Ioannis Tellidis and Harmonie Toros edited volume Researching Terrorism, Peace and Conflict Studies (Routledge, London 2015) aims to open up a new methodological dimension in which Terrorism Studies, Critical Terrorism Studies (CTS), and Peace and Conflict Studies can intersect in presently unexplored ways.
‘Negotiating with terrorists’ is not a phrase one often expects to hear, especially not from democratic governments who so habitually employ the extremes of revengeful violence to avoid such negotiations. But what if liberal, democratic nations did negotiate with terrorists? To force such action, it must first be necessary to understand armed groups outside the limiting terminological paradigm of ‘terrorism’ and comprehend their actions as belonging to a broader, politically motivated agenda which transcends mere violence and hate. Recently, negotiations with Columbian guerrilla groups have threatened the false supposition that reconciliation cannot be achieved through diplomatic means. Emanating from this example comes Researching Terrorism, Peace and Conflict Studies, a co-edited volume which stands at the forefront of efforts to provoke dialogue between disciplines which have so far remained stubbornly distant.
Ioannis Tellidis and Harmonie Toros co-edited volume aims to open up a new methodological dimension in which Terrorism Studies, Critical Terrorism Studies (CTS), and Peace and Conflict Studies can intersect in presently unexplored ways. Specifically, the authors’ ambition is to avidly encourage scholars to engage in an otherwise overlooked dialogue, regardless of the obstinacy of their positions, ‘thus strengthening both research and practice’. On the forefront of the book’s endeavour stands a belief in a truly free and open exchange of knowledge and ideas which creates numerous paths for further research.
The volume is divided into two parts, the first focusing on methodological debates while the second explores real-world case studies. The first part of the book comprises four chapters, each discussing the theoretical intersection of Terrorism and Peace Studies. Its defining feature is the theoretical ‘battle’ that Jackson and D. M. Jones fight out in chapters two and three. Their core disagreement is the usefulness of critical theory when researching terrorism. Whilst Jackson sets out a rationale and framework for turning traditional Peace Studies into Critical Peace Studies, using CTS as an example, Jones responds that critical approaches to Terrorism Studies are unable to provide a coherent theory because they require the development of empathy with terrorists. This in turn, he argues, poses a threat to the ‘Western understanding of liberalism, secularism and pluralism’ by affording ‘ideological support’ to Islamists (55). The following chapter introduces the reader to prospective intersections between transitional justice and Terrorism Studies. Although ‘strange companions’, Renner and Spencer argue that Critical Terrorism Studies constitutes a ‘critical cousin’ of transitional justice because both approaches critique contemporary reconciliation practices as liberal state projects which stigmatise resisting persons as terrorists (77). Finally, chapter five explores the reasoning as to why and how cycles of political violence end. It is suggested that through a modelling approach which combines macro (socio-political context), meso (organisational dynamics), and micro levels (individual motivations), a more comprehensive and dynamic account of political violence cycles can be established (96).
The second part of Tellidis’ and Toros’ volume moves beyond theoretical debates and explores the diverse way in which these approaches can be incorporated within case studies. Whilst five out of six chapters take a specific country as their object of analysis, the final chapter volunteers a novel perspective through an examination of non-state terror in cyberspace. The opening chapter of this section delves to the very core of what it means to link methodological considerations with policymaking realities. Through an examination of progressive conflict resolution practices in Colombia and the Basque country, Haspeslagh and Dudouet reveal the complexity of the term ‘terrorist’. It is argued that in practice, labeling armed groups as terrorists affects ‘not only the character of the conflicts but also their possible resolution’ (119) because conflict resolution with ‘terrorists’ becomes highly unpopular. In other words, this chapter highlights the impact of the language around ‘terrorism’, particularly the damage attributable to certain words ingrained in the political lexicon, and the need to further investigate the discrepancy between academic and practical usage of the terminology. The following two chapters discuss the Colombian and Basque cases in greater detail. In chapter seven, Idler and Adell demonstrate the positive results of governmental negotiations with ‘terrorists’ in Colombia. Alternative approaches which require and aim for deep political reforms have been able to develop thanks to the willingness of the government and guerrillas to enter dialogue. In the case of the Basque country, Diaz shows that the entire independence movement has been subject to unjustified ‘terrorist’ labelling, and thus she aims to provide an alternative narrative. She executes a pointed critique of what she calls a ‘criminalisation policy’ by the Spanish government, enacted in order to prevent the movement from developing a political agenda which can be represented on national and international platforms.
Victoria Fontan challenges liberal peace-building through an exploration of the Occupy Fallujah movement. The group was demonstrating against the looming occupation by ISIS, and given such cause was knowingly supported by Al Qaida. This affiliation with a ‘terrorist’ group prevented Occupy Fallujah from gaining outside support and thus condemned them to eventual failure. The chapter proceeds to problematize the malignant usage of the term ‘terrorist’, noting it to prevent Western liberal states from negotiating ‘with people who have no regard of human life, killing innocent civilians in their attempt to reach whatever their goal is’ (1). In chapter 10, Morrison adds an additional methodological consideration; criminology. Through an examination of the conflict in Northern Ireland, he concludes that ‘to ultimately tackle terrorism and terrorist groups we sometimes need to look beyond the violence’ (199). In other words, looking at the wider activities and goals of (armed) groups, instead of focusing on violent attacks, will provide greatly improved opportunities for successful conflict resolution. An interrogation of cyberterrorism and ‘cyber-security’ by Jarvis, Nouri and Whiting provides an apt conclusion of the second section by posing a challenge to state-centric ontologies in IR, as well as established versions and conceptions of Terrorism Studies and Peace and Conflict Studies.
Researching Terrorism concludes with an overview of the issues raised and suggests further opportunities for research. Chief amongst these opportunities are the implications of negotiations with non-state actors, which typically falls out of the paradigm of liberal security: the limitations of transitional justice mechanisms during times of reconciliation to address terrorism; and a thorough gendered perspective of the intersection between terrorism and conflict resolution. The last point is particularly important because Tellidis and Toros practice healthy self-reflexivity when they explain the anticipated exclusion of a feminist perspective in this book, instead calling for more rigorous academic research. This volume represents a continuation of the authors’ previous work in a special edition and edited volume where they set the foundations for ‘re-embedding the study of terrorism into peace and conflict studies’ as a ‘powerful means to counter’ the traditional statist approach which perpetually prioritises the state as its referent object. Amongst wider literature the book fills a further important gap, namely interdisciplinary research on novel ways of understanding terrorism, political violence and peace. The book stands out by inviting contributions from policymakers and practitioners in addition to academic scholars. It succeeds in positioning itself within the established research on CTS and Peace and Conflict Studies.
The structure of this volume provides a clear and useful distinction between methodological considerations and case studies, utilising the theory to lay foundations and the case studies to subsequently consider impacts in practice. Throughout the volume, chapters build on each other fittingly, and allow for a healthy breadth and variety of viewpoints. Nevertheless, if a criticism was to be offered or indeed if the authors were to compile another volume, discernible improvement could be achieved through an extension of the theoretical debates. There is inevitably much more ground to cover, especially in relation to the evolution of critical approaches and increased digital violence. Both Terrorism, and Peace and Conflict Studies are constantly evolving disciplines which respond to the ever-changing nature of conflict and violence. Hence, the literature investigating the fields must aim to evolve simultaneously by furthering the intersection between subjects.
Researching Terrorism, Peace and Conflict Studies aims to and succeeds in creating a platform for open discussion about the potential synergies (Critical) Terrorism may have with Peace and Conflict Studies. Whilst one book is unsurprisingly unable to cover every dimension of a discipline, Tellidis and Toros allow the reader to gain a diverse insight into both theoretically and empirically informed considerations about the intersection between the two fields. As such the book constitutes an excellent launch pad for further research and should form an essential part of every academic course on Terrorism and Peace and Conflict Studies.
. Tellidis, I. and Toros, H. (eds) (2013) ‘Special Issue: Terrorism and Peace and Conflict Studies: Investigating the Crossroad’, Critical Studies on Terrorism, 6 (1), pp. 1-223 and Tellidis, I. and Toros, H. (eds) (2014) Terrorism, Peace and Conflict Studies: Investigating the Crossroad. Abingdon: Routledge
. Jackson, R., Breen Smyth, M. and Gunning, J. (eds) (2009) Critical terrorism studies: a new research agenda. London, UK: Routledge and Richmond, O.P. and Tellidis, I. (2012) ‘The Complex Relationship between Peacebuilding and Terrorism Approaches: Towards Post-terrorism and a Post-liberal Peace?’, Terrorism and Political Violence, 24 (1), pp. 120-143