Peace Studies and (Counter)Terrorism
Summary and Keywords
Scholarly attention on both Peace Studies (PS) and contemporary security issues, in particular “terrorism” and “counterterrorism,” is notable and has been growing in recent decades. Several academic institutions now offer undergraduate and postgraduate modules on “Terrorism Studies” (TS) and PS all over the world, and in recent years there has been growing interest in both areas. Still, the two fields have long remained stubbornly distant and only a few scholars have investigated the interaction between Peace and Terrorism Studies. This article, building on the openings produced by seminal contributions on the possible intersection between the two areas of research, seeks to review such contributions and point to some commonalities and issues affecting both fields to finally underline fruitful areas of cross-pollination. To achieve its aim, the article is structured in the following way: it begins with an investigation of characteristics common to both fields as well as common issues affecting them, then reports the results of a preliminary review of the most relevant contributions investigating the possibilities of crossroads between Terrorism Studies and Peace Studies. The contributions succinctly reviewed in this article are full of important considerations (theoretically and empirically informed) about the feasibility and desirability of intersections between TS and PS and are particularly welcomed for opening up new avenues for research. However, given the initial stage of this enterprise, they should be better regarded as excellent launch pads for stimulating further research and for encouraging more dialogue between disciplines.
Scholarly attention on both Peace Studies (PS) and contemporary security issues, in particular “terrorism” and “counterterrorism,” is notable and has been growing in recent decades. Several academic institutions now offer undergraduate and postgraduate modules on “Terrorism Studies” (TS) and PS all over the world, and in recent years there has been growing interest in both areas. Still, the two fields have long remained stubbornly distant and only a few scholars have investigated the interaction between Peace and Terrorism Studies. One of the reasons could be that disagreement exists over the very existence or not of a clearly defined field of “Terrorism Studies” (Gunning, 2007b), and quotation marks are thus adopted to denote the existence of such disagreements. In addition, the identity of PS has been disputed for nearly four decades and still no agreement has been found on what peace is and about its tasks (Patomaki, 2001).
According to Toros and Tellidis (2016, p. 1), there are several reasons for the lack of cross-fertilization between the two areas. One is the fact that “terrorism” is still considered in many circles as “an aberration that cannot be investigated using conflict analysis frames.” This is strictly connected with “the still-engrained policy and scholarly refusal to draw on conflict management resolution or transformation frameworks to investigate responses to terrorist violence.” Such refusal includes the broad rejection of negotiation and dialogue in the context of “terrorism” and “counterterrorism” as well as the ignoring of relevant research in peacebuilding. Finally, the still predominant problem-solving approach both in TS and PS continues to hamper a proper understanding of the complexity of the terrorism phenomenon.
Yet there are areas of mutual interest and various possibilities for intersections between the two fields that could further our understanding of “terrorism” and allow us to better engage in transformative resolution of conflicts marked by terrorist violence. Although the investigation of potential synergies between PS and TS has only recently begun, the initial results are very promising and have opened up paths for future investigations.
This article, building on the openings produced by seminal contributions on the possible intersection between the two areas of research, seeks to review such contributions and point to some commonalities and issues affecting both fields to finally underline fruitful areas of cross-pollination. To achieve its aim, the article is structured in the following way: it begins with an investigation of characteristics common to both fields as well as common issues affecting them, then reports the results of a preliminary review of the most relevant contributions investigating the possibilities of crossroads between Terrorism Studies and Peace Studies. This is particularly important as:
Despite the fact that many peace and conflict scholars and critical terrorism scholars—many of whom were originally trained in peace and conflict studies—believe it is primarily terrorism scholarship that would benefit from cross-pollination, peace and conflict studies could also benefit from greater engagement with frameworks developed in terrorism studies, both traditional and critical.
(Toros & Tellidis, 2013b, p. 2)
Peace Studies and (Counter)Terrorism Studies: Common Features and Common Issues
Before reviewing the most relevant contributions investigating the possibilities of crossroads between Terrorism Studies and Peace Studies, it is useful to sketch out some characteristics that unite TS and PS as well as common issues affecting both of them. For an exploration of key issues of PS based on a reflection upon the openings of Critical Terrorism Studies (CTS), see Jackson (2015).
Both fields of study are comparatively young. PS developed as a formal academic field after the World War II, and TS began to emerge as a distinct field of study in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Within the broader field of peace and conflict studies, Peace Science shares the same aim as PS, of understanding the mechanisms underpinning conflicts in order to devise means for the sustainable non-violent resolution of conflicts while privileging quantitative methodologies. Peace Science configures itself as an interdisciplinary enterprise, utilizing relevant analyses from social and natural sciences and encouraging in particular, but not exclusively, quantitative research.
Both PS and TS have been heavily contested and more often criticized than praised. As Silke notes with regard to TS (2004, pp. 1–2):
Research on terrorism has had a deeply troubled past. Frequently neglected and often overlooked, the science of terror has been conducted in the cracks and crevices which lie between the large academic disciplines. There has been a chronic shortage of experienced researchers—a huge proportion of the literature is the work of fleeting visitors: individuals who are often poorly aware of what has already been done and naïve in their methods and conclusions. Thus, while the volume of what has been written is both massive and growing, the quality of the content leaves much to be desired.
The same is true for Peace Studies (cf. Dunn, 2005). In some circles, PS still suffers from a negative reputation, having been painted as “essentially an ‘intellectual protest movement’, often dismissed as the remit of bearded, sandal-wearing, bleeding-heart liberals rather than as a serious research area” (Terriff, Croft, Lucy, & Morgan, 1999, p. 65). Brunk (2000, p. 15) points to the fact that PS is viewed by some as “promoting pacifism, socialism, or other ‘left-wing’ political agendas and providing a platform for engaging students in anti-war protests and other forms of activism, rather than maintaining the appropriate level of scholarly ‘objectivity’.” This was particularly the case in the early years of the discipline. Nowadays, according to Rogers (2016, p. 59):
It is a field that has had more than its share of controversies—peace studies was frequently labeled “appeasement studies” at the height of the Cold War—but has survived and thrived, especially in recent years, with a marked increase in interest in issues of peacekeeping, conflict resolution, and post-conflict peace building.
The very core concepts of the fields of “terrorism” and “peace” are disputed. Only fairly recently has it become established in the terrorism literature that various factors—including political opportunity, interests, historical and socio-political contexts, the people involved, and cultural models—determine the labeling (or not) of someone as a “terrorist” or something as “terrorism” (see also Zulaika & Douglass, 1996; Jackson, Jarvis, Gunning, & Breen Smyth, 2011). It is now acknowledged that much scholarship rests on the premise that “terrorism tends to be about the Other, i.e., one’s country, one’s class, one’s creed, one’s president, oneself can hardly be a terrorist” (Zulaika & Douglass, 1996, p. 13). Indeed, “massive murder when perpetrated by ‘friendly’ regimes is of course not ‘terrorism’ (but at most ‘civil war’), and is not something for which the pretty decent process of pretty decent people can be blamed” (van Dijk, 1995, p. 152, italics in the original). As Oliverio and Lauderdale (2005, p. 166) have pointed out:
There is no consistent unity in the way terrorism has been defined or constructed throughout the ages. Systematic patterns, however, can be examined when the state defines an entity, whether it is an individual or another state, as threatening to its survival and legitimacy. Under these conditions, terrorism finds its name, time, and place.
Following from the above, “terrorism,” to be properly understood, should not be studied as a self-evident fact but rather as linked to the specific determinants giving meaning to it. There is an extensive literature on definitions of terrorism (Young & Findley, 2011; Goodwin, 2006), but disagreements remain. The same is true for “peace,” which is an essentially disputed concept and is viewed very differently depending on place, culture, and time (Bartolucci & Gallo, 2008). The meaning of the very central concepts of both fields has indeed shifted considerably over time and across different cultures. Nowadays, terrorist violence is seen as something intrinsically evil. As Hoffmann puts it: “On one point, at least, everybody agrees: terrorism is seen as a pejorative term” (2006, p. 23). This, however, has not always been the case. “Terrorism,” in fact, has sometimes been viewed in a more positive way as a natural response to injustice and oppression. “Terrorism” at times has had a very positive connotation, as “nothing but justice, prompt, severe and inflexible; it is indeed an emanation of virtue” (Robespierre, 1794). Sartre considered “terror” as the engine of progress and freedom and put it at the center of his political philosophy:
Hence Sartre can say that “Terror is the statutory guarantee, freely called for, that none shall fall back into seriality.” Terror indeed is more than this: it is “mortal solicitude”, for it is thanks to Terror that man becomes a social being, created such by himself and by others, Terror is the violence that negates violence. Terror in fact is fraternity.”
(Cranston, 1967, p. 23)
The same can be argued for “peace.” Although most will agree that peace is desirable, it has nevertheless often been equated with “passivity” and related to women, with war being related to men and aggression (see Burguieres, 1990). An analysis of the meaning of “peace” in different cultures indeed has shown a high degree of variation (Bartolucci & Gallo, 2008). At times, “peace” has also had a negative connotation. Tacitus reports other voices describing the Pax Romana—a peace secured and maintained through terror—from the perspective of its victims in a statement put on the lips of Calcagus, chief of the Britons:
Robbers of the world, having by their universal plunder exhausted the land, they rifle the deep. If the enemy be rich, they are rapacious; if he be poor, they lust for dominion; neither the east nor the west has been able to satisfy them. Alone among men they covet with equal eagerness poverty and riches. To robbery, slaughter, plunder, they give the lying name of empire; where they make a desert, they call it peace. (Tacitus, 1876)
In addition, the two fields are seen by some as stagnating (cf. Sageman, 2014 for TS; Jutila, Pehkonen, & Vayrynen, 2008 for PS), while others rather see them in a state of flux and as constantly evolving (see the latest critical turn in both fields). PS and CT are very heterogeneous fields of inquiry and there are a number of difficulties in approaching them as unitary disciplines given the fact that they contain different ontological and epistemological standpoints, research goals, and quite diverse normative agendas. Both fields are indeed subject to internal debate over their core concepts and purposes.
Both fields of study are—or aim to be—multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary. As pointed out by Sageman (2014), the study of terrorism is by its nature multidisciplinary, enriched by the insights of various fields including psychology, sociology, anthropology, political science, history, economy, engineering, and computer science. From its inception, Peace Studies has expressed sympathy for multidisciplinary and international research (Galtung, 1996). In 1999, Rogers and Ramsbotham considered interdisciplinarity as one of the seven features of Peace Studies, together with a concern to address the root causes of violence; the search for non-violent transformations; a multilevel analysis to overcome the distinction between “internal” and “external” dimensions of a crisis; the adoption of a multicultural approach; the coexistence of normative and analytical dimensions; and strong relations between theory and practice. Peace Studies is multidisciplinary in essence, and a large part of the research is carried out under an interdisciplinary framework. There are also some associations encouraging research linking various disciplines and methodologies to enhance the understanding of the causes of violence and conflict and of the conditions of peace in the international system, a notable one being the Peace Studies Section of the International Studies Association. Still, for some authors those are not enough, and they call for transdisciplinarity instead (Galtung, 2010). The approaches are indeed different:
While multidisciplinarity studies a topic not in one but in several disciplines at the same time, whereas interdisciplinarity is concerned with the links and the transfer of knowledge, methods, concepts and models from one discipline to another, transdisciplinarity is concerned with what is between the disciplines, across the disciplines and beyond the disciplines, within the dynamics of the simultaneous action of several layers of reality.
(Padurean & Cheveresan, 2010, p. 128)
Both fields are also affected by the same problem “whereby the leading scholars have close ties to power holders and constitute an influential epistemic community directly linked to state power” (Jackson, 2015, p. 23). Indeed, if it is true that “from a Gramscian perspective, some scholars of terrorism studies could be described as ‘organic intellectuals’ because they are institutionally, financially, politically and ideologically tied to the state and function as an integral part of the state’s apparatus of power” (Jackson et al., 2011, pp. 12–13), the same “organic intellectuals” problem can also be found within Peace Studies (Jackson, 2015, p. 23). Already in 1968, Schmid claimed that the perspective and value orientation of peace research were “identical with those of the existing international institutions and lies very close to those of the rich and powerful nations” (1968, p. 221). According to Eide (1972), the alignment of peace researchers with powerful elites began already during the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Another aspect scholars of both fields agree upon is the necessity of a “critical turn.” While for TS the critical turn has already managed, to a certain extent, to revitalize and reinvigorate the discipline, it is currently under way in PS. Following the September 11, 2001 events in the United States, a group of scholars in the United Kingdom, drawing on earlier deconstructive studies and increasingly disaffected by the policies and practices of the “war on terror,” initiated a new debate in the field of TS about the ontology, epistemology, discourses, and practices of terrorism and counterterrorism to challenge the dominant discourse of terrorism experts and to open up new areas of investigation. This network of scholars, terming their approach Critical Terrorism Studies, began by pointing to a number of conceptual, methodological, and epistemological issues as well as analytical limitations affecting “mainstream” TS, including a failure to develop rigorous theories, an overreliance on secondary data, a number of assumptions, myths, and obscuring debates, and the failure to appreciate cultural-ideological biases in a field dominated by a “Western” view (Jackson et al., 2009). Similarly criticized are the essentialist conceptions of “terrorism,” the embedded nature of terrorism experts, and the prioritization of policy-relevant analysis (Jarvis, 2009a; Ranstorp, 2009; Silke, 2009; Stump & Dixit, 2013). CTS scholars indeed argue against the treatment of “terrorism” as an ontologically stable and objective phenomenon that can be unproblematically approached. Attention is rather concentrated on analyzing the discursive construction of terrorism (e.g., Collins & Glover, 2002; Holland, 2012; Jackson, 2005; Jarvis, 2009b; Silberstein, 2002; Tuman, 2003; Winkler, 2006; Bartolucci, 2010, 2012; Murphy, 2003). CTS advocates also point to the necessity of bringing the state back into TS, an orientation towards critique rather than merely policy relevance, and call for greater self-reflexivity in research (Blakeley, 2007; Jarvis, 2009a; Jackson, Breen Smyth, & Gunning, 2009). This critical turn attracted wide interest and was able to revitalize the field, provoking a series of debates within the wider field (Horgan & Boyle, 2008; Torsten & Richards, 2009; Weinberg & Eubank, 2008). It is also true that a number of scholars had begun to approach the study of terrorism and conflict in a critical vein even before this “critical turn.” For instance, in their studies, Crenshaw (2011) and Pape (2005) have consistently underlined the amorphous character of terrorism and disregarded quick-fix solutions to the phenomenon. Kydd and Walter (2002) have challenged the assumption that extremist violence is indiscriminate and irrational, arguing that, on the contrary, it is quite strategic, while Fortna (2015) has investigated the ineffectiveness of terrorism.
Turning the attention to PS, according to Mac Ginty and Richmond (2013, p. 766):
Peace Studies is an inherently critical endeavor. By taking peace rather than war or the state as its principal referent, it sets itself apart from orthodox approaches to international relations and political science. Moreover it has often had an explicitly normative dimension, one that is prone to being deeply unfashionable in eras dominated by security imperatives.
Although the above is true, PS appears nowadays to have lost part of its initially radical stance. Moreover, its commitment to put in place a normative and emancipatory project has lost relevance in recent years, becoming rather a legitimization tool of the established power system. Its initial creative and critical agenda quickly turned into normal science at the service of decision-makers, at the expense of its original vitality (Eide, 1972; Wiberg, 2004). Jutila, Pehkonen, and Väyrynen denounce the field’s decline and stress the necessity to take heed of the critical turn in Security Studies and reinvent the field as Critical Peace Research in order to “revitalise” a discipline that is “barely responding to any external stimulus” (Jutila et al., 2008, p. 631). In a provocative vein, they call for “a dose of critical theorising as a therapy for a body which, according to our diagnosis, has no pulse.” In 1969, tense confrontations occurred among PS scholars: “Traditional peace research was challenged (1) for serious shortcomings in the ability to explore the important problems, (2) for its contribution to mystification by exploring the irrelevant or unimportant, (3) for using unacceptable and much too narrow conceptions of peace and inadequate and distorted concepts of conflict” (Eide, 1972, p. 512). Nevertheless, the “critical project . . . a vibrant force within the study of peace and conflict . . . much influenced by postcolonial scholarship and by scholars from the global South who are particularly aware of the issues of power relations in peace” (Mac Ginty & Richmond, 2013, p. 769) has long remained in the margins. New calls for a critical turn, however, are currently emerging (Jackson, 2015; Jutila et al., 2008; Mac Ginty & Richmond, 2013; Patomaki, 2001).
Furthermore, scholars of both fields have generally failed to appreciate cultural-ideological biases in a field dominated by a “Western” view (Jackson, 2009, 2015). According to Bankoff (2003, p. 418), the novelty of the September 11, 2001 events brought with them the “elevation [of terrorism] to be the dominant Western discourse about the non-Western world.” Jackson (2008) further underlines that “the selectivity and bias of terrorism scholars and political leaders in the past has seriously undermined this project by making it appear that the term is reserved solely for enemies of the West.” Although the CTS insights have partially redressed the false myth according to which terrorists are non-Western religious fanatics acting against the West, this assumption continues to underpin several studies. PS has a similar predominantly “Western” connotation, being “largely characterised by Western or Western-educated scholars studying non-Western ‘others’ with scientific methods (and subsequently policy recommendations) that often preclude the voice of the ‘other’ being heard” (Jackson, 2015, p. 23).
Both fields have long been affected by an enduring problem-solving orientation. “Traditional” TS approaches “terrorism” as an empirical phenomenon that can be objectively defined and precisely measured. In such an approach, grounded in a positivist ontology, what matters is how to conceptualize and operationalize “terrorism” through definition and measurement in order to reduce or eliminate it. This derives from a pragmatic problem-solving approach that is not without harm, for it results in a:
very limited space for reflecting on the historical and social processes through which this identity, behaviour or threat has been constituted. With the interpretive, symbolic and discursive contexts of its creation—to say nothing of the relations of power traversing these contexts—here presumed irrelevant for understanding this phenomenon, terrorism remains consistently and artificially detached from the processes of its construction.
(Jarvis, 2009a, p. 14)
Moreover, the main purpose of research carried out under such a framework is to produce evidence-based policy recommendations. As such, it is hardly surprising that “the study of terrorism has largely been an a-theoretical undertaking” (Weinberg & Richardson, 2004, p. 138; see also Ranstorp, 2009). CTS scholars have argued against the problem-solving emphasis that, until recently, dominated the field (see Jackson, 2007; Jarvis, 2009a; Stump & Dixit, 2013). A similar emphasis is also to be found in PS. According to Toros and Tellidis (2013b), much of peace research is of a problem-solving nature, which renders critical engagement more difficult than in other fields. As Jackson (2015, p. 21) puts it, “similar to Terrorism Studies, the field appears to be mired in a ‘problem-solving’ orientation which largely accepts the existing system, but aims to ‘solve’ the problem of conflict, violence and disorder which appear to challenge the status quo.” The dominance of the problem-solving orientation brings with it a series of related issues examined by Jackson (2015). Such a framework:
fits into the overarching neoliberal ideology that merges security and development; “romanticizes the local” as victims or illiberal; builds hollow institutions; designs economic life to reproduce assertive capitalism; equates peace with statebuilding; and assumes that interveners have privileged knowledge about peace issues. The paradigm is mobilized with a package of transformation policies—an assemblage construed by academics as the “liberal peace.”
(Pugh, 2013, p. 14)
The problem-solving orientation has several implications. Relating to PS, Mac Ginty and Richmond argue that “despite its vibrancy, the critical school remains a minority interest, especially given the material power associated with the problem-solving perspective” (2013, p. 768).
Finally, “similar to the conditions existing within Terrorism Studies before the arrival of CTS . . . [there] is a general lack of reflexivity within the wider field of Peace Studies” (Jackson, 2015, p. 20). With a few exceptions (e.g., Richmond, 2007), PS has failed to engage with debates surrounding the central concepts of the field, in particular “peace,” “war,” “violence,” and “conflict.” As pointed out by Richmond (2007, p. 249), “peace is rarely conceptualized, even by those who often allude to it.” Moreover, the normative dimension of research is often not considered and the field lacks a sufficient reflexive stance by peace researchers about the role of their findings and their potential usage by stakeholders and decision-makers (for more on the lack of reflexivity of Democratic Peace research, see Hobson, 2011).
This section outlined the principal commonalities between PS and TS, the common issues affecting them, and possibilities for fruitful intersections between the two fields. A cross-fertilization between the two fields would be beneficial to further our understanding of “terrorism” and to devise sustainable resolutions of the conflicts marked by terrorist violence. The next section presents a review the most important contributions investigating the potential cross-pollination between Peace Studies and Terrorism Studies.
Reviews of Studies Investigating the Possibilities of Intersections Between PS and TS
One of the earliest pieces examining the potential for cross-fertilization between conflict analysis and Terrorism Studies is Richmond’s “Realizing hegemony? Symbolic terrorism and the Roots of Conflict” (2003). In his seminal article, the author acknowledges the fact that “there is currently a division between conflict analysis and formal studies of terrorism, despite the fact that these various phenomena and attempts to theorize them have much in common” and he suggests “that conflict, peace, and terrorism studies take seriously an investigation into socioeconomic and political prevention” as it could benefit both fields (pp. 289, 305). Along the same lines, Franks (2009) attempts to relocate the study of terrorism within a theoretical framework benefiting from the tools provided by conflict studies for a much needed rethinking of the roots of terrorism. In a similar vein, Paul Wilkinson, in his Memorandum produced for the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs on June 3, stated:
The metaphor of “war” can be misleading in planning investments and developing a strategy to counter the new terrorism. While military force is an essential part of the struggle, there will not be a definitive battle or victory, and it would be a mistake to suspend civil liberties indefinitely. There is no single solution in the struggle against terrorism, and counter-terrorism policy must be integrated with other dimensions of domestic and foreign policy such as aid, trade, institution building and conflict resolution.
Although the adoption of conflict resolution frameworks can indeed enhance our comprehension of the various forms of terrorist violence, most academics still refuse to draw on such frameworks to investigate responses to terrorist violence. This is partly due to the fact that often conflict resolution is wrongly reduced to “talking to terrorists”—a strategy that has been repeatedly seen as merely rewarding violence and thus further encouraging it. This assumption remains strong despite the fact that negotiation with members of violent extremist organizations appear more effective in ending terrorist violence than direct military confrontation (Jones & Libicki, 2008; Goerzig, 2010).
At the same time, some of the insights of Terrorism Studies could be beneficial to Peace Studies scholars studying complex crises marked by terrorist violence. As pointed out by Tellidis (2016), insights from TS can enhance the work of peace scholars in areas such as the evolution of terrorist strategies, the mechanisms behind recruitment, radicalization and de-radicalization, as well as the circumstances leading to the splintering of armed groups. Another area that could benefit from this pollination concerns the question of symmetry. Conflicts marked by terrorist violence are in fact asymmetrical by definition, while most frameworks of conflict resolution are designed for symmetric conflicts (Tellidis, 2016).
One of the most interesting attempts at investigating the potential cross-pollination between PS and TS is to be found in a special issue of the journal Critical Studies on Terrorism (vol. 6, issue 1, April 2013) whose aim was “to open this debate by offering theoretical and empirical contributions from both scholars and practitioners on how these two fields can inform each other with the aim of strengthening research and praxis” (Toros & Tellidis, 2013b, p. 1). The special issue presented theoretical and empirical contributions on various topics informed by PS and TS, such as an analysis of the history and development of al-Qaeda and of the changes in the military response in relation to global trends in international security (Rogers, 2013); a reflection on how states can actually reinforce conflicts rather than containing them, resulting from an analysis of recent developments in U.K. counterinsurgency and counterterrorism legislation (Cochrane, 2013); an analysis of the securitization of “terrorism” and the crucial role of the “narratives of time” in normalizing and in making permanent exceptional security policies and in justifying future securitization, and a demonstration of how PS can help problematize the attitudes towards the securitization discourse (Fisher, 2013); and finally an exploration of the commonly accepted distinction between “terrorism” as “political violence” and “organized crime” as “profit-driven violence,” contesting the underlying narrow understanding of politics and calling for a deeper understanding of the biopolitical connotation of terrorist violence that could have serious implications for transformative responses to “terrorism” (Toros & Mavelli, 2013).
These analyses have been enriched by a number of papers on specific case studies showing the potentials of cross-pollination between PS and TS: a paper focusing on the labeling of animal rights activists as “terrorists” in the United States and its consequences (Loadenthal, 2013); another one on the terminology used by Western policy-makers and media to refer to al-Qaeda and similar groups and suggesting the alternative term “neo-Kharijism” to avoid an escalation of conflict dynamics (Antúnez & Tellidis, 2013); another one analyzing the effects of counterinsurgency operations in Peru and Syria to explore the interconnections between PS and TS (Mucha, 2013); and an article investigating the escalation of violence by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party in light of Turkish foreign policy (Sezgin, 2013).
The issue also contains two papers written by practitioners, the first one focusing on the issue of proscription and its impact on third-party engagement with armed groups classified as “terrorists” and of the very concrete risk of making the intervention of mediators more risky than usual (Haspeslagh, 2013); and the second one featuring an interview with a former loyalist gunman, Noel Large, recounting his journey from terrorist violence to peacebuilding, advocating for dialogue between communities and stressing the importance of reflexivity (Toros & Tellidis, 2013a). The issue concludes with a review article.
These preliminary insights on possibilities of intersection of the two fields have attracted widespread interest. In a further exploration of these issues, Tellidis and Toros (2015), in the edited book titled Researching Terrorism, Peace and Conflict Studies: Interaction, Synthesis and Opposition, investigate issues of mutual interest and importance for both fields, addressing key themes such as: the conceptualizations of peace and violence; the tendency to exceptionalize terrorist violence; the relationship between political power and scholarship; the dysfunctionality of liberal peace and the opportunities offered by post-liberal peacebuilding frameworks; as well as the implications and challenges of “cyber-terrorism” and “cyber-conflict” (p. 2).
The book, focusing on potential synergies between PS and TS, explores the relationship between “terrorism” and peace approaches from different angles and has opened up avenues of exploration around the feasibility and desirability of an interconnection between the two fields. The first part of the volume investigates the possibility of cross-pollination at the theoretical level. In the first chapter, Jackson (2015), capitalizing on the openings of Critical Terrorism Studies, first identifies key weaknesses in PS—the lack of reflexivity on the ontological status of the central concepts of the field, the problem-solving orientation of much of PS research, and the neglect of the power dimension—then calls for a critical turn in PS. Jones (2015), on the contrary, considers the emphasis on communication, negotiation, and empathy with “terrorists” not only overrated but even dangerous for the fueling of jihadist propaganda and for enhancing the recruitment of jihadist groups. Renner and Spencer (2015) begin a much needed reflection on how to positively engage with actors using terrorist violence by highlighting the dark sides and potential pitfalls of processes of reconciliation through truth-telling. Although the insights of CTS, suggesting it is possible to non-violently engage with actors adopting terrorist methods, are welcomed, the study points to the critical literature in transitional justice underlining the criticalities of some reconciliation measures that strengthen the liberal state at the expense of those who do not benefit from it. The theoretical section concludes with a contribution that could be beneficial to both fields on how to better understand “how” and “when” cycles of political violence end by offering a model addressing three levels of analysis (macro, meso, and micro) as well as their repeated interactions to shed light on the processes of disengagement from political violence (Bosi & della Porta, 2015).
The second part of the book contains a section on case studies aimed at revealing possible unexplored intersections between PS and TS. Analyzing the Colombian conflict, Chapter 7 contains a reflection on the role of third parties in direct negotiations between governments and groups listed as “terrorists,” thus contributing to an understanding of how conflict resolution interventions are affected by the “(counter)terrorism” prism. The authors also elucidate the paradox whereby, although hard power measures are prioritized by states in countering terrorism, actually a more effective strategy should rather be based on soft violence (Haspeslagh & Dudouet, 2015). Based on another analysis of the Colombian conflict, Idler and Adell (2015) provide the reader with important insights on the importance of political engagement by local actors beyond the main conflict parties in devising alternative approaches to conflict transformation. In the conclusion, by considering “terrorism” as “a symptom of problems related to unmanaged and mis-managed conflicts,” the authors emphasize the need “to confront conflict root causes and driving factors proactively and pre-emptively” as well as the necessity to engage with actors labeled as “terrorists” (p. 141). The proposed approach would not only end terrorist violence but, crucially, extend the responsibility of peacebuilding to the entire society, making it more sustainable.
Elejabarrieta Diaz (2015), drawing on a personal account of his own life and the stories of other activists, points to the failure of Spain’s attempts to criminalize the Basque movement, including its non-violent manifestations. The author reflects on this proscription and highlights its incapacity to make the organization disappear, but also its harmful effect in rendering a process of dialogue hardly viable. Fontan (2015) presents a critical reflection of liberal peacebuilding through an examination of the Occupy Fallujah movement. Through an analysis of the association of the terrorism narrative with the non-violent initiative Occupy Fallujah, the author reflects on the repercussions of this association with “terrorism” (motivated by its initial association with al-Qaeda) specifically in terms of the impossibility for “its peace-seeking citizens” to be heard in international fora.
Morrison (2015), on the basis of an examination of the Republican armed groups in Northern Ireland, calls for an opening of PS to criminological approaches that would help redress the mistaken assumption according to which, once obstacles are eliminated, peace is easily achievable. Such an opening could also benefit TS, possibly providing answers to other vital questions beyond the crucial one of asking what leads a person to terrorist violence. The final article discusses the necessary reconsideration of the conceptualization of “violence” and “terroris-m/ts” in light of digital security threats. Such threats pose considerable challenges to both fields, especially for what concerns the question of response, and adding new considerations on the processes of labeling and threat construction (Jarvis, Nouri, & Whiting, 2015).
The book’s concluding seek to provide stimulus for future research and collaboration both in the academic sector and in policy-making (Toros, 2015). In particular, the importance of engaging with armed actors adopting terrorist tactics has been emphasized and has opened up space for fresh research on the implications and potential pitfalls of such a dialogue from a critical perspective, as well as other areas of possible intersection beyond that of negotiations and dialogue in conflicts marked by terrorist violence (Toros, 2015). This book stands at the forefront of attempts aimed at provoking dialogue between two distant disciplines that could greatly benefit from mutual exchange.
The contributions succinctly reviewed above are full of important considerations (theoretically and empirically informed) about the feasibility and desirability of intersections between TS and PS and are particularly welcomed for opening up new avenues for research. However, given the initial stage of this enterprise, they should be better regarded as excellent launch pads for stimulating further research and for encouraging more dialogue between disciplines.
Antúnez, J. C., & Tellidis, I. (2013). The power of words: The deficient terminology surrounding Islam-related terrorism. Critical Studies on Terrorism, 6(1), 118–139.Find this resource:
Bankoff, G. (2003). Regions of Risk: Western Discourses on Terrorism and the Significance of Islam. Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, 26, 413–428.Find this resource:
Bartolucci, V. (2010). Analysing elite discourse on terrorism and its implications: The case of Morocco. Critical Studies on Terrorism, 3(1), 119–135.Find this resource:
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