Limits and solutions

During the past 3 decades and especially since 2001, the threat of terrorism has attracted vast amount of research, however that has not led even close to the elimination of terrorism. The existing terrorism studies have provided many useful insights. What is missing, is a deeper understanding of existential conditions that contribute to the persistence of terrorism. At the core of contemporary counterterrorism is what R. Jackson describes as an epistemological crisis, that manifests itself discursively in the way officials, scholars, pundits and others speak about the threat of terrorism, and the way counterterrorism and security practitioners then act in pursuit of security against that threat. With the emergence of critical terrorism studies in 2007, their adepts have been accusing terrorism studies of little theoretical and especially methodological development. They argue that so called orthodox terrorism studies are based in positivist epistemology that stresses the objectivity of facts and thus employs statistical, data-gathering, empirical methods. However critical terrorism studies are founded on methodological and disciplinary pluralism. Standing with one foot in the critical theory and with another in the legacy of modern political sciences, they set an agenda that terrorism is an episteme that should be unmasked through narrative analysis. The goal of my project – unTERROR – is to search for a third way: to import phenomenological and hermeneutical tradition into terrorism studies that would involve a conceptual shift where the meaning of terrorism would be characterized by a move to a terror as an existential condition.

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