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date: 05 June 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Since the publication in 1984 of David C. Rapoport’s article “Fear and Trembling: Terrorism in Three Religious Traditions,” it has become commonplace to assume that historical practices such as “Thuggee” in India constitute appropriate comparisons to modern terrorism. This invocation of history has provided the foundation for the “New Terrorism” paradigm, which has enjoyed an unprecedented impact on policymaking and has, alongside the “Clash of Civilizations” thesis, provided the “academic” legitimation for the ongoing “War on Terror.” Paradoxically, this reading of history has resulted in an entirely ahistorical analysis, which sees the so-called “religious terrorist” as a two-dimensional stereotype causing havoc through the millennia unaffected by historical change or contextual specificity. This chapter examines the resurrection of colonial knowledge by modern terrorism experts and the reinvention of the nineteenth-century “Thugs” as ideological predecessors to the “religious terrorists” of today.

Keywords: David Rapoport, Thuggee, holy terror, New Terrorism, historical analysis

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