The course will familiarize students with the fundamentals and recent advances in critical terrorism studies (CTS). CTS is a flourishing subfield within terrorism studies primarily inspired by critical security studies and, by extension, the Frankfurt school, yet encompassing a number of diverse ontological, epistemological, normative and methodological perspectives. What they share, broadly speaking, is a reflexive view of social reality (and consequently the understanding of terrorism as being socially constructed), and critical interrogations of the complex interactions between power and knowledge. In addition to the perspectives linked to Critical Theory in the narrow sense, Foucauldean research on terrorism mobilizing concepts such as genealogy, biopolitics or dispositif will also be introduced.

A critical appraisal of the ‘normal science’ of terrorism will be put forward, with the focus on the dominant practices of knowledge production and their ideological foundations which result in a lack of reflexivity (manifested e.g. in the problematic ways of stabilizing the research object), ‘fetishization’ and separation of the object from its political, social and historical context, lack of research of state terrorism or global south perspectives (and instead Orientalist bias), uncritical reliance on official sources, cyclical reproduction of terrorism ‘mythologies’ and generally the field’s Polizeiwissenschaft ethos. The link of this knowledge to actual power practices in which the terrorist is made into subject and ‘subjected’, together with those who are being protected, to counter-terrorism policies, will be explored against the background of the global war on terror (GWOT). Moreover, representations of terrorism in film and literature will be discussed.