Qualitative data in terrorism research
Friday June 21, 12.45 - 14.15
Session 5, Auditorium 7, Eilert Sundt building
Chair: Shandon Harris-Horgan
- A Critical Appraisal of Skepticism About Terrorist Accounts of Their Motivations - Lorne L. Dawson
- Interviewing Far-Right Extremists: unique details and common denominators - Nikki Sterkenburg
Studying meaning-making in response to terrorist attacks – opportunities and dilemmas of case study research – Jeanine de Roy van Zuijdewijn
A Critical Appraisal of Skepticism - About Terrorist Accounts of Their Motivations
Lorne L. Dawson, University of Waterloo
Terrorism studies has been caught in the torque of two equally compelling and difficult challenges. On the one hand, it is generally recognized that the field suffers from a lack of primary data, of research incorporating “talking with terrorists” (Brannan et al. 2001; Horgan 2008; Silke 2008; Helmus 2009; Dalgaard-Nielsen 2010). On the other hand, many researchers are deeply suspicious of the veracity of what terrorists say and inclined to discount the evidentiary value of such data (Horgan 2005; McCauley and Moskalenko 2011; Klausen 2015; Khalil 2017). How can we best navigate this legitimate methodological tension? This paper summarizes the grounds stated in the terrorism literature for being wary of the accounts terrorists give for their actions, and then places that limited discussion in the wider context of some of the key insights from the decades of sociological discourse on the nature, use, and distortion of “accounts.” Given the complexity of the topic, the objective is simply to better frame the ongoing and informal discussion of this problem in the field of terrorism studies, and suggest why more and not less attention should be given to listening to terrorists.
Interviewing Far-Right Extremists: unique details and common denominators
Nikki Sterkenburg, Leiden University
This presentation will demonstrate how extensive fieldwork, participating observation and life history interviews with a network of extra-parliamentary operating Far-Right Extremists (N=36), combined with elements of the social movement theory (in particular: resource mobilization theory), has provided unique details and the indication of common denominators. Gathering reliable and comparable data for research on extremist violence or terrorism is a challenge for many academics. Academics often rely on secondary sources or background details, such as socio-economic circumstances and personal data of perpetrators. Although this has led to useful insights and assumptions, it is not always helpful to explain the process of individual recruitment and involvement in violent extremist groups. By interviewing extremists, varied backgrounds, identities, worldviews and loyalties can be determined and analyzed. This presentation will go further into detail on actual motives and experiences of those involved.
Studying meaning-making in response to terrorist attacks – opportunities and dilemmas of case study research
Jeanine de Roy van Zuijdewijn, Leiden University
This presentation will reflect on the case study method by presenting a study comprised of four case studies on the aftermath of terrorist attacks, focusing on the case of the aftermath of the 2016 Brussels Attacks. The author has analysed how different actors had been engaging in the process of meaning-making in the first year after the Brussels attacks, focusing on different actors (authorities and citizens) and different manifestations of meaning-making (frames, rituals and symbols) during the first week after the attack and around the first anniversary. While showing the preliminary results of this particular case study, the author would like to discuss the opportunities, difficulties and dilemmas related to case study research, including issues related to the possibility to generalize results from case studies such as this.