Template:Format footnotes The sociology of terrorism is a developing subfield of sociology in the United States that seeks to understand terrorism as a social phenomenon and how individuals as well as nation states address it (not to be confused with terrorism studies which sometimes overlaps with the psychology of terrorism).

History[edit | edit source]

Pre 9/11[edit | edit source]

Some exceptions withstanding,[1][2][3] sociology, which is loosely defined as the “scientific study of human interaction”, found little interest in the subject of terrorism before the attacks on September 11, 2001. Since 9/11, there has been a spike of interest in all sociological interactions related to terrorism such as moral panic, organizational response and media coverage.

Terrorism was largely ignored by sociologists prior to September 11, 2001.[4] The most comprehensive study into the definition of terrorism comes from a study by Weinberg, Pedahzur and Hirsch-Hoefler (2004) who examined 73 definitions of terrorism from 55 articles and concluded that terrorism is: "a politically motivated tactic involving the threat or use of force or violence in which the pursuit of publicity plays a significant role." [5] However, Weinberg et al. point out that definitions of terrorism often ignore symbolic aspects of terrorism. Due to its focus on symbolism, sociology has a unique vantage point from which to assess terror.

Post 9/11[edit | edit source]

Since 9/11, Mathieu Deflem (University of South Carolina), S.E. Costanza (Central Connecticut State University) and John C. Kilburn Jr. (Texas A&M International University) are among prolific Sociologists of note to call for development of a sub-field of sociology related to Terrorism. Common topics that are part of the discourse of the sociology of Terrorism include: military spending, counter-terrorism, the Algerian War of Independence, Immigration, Privacy Issues and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, where within these contexts questions of power, the definition of terrorism, propaganda, nationality, the media, etc. are asked. It is a subfield of sociology that attempts to discover how all these things come together and how society comes to understand terror and negotiate fear.

Early peer-reviewed post 9/11 literature from the sociology of Terrorism sub-field examined policing and citizen responses to terror during 9/11.[6] Early literature examined interactions between first responders (police, rescue teams, etc.) and communities. Ramirez, Hoopes and Quinlan (2003) rightly predicted that police organizations would change fundamental styles of profiling people after 9/11.[7] According to DeLone (2007), most police agencies altered their mission statements after 9/11. There is strong reason to believe that even the smallest of local police agencies are apt to feel some kind of pressure to deal with the issue of terrorism.[8]

More recent work in the sociology of Terrorism field is philosophical and reflective and has focused on issues such as moral panic and over-spending after 9/11. Costanza and Kilburn (2005), in an article entitled: "Symbolic Security, Moral Panic and Public Sentiment: Toward a sociology of Counterterrorism" argued that issue of symbolism is of much import to understanding the war on terror.[9] Using a classic symbolic interactionist perspective, they argue that strong public sentiment about the homeland security issue has driven policy moreso than real and concrete threats. Others argue that symbolism has led to agency a policy of “hypervigilance” in agency decision-making that is costly and untestable.

Some sociologists and legal scholars have contemplated the potential consequences of aggressive (or militaristic) policing of terror threats have might negative implications for human rights which are of great interest to sociologists as a matter of social justice. They argue that salient human emotions related to terror threats reshape public understanding of the perceived balance between the need for security and civil liberties. In a peer-reviewed article entitled: “Crouching tiger or phantom dragon? Examining the discourse on global cyber-terror”, Helms, Costanza and Johnson (2011) ask if it is possible that media hype at the national level could prompt an unnecessary and systemic over-pursuit of cyber-terror. They warn that such overreaction might lead to a "killswitch" policy which could give the federal government ultimate power over the internet.

Despite the quantitative lean of modern sociology; Kilburn, Costanza, Borgeson and Metchik (2011) point out that there are several methodological barbs to effectively and scientifically assessing the effect of Homeland Security measures.[10] In traditional Criminology, the most quantitatively amenable starting point for measuring the effectiveness of any policing strategy (i.e.: Neighborhood Watch, Gun Abatement, Foot Patrols, etc.) is to assess total financial costs against clearance rates or arrest rates. Since terrorism is such a rare event phenomena, measuring arrests would be a naive way to test policy effectiveness.

Another methodological problem in the developing sociology of Terrorism sub-field is one of finding operational measures for key concepts in the study of homeland security (see:[11]). Both terrorism and homeland security are relatively new concepts for social scientists, and academicians have yet to agree on the matter of how to properly conceptualize these ideas

Along with the many professional peer-reviewed articles associated with the gamut of terror-related sociological issues, professional educators in the field of sociology, Criminology and Political Science have also been productive in organizing “sociology of Terrorism” classes and authoring textbooks to contribute to the profession.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Juergensmeyer 2000
  2. Deflem 1997
  3. Gibbs 1989
  4. Deflem 2004
  5. Weinberg, Pedahzur and Hirsch-Hoefler 2004
  6. Fischer 2002
  7. Ramirez, Hoopes and Quinlan 2003
  8. DeLone 2007
  9. Costanza and Kilburn 2005
  10. Kilburn, Costanza, Borgeson and Metchik 2011
  11. Weinberg et al 1994

Costanza, S.E., Kilburn Jr., John C. 2005. "Symbolic Security, Moral Panic and Public Sentiment: Toward a sociology of Counterterrorism", Journal of Social and Ecological Boundaries, 1(2): 106-124

Costanza, S.E.; Kilburn Jr., John C. and Helms, Ronald. 2008 "Chapter 5: Counterterrorism" published in Terrorism in America, (Eds.: Borgeson, Kevin and Valeri, Robin), Jones and Bartlett, Sudbury, Mass

Deflem, Mathieu. 1997. The Globalization of Heartland Terror: Reflections on the Oklahoma City Bombing. The Critical Criminologist 8(1), 5. [1]

Deflem, M. 2004. “Social Control and the Policing of Terrorism Foundations for a sociology of Counterterrorism.” American Sociologist. 35 (2): 75-92. [2]

DeLone, Gregory J. 2007. “Law Enforcement Mission Statements Post September 11." Police Quarterly 10(2)

Fischer, Henry W. 2002. “Terrorism and 11 September 2001: Does the ‘Behavioral Response to Disaster’ Model Fit?” International Journal of Disaster Prevention and Management. 11-3.

Helms, Ronald; Costanza, S.E and Johnson, N.. 2011. “Crouching tiger or phantom dragon? Examining the discourse on global cyber-terror.” http://www.palgrave-journals.com/sj/journal/vaop/ncurrent/abs/sj20116a.html

Juergensmeyer, Mark (2000). Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Kilburn, John C, Jr; Costanza, S.E.; Metchik, Eric and Borgeson, Kevin (2011) "Policing Terror Threats and False Positives: Employing a Signal Detection Model to Examine Changes in National and Local Policing Strategy between 2001-2007" Security Journal 24, 19–36

Kilburn Jr., John C. and Costanza, S.E. 2009 “Immigration and Homeland Security” published in Battleground: Immigration (Ed: Judith Ann Warner); Greenwood Publishing, Ca.

Ramirez, D., J. Hoopes, and T.L. Quinlan. 2003 “Defining racial profiling in a post-September 11 world.” American Criminal Law Review. 40(3): 1195-1233.

Weinberg, L., Pedahzur, A., Hirsch-Hoefler, S. 2004. The challenges of conceptualizing Terrorism. Terrorism and Political Violence, vol. 16, no. 4, pp. 777–794

External links[edit | edit source]

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