures which address memory, political violence, resistance and ‘the political’. The experiences of interviewees are used to explore questions about what it means to be political, and why certain types of violence are called political.
Date of Award12 Jan 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorJenny Edkins (Supervisor) & Richard Dean Wells Jackson (Supervisor)

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