Sluka, J. (2008). Terrorism and taboo: an anthropological perspective on political violence against civilians. Critical Studies on Terrorism, 1(2), 167-183.

Tuesday 24 January 2023

““Terrorism and Taboo: an anthropological perspective on political violence against civilians” is an article written by Jeffry Sluka which examines the anthropological methods of studying state violence. The author sets out the three main contributions that anthropologist have brought to the study of violence. Firstly, anthropologists who have worked in ‘high conflict’ areas, and have studied violence, terror, and resistance, have written detailed ethnographies of armed indigenous, ethnonationalist, and religious nationalist movements, frequently described as ‘terrorists’, which provides us with rich literatures on the reasons why these groups use violence, and how they employ it. Secondly, anthropologists produce detailed literature about how some forms of resistance are stigmatized by political elites and the authorities. Anthropologists have applied our ‘the core concept of the discipline – culture – to the debate, developing new conceptual models of how state terrorism evolves into ‘cultures of terror’, where fear becomes a ‘normal’ or everyday part of a peoples’ political way of life. They have undertaken critical cultural deconstruction of the very idea of ‘terrorism’ and how it is employed in our society today. The author also investigates the conflictual relationship between terrorism and human rights, in suggesting how governments might better protect citizens through using anthropological perspectives. The author points out that anti-terrorism solutions can develop into abuse of human rights, which should raise the awareness of the public and of scholars.

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