Research Group Terrorism

Since the end of the Cold War, terror­ism has gained impor­tance as a form of political violence in the context of intra­state armed conflicts. It has also been appropriated by a variety of trans­nationally operating non-state actors. The societal costs of terrorism in terms of economic, social, and political conse­quences are high. As a result, terror­ism has become a top priority on both Western and non-Western states’ security agendas and it is perceived as a main threat by Western societies. State responses within the counter-terrorism framework have generated new forms of political violence, too. These range from internal repression and massive human rights violations, to trans­national practices, such as extra­ordinary renditions and torture, to military inter­ventions and drone wars. Under­standing these new or recurrent forms of violence is highly relevant for peace research and practice. In particular, if and in what ways different forms of violence are mutually constitutive, and how they relate to broader societal develop­ments as well as the global political context, should be investi­gated. Questioning the attribution of legitimacy to certain actors, violent practices, and security policies, and exploring whether and how it is possible to engage actors deemed il­legitimate in non-violent ways, might contri­bute to reducing violence and de-escalating conflicts.

The Research Group “Terrorism” deals with trans­nationally operating discourses and ideas. It investigates (the effects of) trans­nationally organized practices and net­works of terrorism and counter-terrorism, as well as of Islamism and Jihadism. 

The group’s aim is to conduct research from a comparative, inter­disciplinary, and critical perspective, putting an emphasis on historical, regional, and global contextuali­zation of studies and their results. To this end, it combines political science approa­ches to peace and conflict research with the disciplines of psychology, history, and cultural studies. The research group is interested (1) in forms of violent order formation and examines (violent) non-state actors, states, and social actors in their relation­ship to states. (2) Secondly, it investi­gates patterns of dis­cursive and practical inter­action between and among these actors. (3) Finally, the phenomena of terrorism and counter-terrorism, as well as Islamism and Jihadism, can only be under­stood in the context of the global order. The group there­fore investi­gates how, on the one hand, these global struc­tures enable and im­pose limits on the activities of actors under investi­gation. On the other hand, the group is interested in the agency of these actors and how they challenge, trans­form, or reproduce structures of global order.