Who Are the Key Figures in ‘Terrorism Studies’?

  • Sam Raphael
Part of the Integrated Series In Information Systems book series (ISIS, volume 18)

The first part of this chapter constructs a analytical framework to enable the key figures in the field of terrorism studies to be identified. Use of this framework by future studies will ensure that their analysis of terrorism studies is based on a sample of authors and works which have been selected with sufficient methodological rigour. To have impact, such studies – which may interrogate the quality of research on terrorism, or examine the relationship between terrorism ‘knowledge’ and power, or attempt to reveal the existence of an ‘invisible college’ – must be able to show that they apply to the core (or, at least, a core) of terrorism studies, and that the selection of this core was achieved in a rigorous and explicit manner. The second part of this chapter employs this framework in order to identify three ‘pools’ of researchers: a periphery pool of over 300 authors, a central pool of 140 authors, and a core pool of just 31 authors.


Research Community Editorial Board Political Violence Core Journal Prolific Author 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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References and Footnotes

  1. 1.
    Indeed, the results obtained here are used by the author as part of his doctoral project, which is designed to analyse the publications of a set of key terrorism experts, in order to test the hypothesis that their work is politically biased. See Sam Raphael, Embedded Expertise? Bias in the Study of Terrorism, unfinished PhD thesis, Department of War Studies, King's College London, forthcoming. This claim has been made by many over the years, although it has yet to be supported by a sufficiently rigorous investigation. A necessary precursor to this is, of course, to determine the identities of the key experts; a requirement which drives the current investigation.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See, for instance, Reid and Chen,“Domain Mapping of Contemporary Terrorism Research,” in this volume.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    This is a necessarily unscientific statement to make, although intuition certainly plays a role in rigorous research. For instance, if this study had resulted in a list of twenty unheard-of names, it would lead to questions over not only the prior knowledge of the researcher, but also the applicability of the research design.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    In this respect, a charge may be levelled against Herman and O’Sullivan’s The Terrorism Industry, which selects its sample of ‘pre-eminent terrorism experts’ using less than rigorous methods. Although not necessarily the objective of the authors, it is hard to escape the conclusion that their selection was made so as to verify the author’s thesis that pre-eminent terrorism experts ‘rarely if ever depart from the official Western model and line on terrorism’. Edward S. Herman and Gerry O'Sullivan, The 'Terrorism' Industry: The Experts and Institutions That Shape Our View of Terror (New York: Pantheon Books, 1989), pp. 142-145. For further discussion of the methodological weaknesses of this key work, see Sam Raphael, Embedded Expertise?Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    See below for evidence that, even in the core academic journals, the majority of authors are ‘one-timers’, entering into the field only briefly.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    For the characterisation of the field as traditionally located in the cracks and crevices, see Andrew Silke, “An Introduction to Terrorism Research,” in Andrew Silke (ed.), Research on Terrorism: Trends, Achievements and Failures (London: Frank Cass, 2004), p. 1. Scholars keen to forge this separate identity include Avishag Gordon, “Terrorism as an Academic Subject After 9/11: Searching the Internet Reveals a Stockholm Syndrome Trend,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 28 (1) (January/February 2005); those more cautious include John Horgan, “Understanding Terrorism: Old Assumptions, New Assertions and Challenges for Research”, conference paper, Is it Time for a Critical Terrorism Studies?, University of Manchester, 27-28 October 2006. A separate field, it can be argued, could lead to analysis which is decontextualised from the wider political and social milieu; by focusing only on the terroristic elements of a conflict, much relevant analysis is lost.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    For a description of the meaning of ‘intersubjective’, see Buzan et al’s treatment of the concept of ‘security’: it is neither objective, nor ‘held in subjective and isolated minds; it is a social quality, a part of a discursive, socially constituted, intersubjective realm’. Thus, specific expression of the idea, as with all politics, ‘ultimately rests neither with the objects nor with the subjects but among the subjects’. Barry Buzan, Ole Waever, and Jaap de Wilde, Security: A New Framework for Analysis (London: Lynne Rienner, 1998), p. 31.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Although an argument can be made that this claim has attained the status of a myth in the terrorism literature, which works to privilege certain actors in international politics over others. For example, by focusing on Palestinian hijacking as one strategy which signified the birth of international terror, the literature ignores the Israeli violence which preceded and provoked such acts, thus casting the Palestinian people as aggressor, and the State of Israel as defender. For an in-depth discussion of the political consequences of this myth, see Sam Raphael, Embedded Expertise?Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    For example, the first incident recorded in the RAND Terrorism Chronology Database took place on 9 February 1968 (see http://www.tkb.org/Incident.jsp?incID=6, accessed 21 November 2006). Reid has found that the systematic study of contemporary terrorism ‘took-off’ in the period 1970-1978, with only ‘a sprinkling of terrorism studies’ before this time. Edna O.F. Reid, “Terrorism Research and the Diffusion of Ideas,” Knowledge and Policy 6(1), (Spring 1993), p. 22.
  10. 10.
  11. 11.
    The original 200 people (or, at least, the 58 of these who responded) provided a list of 166 separate names, approximately 10 percent of which were in the original sample (leaving around 150 new names). They also provided a list of 156 valuable works, whose authors are included in this community. See Alex P. Schmid and Albert J. Jongman (eds.), Political Terrorism: A New Guide to Actors, Authors, Concepts, Data Bases, Theories and Literature, 2nd edn. (North-Holland: Amsterdam, 1988), p. xii, note 1; and pp. 186-199.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    See, for instance, later comments on the quality of their survey by other terrorism scholars: it is cited as ‘the most important review of research and researchers into terrorism to date’ by Andrew Silke, “The Devil You Know: Continuing Problems with Research on Terrorism,” Terrorism and Political Violence 13(4) (Winter 2001), p. 3, and as a ‘magisterial survey’ by Bruce Hoffman, Inside Terrorism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998), p. 39.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    E.g., Herman and O’Sullivan, The Terrorism Industry, Reid, “Terrorism Research and the Diffusion of Ideas,” and Edna O.F. Reid, “Evolution of a Body of Knowledge: An Analysis of Terrorism Research,” Information Processing and Management33(1) (1997).Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Andrew Silke, “The Road Less Travelled: Recent Trends in Terrorism Research,” in Andrew Silke (ed.), Research on Terrorism: Trends, Achievements and Failures (London: Frank Cass, 2004), p. 186.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Avishag Gordon, “The Spread of Terrorism Publications: A Database Analysis,” Terrorism and Political Violence 10(4) (Winter 1998), p. 191. See, also: Avishag Gordon, “Terrorism and Knowledge Growth: A Databases and Internet Analysis,” in Andrew Silke (ed.), Research on Terrorism: Trends, Achievements and Failures (London: Frank Cass, 2004), p. 113.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Silke, “The Road Less Travelled”, p. 187.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    This is actually a slightly wider timeframe than the study in general (26 years), given that the database used only searches full calendar years (and so could not be set for a September-September limit). Potentially, a better search would be for the 25 years from 1980-2004, although in practice this would not affect the main findings.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    The International Bibliography of the Social Sciences (IBSS), which was searched, by journal, for the number of articles returning the keyword ‘terror’ as a truncated term (i.e., ‘terror’, ‘terrorise’, ‘terrorism’, ‘terrorist’, etc.). Search conducted 30 November 2006.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Indeed, of the more than 8000 articles found by IBSS in the 26-year period 1979-2004, over half were published in the three years 2002-2004!Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Examples of journals from other fields carrying special ‘terrorism issues’ after 9/11 include International Migration Review 36(1) (March 2002), Political Psychology 23 (3) (September 2002), History and Technology 19(1) (March 2003), and Qualitative Inquiry 8(2) (April 2002). That terrorism as a subject of inquiry now transcends the boundaries of any sort of ‘terrorism studies’, and even the broad field of international politics, can be seen by the publication in the following journals of these terrorism articles: Anthony Yanxiang Gu and Michael Schinski, “Patriotic Stock Repurchases: The Two Weeks Following the 9-11 Attack,” Review of Quantitative Finance and Accounting 20(3) (May 2003); H. V. Savitch, “Does 9-11 Portend a New Paradigm for Cities?,” Urban Affairs Review 39(1) (September 2003); and David M. Walker, “9/11: The Implications for Public Sector Management”, Public Administration Review 62 (September 2002). All of these articles appear amongst the 8293 total found by IBSS between 1979-2004.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Schmid and Jongman, Political Terrorism, pp. 180-181.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Reid, “Terrorism Research and the Diffusion of Ideas,” p. 20; Reid, “Evolution of a Body of Knowledge,” p. 94.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
  24. 24.
    For the very few occasions that these authors are mentioned by the key figures identified in this study, it is, as a rule, only in order to ridicule their research. See Raphael, Embedded Expertise?Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Silke, “An Introduction to Terrorism Research,” p. 1. For similar remarks, see Ariel Merari, “Academic Research and Government Policy on Terrorism,” Terrorism and Political Violence 3(1) (Spring 1991), p. 92; Walter Z. Laqueur, No End to War: Terrorism in the Twenty-First Century (New York: Continuum, 2003), p. 139, note 53.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    This includes anyone who spent two or three years on the board of Terrorism or Conflict, during the late 1980s and early 1990s, and then two or three years on the board of SCT after these two titles had amalgamated.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Schmid and Jongman, Political Terrorism, p. 181.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    With duplicates removed, this would give a community of 29 people, as opposed to the 140 in this study.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    As opposed to the 31 in this study. The eight are: Alexander, Bell, Crenshaw, Hoffman, Jenkins, Post, Schmid and Wilkinson.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    In other words, there are three authors (J. Bowyer Bell, Brian Jenkins and Paul Wilkinson) who, between 1979 and 2004, received five or more citations from the Schmid and Jongman survey, and have been on the editorial board of at least two core journals for five years or more, and have authored at least 10 pieces for the core journals.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    See Reid, “Terrorism Research and the Diffusion of Ideas”; Reid, “Evolution of a Body of Knowledge”. Google Scholar
  32. 31.
    The exact figure depends on exactly how one measures this.Google Scholar
  33. 32.
    See Raphael, Embedded Expertise? for a full explanation of the links with US Government, and the degree of political neutrality displayed by the publications.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sam Raphael
    • 1
  1. 1.King's CollegeUK

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