Terrorism and Modern Society - SOCI8250

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2024 to 2025.


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.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 22
Private study hours: 178
Total study hours: 200


Sociology MA
Criminology MA
Criminology with a term Abroad MA
Two year masters versions of the appropriate programmes listed above

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods

Coursework essay (5,000 words) – 100%

Reassessment methods

100% coursework.

Indicative reading

Bandura, Albert (1990), "Mechanisms of Moral Disengagement," in Walter Reich,
ed., Origins of Terrorism: Psychologies, Ideologies, Theologies, States of
Mind. Washington: The Woodrow Wilson Centre Press.
Coady, C. A. J. (2004a), "Defining Terrorism," in Igor Primoratz, ed., Terrorism:
The Philosophical Issues. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Cottee, Simon, (2017), "Religion, Crime and Violence," in A. Liebling, L. McAra
and S. Maruna, eds., Oxford Handbook of Criminology. Oxford University
Gambetta, Diego (ed.), Making Sense of Suicide Missions. New York: Oxford
University Press.
Hegghammer, Thomas (ed.) (2017), Jihadi Culture: The Art and Social Practices of
Militant Islamists. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Primoratz, Igor (ed.) (2004), Terrorism: The Philosophical Issues, Basingstoke:
Palgrave Macmillan
Sageman, Marc (2004), Understanding Terror Networks. Philadelphia: University
of Pennsylvania Press
Silke, Andrew (ed.) (2004), Research on Terrorism: Trends Achievements and
Failures, London: Frank Cass, 2004

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

8.1 Critique to a level appropriate with postgraduate study the key concepts associated with the sociology of fear and terror;
8.2 Critically evaluate a range of theoretical accounts of terrorism and political crime;
8.3 Analyse and critique the functions of terrorism in variety of different social contexts;
8.4 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);
8.5 Illustrate an advanced ability to situate terrorist and extremist action within the context of complex contemporary social theoretical debates
about modernity;
8.6 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.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

9.1 Demonstrate skills commensurate with postgraduate study in presentation and debate, both verbal and written, and in utilization of
research and empirical data.
9.2 Be able to synthesis complex theoretical items of knowledge from different schools and disciplines of enquiry
9.3 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.
9.4 Be able to synthesize and evaluate complex knowledge and theoretical material from different schools and disciplines of enquiry.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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