Terrorism and Crimes of the State - PO917

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
(version 4)
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7 20 (10) DR TG Aistrope







The purpose of the module is to develop an understanding of the complex relationships between terrorism, counter-terrorism efforts, and human rights, both at home and abroad. Central to the module is the role of the state in responding to terrorism, in attempting to prevent terrorism, and in itself using and sponsoring terrorism. In this regard students are encouraged to re-evaluate assumptions about the state and its place in domestic and international politics, focusing particularly on crimes by the state. Students will be introduced to competing approaches to the study of terrorism, many of which are grounded in wider theories and approaches common to International Relations and Security Studies. One of the challenges of the module is to think critically about the implications and consequences of those various approaches. The module will begin by looking at the various methodological, theoretical, and definitional challenges associated with the study of terrorism. Building on this grounding, students will then begin analysing terrorism, counter-terrorism and the role of the state through a number of case studies drawn from the 20th and early 21st Centuries. They will be encouraged to relate each of the case studies to the broader methodological and theoretical debates explored in the first few weeks of the module.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

11 two-hour lecture/seminars

Method of assessment

100% coursework (a critical review of 1000 words (30%), a 4000 word essay (70%))

Indicative reading

Becker, T. (2006), Terrorism and the State: Rethinking the Rules of State Responsibility (Oxford and Portland, Oregon: Hart Publishing).
Blakeley, Ruth, State Terrorism and Neoliberalism: The North in the South, (London: Routledge, 2009). ISBN: 0415686172.
Booth, K., Dunne, T., Terror in Our Time (London: Routledge, 2011), ISBN: 0415678315.
Booth, Ken, and Dunne, Tim (eds.), ‘Worlds in Collision’, in Worlds in Collision. Terror and the Future of Global Order, (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002).
Collins, Alan (ed.), Contemporary Security Studies, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006). ISBN: 9780199284696.
George, A. (1991), Western State Terrorism (Cambridge: Polity Press).
Jackson, R., Smyth, M.B., and Gunning, J. (eds.), Critical Terrorism Studies: A New Research Agenda, eds. Richard Jackson, Marie Breen Smyth, and Jeroen Gunning, Routledge Critical Terrorism Studies, (London: Routledge, 2009). ISBN: 978-0415574150.
Lutz, James and Lutz, Brenda, Global Terrorism, (London: Routledge, 2008). ISBN: 978-0415772464
McClintock, M. (1985), The American Connection, Volume One: State Terror and Popular Resistance in El Salvador (London: Zed Books Ltd).
Stohl, M. and Lopez, G. (eds.) (1984), The State as Terrorist: The Dynamics of Governmental Violence and Repression (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press).

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, students will be able to:
Analyse competing definitions of terrorism, counter-terrorism and state terrorism.
Appreciate the impact that efforts in the name of counter-terrorism in liberal democratic states have had on human rights and civil liberties at home, and relate these to broader ethical debates.
Develop an understanding of foreign policies that liberal democratic states have implemented in the name of countering terrorism, and evaluate the impact that they have had on the populations of targeted states.
Evaluate critically the strengths and weaknesses of competing theoretical approaches, derived from International Relations and Security Studies, to questions of terrorism, counter-terrorism and state terrorism in light of the empirical cases studied.

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