Department of Political Science


POLS0035 Strategies of Terrorism

Course Code: POLS0035

Course Tutor: Dr Manuel Vogt (Department of Political Science)

Length: One Term (Spring Term)

Teaching: 20 contact hours

Assessment: One 1,500 word essay (40%) and one 2,500 word essay (60%)

Credits: 15 credits/4 US Credits/7.5 ECTS Credits

Module Level: L6 (Advanced)

terrorism, political violence, empirical research, and non-state actors

About this course

This module is suitable for advanced undergraduate students. It will acquaint students with the main theoretical debates and empirical findings in the research on terrorism. It covers the topic from both a contemporary and an historical perspective and examines terrorism as a strategic tool of intra-state and transnational warfare. We will draw on insights from political science, sociology, psychology, criminology, economics, and history to shed light on such topics as the historical trends in terrorist activity, the relationship of terrorism to other forms of political violence, the use of one-sided violence in civil conflicts, the system and individual-level roots of terrorism, the role of religion in contemporary transnational terrorism, as well as the effects (and effectiveness) of this strategy of political violence. We will also examine the policy responses available to political decision makers in the field of security, including the ethical concerns arising in the context of counter-terrorist strategies.

Students will be asked to complete a comprehensive set of readings, to participate actively in seminar discussions, and to write two short papers.

By the end of the term, students should be equipped to answer central theoretical and practical questions, such as: why and when do organizations resort to terrorist strategies? Under what conditions are grievances and opportunities for terrorism most likely to emerge? How does violence spill across borders, and what drives transnational terrorism? What leads individuals to the point at which they feel that violence is their only option to bring about political change? How does terrorism affect politics and society in the target countries? How do terrorist organizations collapse, and what options do policymakers have to counter the threat of terrorism?

Please note that POLS0035 is an advanced Political Science module. Its delivery is based on the assumption that you are familiar with concepts and theories central to the field. Moreover, the module will place emphasis on an empirical approach to the study of terrorism. Thus, the methodological discussions and exercises in the seminars will equip you with the analytical tools to ask theoretically relevant and empirically testable research questions, to generate hypotheses, and to develop empirical strategies to test these hypotheses.

You may also want to look at the POLS0035 reading list from last year (accessible via the UCL Library) to get an idea of the readings and topics covered in the module itself.