CRITICAL STUDIES IN TERRORISM

Richard Jackson as Editor

There is a field of study called Terrorism Studies (or Terrorology by its critics) with its own journals, conferences, think-tanks, funding, knowledge, discourse and ‘experts’. This field has grown exponentially since 11 September, 2001, to the point where a new book is published in English on terrorism every six hours and within a few years it will be the case that over 90 percent of all literature on terrorism will have been published in this post-9/11 period.
Within this broader field, a small but growing number of scholars have decided to attempt to challenge and reconstruct the field by calling for an explicitly ‘critical’ terrorism studies. The reasons for doing so are first, that we feel dissatisfied and uneasy with some aspects of the field, such as its frequent failure to engage in primary research with so-called ‘terrorists’, its uncritical reproduction of certain myths about terrorism and its close relationship with state counter-terrorism. Second, we felt that there was a great deal of important research on ‘terrorism’ who’s findings were failing to impact on the field because those scholars felt uneasy about publishing in its journals or being seen to be associated with state counter-terrorism priorities.
The main idea behind having a ‘critical terrorism studies’ therefore, is that while it is located firmly within the broader terrorism field it directly challenges the field in regards to its knowledge and research practices, its ideological commitments, its research ethics, its relationship to political power and its normative agenda. It also allows scholars who feel uncomfortable with the traditional field to participate in a way that signals their own ‘critical’ approach to the subject. Importantly, CTS is not aimed at bifurcating the field or replacing the old orthodoxy with a new one. Rather, it aims to encourage rigorous but respectful dialogue and debate and perhaps one day, to drop the term ‘critical’ because it is no longer needed by the field.
Apart from disseminating papers which articulate the core aims, commitments, and challenges facing CTS (see for example, the Symposium entitled: ‘The Case for Critical Terrorism Studies’, in European Political Science, vol. 6, no. 3), one of the main initiatives of CTS has been to launch a new peer-reviewed journal called Critical Studies on Terrorism. The journal website, which calls for papers, explains the aims and scope of the journal and outlines its editorial structure, can be found at http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/titles/17539153.asp). The journal is intended to be a primary outlet for ‘critical’ studies on any terrorism-related subjects, and to provide a forum for debates about the state of the discipline and research issues. It also aims to encourage and promote multi- and inter-disciplinarity. The March 2008 launch issue contains a symposium on critical terrorism studies with contributions by some leading scholars, a number of interesting research papers, an interview with a leading counter-terrorism official and a number of book reviews.

Complete Statement of Intent

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