International Relations Theory and Radicalization to Violence: How Theory Represents Reality?: Said Yaqub Ibrahimi (Carleton University) Abstract: Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, many countries have been targeted by both domestic and international extremist Islamists. The domestic, or internal threat, became conceptualized as homegrown terrorism (HGT) and appeared in academic and policy-relevant publications. A sufficient understanding of HGT requires a deep investigation of its underlying causes, which leads to a general research question: What causes HGT? While there is substantial research addressing this question, there is no theory that integrates those causes in a framework that would provide a general image of the problem. Therefore, the main common gap in the literature, today, is not the lack of empirical research or data but the lack of a theory which would provide an integrative framework for the analysis of HGT. My paper fills this gap by examining causes of HGT within the ‘levels of analysis’ framework of International Relations (IR). The empirical basis of this paper includes a qualitative comparative study of four cases, including the London Bombings (July 7, 2005), Toronto 18 (2006), Boston Marathon Bombing (2013), and Paris Attacks (November 15, 2015). These cases represent HGT in four major North American and West European countries, and therefore, they are intended to provide a representative image of HGT in the ‘West.’
Why Do Labels Matter? Exemplifying the Analytical Utility of the “Essentially Contested Concept” Classification Through its Application to 'Terrorism': Eliana Glogauer (Royal Military College of Canada) Abstract: Research on ‘terrorism’ is limited by the scholarly literature's failure to establish a definition that commands full international approval. This state of affairs was affected by the diverging focal points around which definitions of 'terrorism' are constructed: the separation between the ‘ends’ and ‘means’ of ‘terrorist activity.’ As such, scholars argue that ‘terrorism’ fits W.B. Gallie’s notion of ‘essentially contested concepts:’ terms so normatively loaded that no amount of debate or evidence will lead to agreement on their “correct or standard use.” Scholars like J.A.S. Wild have argued as to the inadequacy of the ‘essentially contested’ classification as a “final explanatory framework,” based on the claim that operationalizing it further provides for the emergence of competing conceptions. Similarly, John N. Gray and Christine Swanton advocate for a “weaker variant of the essential contestedness hypothesis” to allow for differentiation between its “more and less problematic conceptualizations” because “stronger variants” of the position seemingly invalidate any in-depth conceptual analysis.
This paper suggests that the ‘essentially contested’ thesis exists along a continuum, which it will construct by extending the scholarly advocacy for both of the variants of this thesis that were created through attempts to apply it to the concept of ‘security.’ This paper will then go on to situate the cases of the African National Congress, the Front de libération du Québec, and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria along the continuum that it constructs, to illustrate the analytical utility of conceptualizing ‘terrorism’ as an ‘essentially contested concept.'
Hearts, Minds and Methodology: A Study of Statecraft as Counterinsurgency: Julian von Bargen (York University), Adam Kingsmith (York University) Abstract: We live in strange times – as Gramsci put it, an old world is dying but the new cannot be born. Though the world is unstable, and hegemony rests on shaky foundations, there is little to be found in the way of organized social movements against global problems such as mass surveillance, economic inequality and environmental degradation. Why? Our paper argues one of the key reasons is the success of counterinsurgency campaigns waged by states against their own populations. To this end, we chart the history of counterinsurgency tactics inspired by the classic imperative to win “hearts and minds” in relation to behavioural modification strategies (i.e. “nudges”) first adapted by the RAND corporation to synchronize the values of the population with the interests of the state, (Abella 2008, Sunstein 2016, Harcourt 2018). Such tactics are part of a range of techniques deployed by state interests through its’ long history of operationalizing qualitative and quantitative social and behavioural science with the goal of undermining and pre-empting the rise of dissent and public insurgency. By investigating a wide variety of counterinsurgent tools for managing the psyches, beliefs, and rationalities of populations, we explore ways to reverse engineer these approaches across urban spaces and everyday life.