Terrorism has been the subject of academic study for many decades, but with the tragic events of 9/11 (2001) the interest in understanding this phenomenon took on a new urgency and significance. Since then the research on terrorism and counter-terrorism has grown exponentially, and we now know much more than is commonly understood about the origins, nature and operation of terrorist groups.
Yet in crucial ways our grasp of basic aspects of the phenomenon remains limited, in part because the data and resources publicly available for the study of terrorism are curtailed by the secrecy surrounding both the commitment of acts of terrorism and the security measures taken to prevent terrorism and prosecute terrorists. In many cases governments are forced by circumstances to respond to the threats posed by different forms of terrorism well before they are understood properly, and the tension between theory and practice comes to the fore in the many controversies arising from the more securitized world in which we now live.
This course is designed to provide a basic introduction to the key findings and issues of the social scientific study of terrorism. The approach taken will involve sampling important research from history, sociology, political science, social psychology, and other disciplines.