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date: 04 June 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Critical approaches to the study of terrorism do not inquire into the causation of political violence. Rather, the umbrella term “critical” encompasses a large variety of methodologies which reject the positivist philosophy of science. This chapter explores the meaning of “critique” as an epistemological alternative to positivist models of knowledge. It shows how “critical” approaches do not ask “what causes terrorist violence,” but rather how societies have come to a point where they identify “terrorism” as a distinct form of violence, separate from “war” and “crime.” What makes terrorism “sensible”? How do we “know” terrorism as a concept or form? Drawing from long philosophical traditions, critical approaches explore how power, culture, and linguistics have constituted the concept of “terrorism”—creating a reality which is not “obvious” or common-sense, but contingent and arbitrary. The chapter then outlines the critical method of “discourse analysis” and its use in constructivist analyses of the War on Terror.

Keywords: critique, epistemology, discourse, constructivism, power, threat exaggeration, critical terrorism studies, War on Terror

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