Security and Terrorism
Research Statement for Security and Terrorism:
One of the more important tasks of political entities is ensuring the security of its people. The failure of ‘the state’ to do so would upset its very foundations and undermine the current international organization of power. Security is usually understood as a tangible feature of reality which becomes an absolute priority in the presence of an existential threat. This makes security a powerful concept to evoke in order to ensure the inner cohesion of the political entity when facing an external threat. However it is an equally powerful concept to abuse. Calling on ‘security’ can be a diversionary tactic shifting focus from social, economic or other issues. It can serve as an excuse for implementing dubious social measures and curbing civil rights. Not least it can be used for legitimization of questionable practices aimed at other ethno-political entities. All these cases of manipulation are especially acute when the threat is labelled as “terrorist”. The vague nature of the term “terrorism” allows for a broad spectrum of actors to be labelled as “terrorists” and dismissed from political dialogue thus allowing the conflict to unnecessarily escalate. Part of the EXCEPS research in this area is to address the subjectivity inherent in the construction of terms such as security and terrorism.
Radicalization and Terrorism
A key aspect of this subjectivity focuses upon the term ‘radicalization’. The phenomenon has recently been the focus of much academic research and policy implementation – especially where there is an understanding that violent radicalisation underpins terrorism, and policy-makers and practitioners especially assume that counter-radicalisation may alleviate the threat of terrorist violence. In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, too much of this research and practice focused on questions of Islamically inspired political violence, but increasingly policy makers are beginning to recognise that understanding and countering violent radicalisation must mirror the realities of terrorism itself – and that much 21st Century terrorism is about issues of ethno-national conflict including movements of national separatism, minority rights, and rightwing/racist extremism. Significant part of research aims to conceptualise, problematize and understand the relationship between violent radicalisation and radicalisation in a broad range of cases, and seeks to take stock of the current academic and policy-making debates on this issue.
The notion of the underlying causes for radicalization of certain subcultures, social classes, minorities or ethnic groups must be brought to the forefront of any attempt at counter-radicalization. The issue of obstructing public awareness of the causes becomes especially acute when radicalization escalates to terrorism. Excessive counter-terrorist measures are often accompanied by simplified discourse which usually ignores the reasons for violent radicalization and deals only with the act of terrorism itself. A very biased perspective is employed which serves as legitimization for violent counter-actions of the more powerful of the two participants in the conflict. Such practices not only escalate the conflict but also perpetuate the causes for radicalization thus deepening the rift they seek to close. An important aspect of our current research is to investigate the possible merits of utilising an approach, which would work towards addressing the initial social conflict thus defusing the potential for violent radicalization.
The aims of this set of research activities are to conceptualise, problematize and draw out empirical comparisons between ethno-politically inspired violent radicalisation, whether this violence is based on ethnicity, nationalism, religion and/or other forms of identity. We particularly seek to highlight shared areas of definitions, methodologies and empirical findings, across a range of national and cultural contexts in order to assess whether comparisons in this field are justified, and to be able to better understand how and when terrorism is being deployed as a tactic of identity.
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