•Can we define it?
•There is politics associated with defining terrorism- term is notoriously loaded
•What's the difference between terrorism and state violence?
•Don't have a definition of this term that all parties can accept
•States notoriously call groups who oppose them and their policies, "terrorists"
•There are clear parallels between state violence and "terrorist" violence
1. Both kill civilians
2. Both are directed at obtaining political ends
3. Cause terror in their wake
•States exercise violence against civilians, but it is called legitimate- but when another
group does it, it is terrorism
•"One person's terrorism is another person's freedom fighter"- what makes a terrorist a
terrorist rather than a freedom fighter?
•Why is it that if they are successful in obtaining their goals, "terrorists" frequently are
retroactively labeled as revolutionary freedom fighters?
•Where the same act is considered illegitimate terrorism at one moment but a
legitimate struggle for freedom at another, any objective categorization becomes
•Defining a group or an action as terrorist is an unavoidably political act
•There isn't an obvious definition that would be accepted without vocal opposition
from one quarter or another
•Academic response to definitional problem- either reject the term "terrorism" as an
objective label, or to divide terrorism into a number of forms:
A) State terrorism
•Where government will deliberately inflict violence on its own citizens in an attempt
to "suppress dissent and silence opposition"
B) State sponsored terrorism
•A state government will offer material "support to international terrorist groups"
C) Non-state terrorism
•"Terrorism is the intentional murder of defenceless non-combatants, with the intent
of instilling fear of mortal danger amidst a civilian population as a strategy designed
to advance political ends "
•Why fear as a tactic? If fear can be produced, one of two things is likely to happen:
1. The offending policy might change- frighten regime
2. The target may be provoked into responding with oppressive measures: which can be
strategically advantageous to the terrorist group- they will overreact- people will side with
them now because they see the oppression or seem victimized – or they can also expend all
their energy and resources until they no longer have any
•"Terrorism" in the form defined above has existed as long as there has been a
government to oppose
•However, it is probably more useful to focus on terrorism in the era of the modern
•4 major waves of non-state terrorism in modern history (David Rapoport)
1. Anarchist Wave (1880s-1920s)
•Attempt to bring down the state- not very successful
2. Anti-colonial Wave (1920s-1960s)
•Outbreak of violence against legitimately constituted authority
•Some colonies not liberated after WWI and Treaty of Versailles
•England brought in troops from their colonies- when war was over, didn't free them-
resentment from those subject to colonial rule
•Can't attack England's military directly- they're too strong- attack other things like
state buildings, population, etc
•Most states got sovereignty- so it motivates people in future to use violence to get
what they want- liberation
3. Leftist Wave (1960s-90s)
•Vietnam War- demonstrates it is capitalist power just like France and England before
it- but they weren't immediately successful
•Developing and developed world
•FLQ in Canada
•Airplane high jacking- lots of them
•Finds events with a lot of international attention and high jack them
4. Religious Wave (1979-?)
•4th wave is not made up solely of Islamist movements (even though they get most of
•Sikh (Babbar Khalsa)- Air India bombing in Canada
•Buddist/Hindu/Christian (?)- Aum Shinrikyo : terrorist group using chemical
weapons- gas into the subway system in Japan
•So what does history demonstrate?
•At the very least, it demonstrates 9/11 wasn't a unique category of event
•Other eras have encountered the types of violence that fall under our definition of
•Moreover, the types of policy responses that have been pursued in response to
terrorism have often
Causes of Terrorism
•Talking about it in a sociological sense- not reduced to individual psychopathology-
look at it in terms of society