Terrorism and Modern Society - SO825

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2018-19
(version 2)
View Timetable
7 20 (10) DR S Cottee







This module explores some key issues, debates and controversies in the cross-disciplinary study of terrorism and political violence. Since 9/11, terrorism and jihadist violence in particular has become one of the most contentious and politically charged issues of our time. Yet it remains poorly understood, in part because of the contention and consequent polarization surrounding it, but also because of the methodological challenges in researching the individuals and group involved in terrorist activity. One of the core aims of the module is to bring into focus the central points of contention in debates over the meaning, nature and causes of terrorism in contemporary western societies, and to help shed a light on the challenges - methodological, practical and ethical - of researching an issue saturated in danger, secrecy and stigma.

What is terrorism and how should it best be defined? Why does the term "terrorism" carry such a potent stigma? What are the master cultural and intellectual narratives for thinking about terrorism and terrorists? Does it make sense to talk of "the terrorist" as a category of person, and what are the problems inherent in efforts to "profile" those who engage in terrorism? What do terrorists and terrorist groups want? Is terrorism rational? What is suicide bombing and what explains it? How do terrorist rhetorically frame the use of violence against civilians? What is ISIS and is it Islamic? What is radicalization and how should it be conceptualized? Can terrorism ever be morally justified?

The purpose of this module is to provoke a framework for thinking about these and other crucial questions about terrorism and political violence.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

21 hours in total
11 hours of lectures
10 hours of seminars (no seminars in Week One or Reading Week)

Method of assessment

5000 word essay (100% of the final module mark).

Indicative reading

Jenkins, P. (2003) Images of Terror: What We Can and Can’t Know about Terrorism,
(Aldine de Gruyter : New York),
White, J. R., (2002) Terrorism: An Introduction. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Hewitt, C., (2003) Understanding Terrorism in America: From The Klan to Al Qaeda.
London: Routledge.
Furedi, F., (1997) Culture of Fear: Risk Taking and the Morality of Low
Expectations, Cassell.
Hayward, K. J., and Morrison, W. (2002) ‘Locating ‘Ground Zero’: caught
between the narratives of crime and war’ in Law After Ground Zero, edited by
Strawson, J., London: Cavendish.
Whittaker, D. J., (Ed) (2001) The Terrorism Reader. London: Routledge.
Griset, P.L. and Mahan, S., (2003) Terrorism in Perspective, London: Sage
Martin, G., (2003) Understanding Terrorism: Challenges, Perspectives, and Issues,
London: Sage
Worcester, K., Bermanzohn, S. A., and Ungar, Mark (Eds) (2002) Violence and
Politics: Globalization’s Paradox. London: Routledge.
Walker, C., (2002) Blackstone’s Guide to the Anti-Terrorism Legislation. Oxford:
Oxford University Press.
Hagan, F. E., (1997) Political Crime: Ideology and Criminality. Needham Heights,
MA: Allyn and Bacon.
Sorkin, M., and Zukin, S., (2002) After the Word Trade Centre: Rethinking New
York City. London: Routledge.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes and, as appropriate, their relationship to programme learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, students will be able to:
• Critique to a level appropriate with postgraduate study the key concepts associated with the sociology of fear and terror;
• Critically evaluate a range of theoretical accounts of terrorism and political crime;
• Analyze and critique the functions of terrorism in variety of different social contexts;
• Critically evaluate the social, political and cultural (including in many cases the religious) dimensions of some of the main terrorist movements (both contemporary and historical);
• Illustrate an advanced ability to situate terrorist and extremist action within the context of complex contemporary social theoretical debates about modernity;
• Locate the changing nature of terrorist action (including introductions to the concepts of ‘cyber-terrorism’ and ‘hyper-terrorism’), and the key concepts associated with the sociology of fear and terror against the back drop of social theoretical debates about late modernity;

The intended generic learning outcomes and, as appropriate, their relationship to programme learning outcomes

• Demonstrate skills commensurate with postgraduate study in presentation and debate, both verbal and written, and in utilization of research and empirical data (in relation to Key Skills 1 and 4);
• Be able to synthesis complex theoretical items of knowledge from different schools and disciplines of enquiry (in relation to Key Skills 6);
• Be able to gather library and web-based resources appropriate for postgraduate study; make critical judgments about their merits and use the available evidence to construct a developed argument to be presented orally or in writing (in relation to Key Skills 1, 3 and 6);
• Be able to synthesize and evaluate complex knowledge and theoretical material from different schools and disciplines of enquiry (in relation to Key Skills 5 and 6).

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