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Critical Scholarship on Terrorism  

Priya Dixit

Understandings of “critical” in critical scholarship on terrorism range from a Frankfurt School–influenced definition to a broader definition that aims to interrogate commonsense understandings of terrorism and counterterrorism. Overall, critical scholarship on terrorism draws on multiple disciplines and methodological traditions to analyze terrorism and counterterrorism. Within these, there have been ongoing debates and discussions about whether the state should be included in research on terrorism and, if so, what the inclusion of the state would do for the understanding of terrorism. Critical scholarship has also outlined the need for further attention to research ethics, as well as urged researchers to acknowledge their standpoints when conducting and communicating research. Some, but not all, critical scholarship has a normative orientation with the goal of emancipation, though the meaning of emancipation remains debated. Methodologically, the majority of critical scholarship on terrorism utilizes an interpretive lens to analyze terrorism and related issues. A central goal of critical terrorism research is to rework power relations such that Global South subjectivities are centered on research. This means including research conducted by Global South scholars and also centering Global South peoples and concerns in analyses of terrorism and counterterrorism. The role of gender, analytically and in practice, in relation to terrorism is also a key part of critical scholarship. Critical scholars of terrorism have observed that race is absent from much of terrorism scholarship, and there needs to be ongoing work toward addressing this imbalance. Media and popular culture, and their depiction of terrorism and counterterrorism, form another key strand in critical scholarship on terrorism. Overall, critical scholarship on terrorism is about scrutinizing and dismantling power structures that sustain commonsense knowledge regarding terrorism.


International Relations, Big Data, and Artificial Intelligence  

Ehud Udi Eiran

Scholars and practitioners of international relations (IR) are paying special attention to three significant ways in which artificial intelligence (AI) and big data (BD) are transforming IR, against a background of earlier debates among IR scholars about the effect of technology on the field. First, AI and BD have emerged as arenas of interstate, mostly great power competition. In this context, scholars suggest, AI and BD are important because an effective use of AI and BD adds significantly to military and economic power. The current competition in these fields, between the United States and the People’s Republic of China, brought scholars to highlight at least four ways in which AI and BD are important: (a) Automating decisions about the use of nuclear force could affect nuclear stability, but scholars still cannot agree in what direction; (b) The central role played by the private sector. This, as opposed to the Cold War era, when the state played the leading role in the development of technology ; (c) the gap between the current two great powers in these technologies is narrow, in contrast to the significant gap in favor of the United States during the Cold War; and (d) the wave of new technologies, including AI, makes weapons systems cheaper and more available for smaller powers and political entities, thus offering a possible curb on the dominance of great powers. Second, AI and BD are expected to affect national decision-making in the areas of foreign and security policies. Here, scholars highlight three possible transformations: (a) AI will allow states a path for better decision-making on security and foreign policy matters, through the optimization and speeding of existing policy processes; (b) the technology will omit some of the human shortcomings in decision-making, further optimizing the policy process; and (c) AI will be able to offer predictions about policies of other actors in the international system and create effective simulations to help manage crises. Finally, the inclusion of AI and BD in weapons systems, most notably the development of lethal autonomous weapons systems, brings the promise (or horror) of greater efficiency and lethality but also raises significant ethical questions. AI and BD are also affecting other arenas of interstate conflict including the cyber domain and information warfare.


Narratives in International Studies Research  

Behar Sadriu

Narrative research is a trending topic in international studies, with a growing body of literature adopting limited insights from narratology, sociolinguistics, and related fields to construct new insights into the workings of international relations. These studies are mainly concerned with questions about how narratives can be used to shape future policy courses, or how they impact the identity of agents and actors. The proliferation of studies using “narratives” in international studies research has been widespread since the 2000s, following a series of puzzles raised by scholars writing on language and discourse more broadly, ever since the late 1980s as part of the “linguistic turn” in the field. The adoption of narrative theory into international relations research presents a series of important questions about the methodological implications of taking narratives seriously. These include inquiries into the extent to which scholars see themselves as contributing to current social, political, and economic configurations of the world through their own work. Other questions motivated by this include: can international relations scholarship contribute to narrative theories of their own, or are they content in borrowing insights from other disciplines? How far should scholars engage in assessing what actors say, rather than what they do? Or is this distinction a false one to begin with? Are there more or less potent narratives, and why do some become prominent while others do not? What is the causal significance of narratives, and what is the best way to study them?