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Robert G. Moser, Chair BAT 2.116, Mailcode A1800, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-5121

Spring 2007

GOV 390L • Research Seminar on Terrorism

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
39100 T
3:30 PM-6:30 PM
BAT 5.102

Course Description

In a survey conducted in the mid-1980s among scholars studying terrorism, Schmid et al. (1988) found that more than two-thirds of the respondents were of the view that theoretical progress in the field was very slow, and that existing theories suffered from a lack of applicability and a dearth of empirical support. These findings were indication of the impression among scholars at that time, that after more than thirty years of research, the academic community was able to produce very few insights in relation to terrorism and its features, causes and implications. Although contentions of this nature have also been voiced in recent years, during the course of the 1990s and especially since the start of the new millennium, significant numbers of researchers from different disciplines have attempted to explain this phenomenon. This increasing trend has been prompted by two main factors. First, in the wake of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attack in New York, a dramatic increase in the amount of resources was set aside by governmental and other bodies in various countries for unraveling and tackling the phenomenon of terrorism. Second, the last decade has been witness to a notable increase in the amount of accessible databases and empirical findings on terrorist attacks worldwide, which has made it feasible to undertake solid, empirical-based research relying on innovative methods. Although the influx of many new researchers was a shot in the arm for the study of terrorism, it has also generated one major problem. Some scholars did not take into account earlier research and have in effect "reinvented the wheel." For example, many of the insights produced by recently developed organizational and rational theories had already been submitted by prominent scholars of terrorism in the early 1980s. One of the reasons for this situation is the small number of comprehensive studies in the field that focused on state of the art knowledge. The goal of the proposed course is to fill in this gap by means of a critical analysis of the various theories developed in the fields of terrorism and counter terrorism since they became an object of academic research. Naturally, the bulk of the course will be devoted to new theories which emerged in the last decade however earlier, long-serving theories will not be neglected. Furthermore, students will be provided with a fundamental knowledge of the basic theories, concepts and methods in the study of terrorism.

Grading Policy

Presentation in class 40% Final research paper 60%


Required Books Other articles and chapters for the course will be available on e-reserve. Bruce Hoffman, 2006. Inside Terrorism. New York: Columbia University Press. Louise Richardson, 2006. What Terrorists Want: Understanding the Enemy, Containing the Threat. New York: Random House.


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