To Identify Terrorism — A Consequential Ambiguity

  • Kathryn Marie Fisher
Part of the New Security Challenges book series (NSECH)


An essential question for studies and practices on counterterrorism is to ask how particular oppositional identity constructions come to be temporarily stabilized and accepted as bounded entities given the propensity of such configurations to frequently (mis)guide collective meaning and action.1 As explained by James Der Derian, “for one reason or many — or, as we seem forced to relearn in every generation, for no reason at all — they come to be recognized as the ‘other’: the barbarian, infidel, heretic, savage, revolutionary, traitor; the racist, sexist, lunatic, alien cyborg. In turn, our collective identity — citizens, patriots, believers — becomes dependent upon these differences”.2 Our task here is to interrogate such mutually reinforcing perceptions of difference so that any damaging dependencies through which they are formed and continually reproduced can be appropriately disrupted. As much as identities may seem to indicate timeless truths or essences and exert formidable power over outcomes, identity is not about “a false consciousness opposed to a true one”.3 Instead, what we understand as identities results from ongoing processes of meaning making influenced by social structures and agential decision making: it would be a mistake to privilege structure or agency; the key is to somehow analytically manage both in considering how different outcomes have come to be in the way that they have.


Liberal Democrat Party Identity Construction International Terrorism Terrorist Threat Official Discourse 
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Copyright information

© Kathryn Marie Fisher 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kathryn Marie Fisher
    • 1
  1. 1.National Defense UniversityUSA

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