In this presentation, Dr Jeroen Gunning will critique the validity of the concept of ‘religious terrorism’. He will argue that the distinctions commonly drawn between ‘religious’ and ‘secular’ terrorism are problematic, both conceptually and empirically, and that the term is misleading in its typical assumptions about the motives, causes and behaviour of groups classified as ‘religious terrorist’. By using it, important aspects of both ‘religious’ and ‘secular’ violence are obscured; policy-wise, it serves to delegitimise certain actors and legitimise contentious counterterrorist practices. Part of the problem lies in the genealogy of the term ‘religion’ and the way it is implicated in power structures. The problem is compounded by dominant conceptions in both academia and the policy world about the causal power of ideas. Dr Gunning will end with a few reflections on alternative ways of approaching the study of terrorist violence, religious or otherwise.
Jacob Høigilt (FAFO) will respond to Dr. Gunnings presentation. Greg Reichberg (PRIO) will chair the event.
The seminar is part of an on-going seminar series at PRIO scrutinizing the role of religion in conflict and peace.
Dr Jeroen Gunning is Reader in Middle East Politics and Conflict Studies at the School of Government and International Affairs, Durham University, and the Director of the Durham Global Security Institute for Defence, Development and Diplomacy (DGSi). His research focuses on the interplay between Islamist social movements, democratisation, religion and violence (both state and non-state) in the Middle East, with a particular emphasis on Hamas and Hizballah. He is one of the founders of the field of critical terrorism studies and was co-editor of Critical Studies on Terrorism (2008-2010). He has given expert briefings to numerous governmental institutions, including the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Department for International Development, the EU Commission, NATO and the US State Department, as well as to several civil society organizations. His publications include Hamas in Politics: Democracy, Religion, Violence (Hurst/Columbia University Press, 2007/8) – reviewed in both the New York Review of Books and the Times Literary Supplement – and Critical Terrorism Studies: A New Research Agenda (Routledge, 2009; co-edited with Richard Jackson and Marie Breen Smyth). His forthcoming book, Why Occupy a Square? People, Protest and Movements in the Egyptian Revolution (co-written with Ilan Baron) will be published by Hurst in 2013.