The Ideas of Phenomenogial-Hermeneutical Methodology

During the first research year, the most important objective was establishing and researching the basic principles of phenomenological-hermeneutical methodology at a theoretical level. It was necessary to analyse the ideas of phenomenology and hermeneutics and apply the findings to the issues and objectives of terrorism research. Nevertheless, among the interviews and popular scientific articles (for example, “Spoku valsts Afganistāna = Ghost state Afghanistan” in, Māris has also participated in Radicalisation Awareness Network Communication and Narratives Working Group event “Conspiracy Narratives: Current State and Future Expectations for P/CVE in Europe” and published first scientific publication “The Ideas of Phenomenogial-Hermeneutical Methodology for Terrorism Studies”.


During the past three decades and especially since 2001, the threat of terrorism has attracted vast amount of research and provoked massive political and military action. However, that has not led even close to 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.

With the emergence of critical terrorism studies (CTS) in 2007, their adepts have been accusing terrorism studies of little theoretical and especially methodological develop-ment. In contrast to regular terrorism studies, denounced as orthodox terrorism studies (OTS), which are based in positivist epistemology that stresses the objectivity of facts and thus employs statistical, data-gathering, empirical methods, CTS are founded on “methodological and disciplinary pluralism; in particular, a willingness to adopt post-positivist and non-IR based methods and approaches”. The goal of the article is to introduce the idea of importing phenomenological and hermeneutical tradition into terrorism studies. Currently phenomenology, exempt from epoché and transcendental reduction, is often applied to various research domains. Hence the phenomenological-hermeneutical methodology (PHM) would rather aim at the narratives and meanings as they appear in the historical and cultural horizon. That would involve a conceptual shift in the meaning of terrorism, characterized by a move to terror as an existential condition. To paraphrase Husserl’s original motto: back to the terror itself! The originality and the potential of this intention is twofold. First, in contrast to common methodologies of CTS, which delve into the social factors and power relations, philosophical hermeneutics questions the role of “flow” of language and tradition. The philosophical hermeneutics here emphasizes the ongoing “play” of truth, tradition and prejudices.

This distinction resurfaces the Gadamer-Habermas debate where Habermas maintained that language is a medium of domination and social power by reintroducing the perspective of Gadamer’s hermeneutical philosophy. Second, by producing a novel methodology, the adaptation of phenomenological and hermeneutical ideas to the studies of terrorism will open new research horizons and opportunities for the scientific community in order to identify points of potential vulnerability in the current efforts. That would lead to research on such topics as horror, fear, space, environment, air, life and death, viruses, radiation, etc.

Source: Annotation in Māris Kūlis. “Fenomenoloģiski hermeneitiskās metodoloģijas ideja terorisma pētniecībai = The Ideas of Phenomenogial-Hermeneutical Methodology for Terrorism Studies.” In Kultūras studijas: zinātnisko rakstu krājums = Cultural Studies: scientific papers, XIII [13], 188.–196.lpp.

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