What might an anthropology of terrorism look like?

Irfan Ahmad


Under this project, Irfan Ahmad is about to complete writing a book manuscript. Rather than asking the usual questions, such as what is terrorism or what motivates terrorism, following James Baldwin, it inquires: who needs the category of ‘the terrorist’? One approach to develop an anthropology of terrorism - a sub field yet to fully come into being - is to take anthropology as given, and then proceed to apply it to the study of terrorism. Conversely, one could take terrorism as given, and examine it anthropologically, as the discipline is normally construed. This book, however, pursues neither. Rather, “Terrorism in Question” subjects both anthropology and terrorism to critical scrutiny because to take them as given is to misunderstand both anthropology and terrorism. Based on interviews with officially qualified ‘terrorists’ in India and Australia, and fieldwork with journalists reporting on terrorism, the book aims to offer ground-breaking perspectives about both anthropology and terrorism. Interdisciplinary, and at times also in-disciplinary, the book weaves insights from political theory, international relations (IR), media studies, anthropology of religion, philosophy, and literary studies to call the reigning doxa into question, so as to arrive at what is true rather than what is barely real - reality, which is claimed as the foundation by social science, in general. Beyond the prevalent idea of risks, the book also sheds light on what it means to be an anthropologist writing on terrorism and the intertwinement of knowledge power, IR, and nationalism. 

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