Critical Perspectives on Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism

The details
Sociology and Criminology
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Sunday 17 January 2021
Friday 26 March 2021
29 June 2020


Requisites for this module



Key module for

MA MF9112 Organised Crime, Terrorism and Security,
MSC MF9012 Organised Crime, Terrorism and Security,
MSC L31124 Migration Studies

Module description

Since 9/11 there has been unprecedented interest in terrorism across political, media and academic discourses. Indeed, regarding the latter, in 2008 The Guardian reported a 23-fold increase in academic articles citing 'terrorism' since 2001. Despite this proliferation of research, analysis and commentary, a number of interconnected problems persist in the study and understanding of terrorism.

An axiom in this debate is the notion that the definition of 'terrorism' is highly contested. Often, this is articulated by the simplistic notion of the terrorism versus freedom fighter cliché, which, although this does much to highlight the moral relativism of terrorist action, is close to conceptually useless.

This is due to a number of reasons. First, as Weinberg (2005:2) correctly argues, the maxim 'simply confus(es) the goal of terrorism with the activity'. What does this have to say about essentially guerrilla groups that occasionally adopt terrorist tactics, such as the LTTE, for example?

Moreover, the terrorist/freedom fighter opposition does little to highlight the diversity of terrorist activity, which is often tied to specific action and thus whether they are deemed justifiable. It fails to grasp the nuances and complexity of 'just causes' that lie beyond mere moral relativism and, crucially the internal complexities and changes in strategies and activities during the evolution of terrorist campaigns.

Finally, this relative approach to the definition of terrorism does not account for the role of the state as a terrorist actor. This latter concern has led to the 'emergence' of critical terrorism studies which positions itself against what they perceive to be the orthodox standpoint of much mainstream scholarship on the issue. In particular, critical terrorism scholars point to the state, rather than dissident groups being the principle source of insecurity.

Module aims

Starting with debates surrounding the definition and discourse of terrorism, this module examines the both the enduring themes and contemporary debates relating to the conceptualisation, commission and control of terrorism.

Module learning outcomes

In doing so the module is structured over three main areas of enquiry: analysing terrorism, dimensions of terrorism and counter-terrorism. Classes will comprise of three distinct parts: a formal lecture, group discussion and student presentations. Topics and groups for student presentations will be assigned during the first class. Come to classes prepared, become informed through reading, form opinions and be prepared to debate.

Module information

Please note that assessment information is currently showing for 2019-20 and will be updated in September.

The module is structured over three main areas of enquiry:


1. Defining and Conceptualising Terrorism
2. Perspectives on Terrorism


3. Political Ideology and Terrorism
4. Animal Rights Extremism
5. Religious extremism: Al Qaeda, violent Islamism and suicide missions


6. Surveillance
7. The war on terror, state crime, and human rights (
8. Policing terrorism, communities and legitimacy
9. Law

Learning and teaching methods

No information available.


This module does not appear to have any essential texts. To see non-essential items, please refer to the module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Participation in the module Moodle forum     10% 
Coursework   Essay  27/04/2021  90% 

Additional coursework information

Please note that assessment information is currently showing for 2018-19 and will be updated in August 2019

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Prof Peter Fussey, email:
Peter Fussey
Michele Hall, Graduate Administrator, Tel: 01206 873051 Email:



External examiner

Prof Paul Stretesky
The University of Northumbria at Newcastle
Professor of Criminology
Prof Benjamin Bradford
University College London
Available via Moodle
Of 280 hours, 0 (0%) hours available to students:
280 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information
Sociology and Criminology

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