Undergraduate Modules: POL3019 - Terrorism, Violence and the State

Module Code

POL 3019

Module Title

Terrorism, Violence and the State


Level 3


Semester 1


20 credits

Taught by:

Dr Ross Bellaby and Dr Joe Turner

Module Description:

This module provides an introduction to contemporary forms of terrorism. After looking at the contentious subject of how we define terrorism, the module looks at terrorism as a form of resistance against the state. In doing this it examines the nature of the modern state, and the citizen’s obligation to obey the state. It looks at non-violent resistance to the state before looking at violent resistance and terrorism. The module looks at motivations and justifications given for terrorism, as well as terrorist groups’ tactics, strategies and goals. It also looks at terrorist actions perpetrated by state actors, state responses to terrorism, the ‘war on terror’ post-9/11, and the relationship of the media with terrorist groups and counter-terrorist operations. Throughout the module students work in small groups to assess a particular terrorist organisation in relation to the seminar topic for the week. Thus each student gains understanding of a particular terrorist group as well as the theoretical material being covered on a week by week basis.

Module Aims:

By the end of the unit, a candidate will be able to:

  • Display an understanding of the historical origins and nature of terrorism.
  • Explain the main theoretical perspectives on the state and be able to apply these to contemporary issues relating to state legitimacy.
  • Discuss and evaluate violent and non-violent forms of protest against the state.
  • Display an understanding of various forms of contemporary terrorism and terrorist groups.
  • Display an understanding of the changing nature of contemporary terrorism.

This module also equips students with a range of important transferrable skills, which are vital in terms of employability, including working independently and as part of a team; managing a varied workload; assimilating and synthesising multiple data sources; constructing coherent arguments; and preparing written reports and verbal presentations.

Module Schedule:

1 Introduction: defining terrorism; the new terrorism debate.
2 Assessing the terrorist threat - the politics of fear and practices of security.
3 State-terrorism as an idea and as practice
4 The Causes of Non-State Terrorism
5 How? Terrorist Methods, Targets and Short Term Aims.
6 Remembering and Forgetting Terrorism
7 Monsters, Mothers, Whores? Representations of Gender in Conflict
8 Hooded, Bagged and Tagged: Counter-Terrorism, Legislation and Human Rights
9 Radicalisation’, Pre-Emption and the Consequences of ‘Preventing Violent Extremism’: Counter-Terrorism (part 2)
10 The Role of the Media and the Construction of Terror
11 The War on Terror and the Future of Terrorism

Teaching Methods:

  • 11 * 2 hour lectures


  • Essay - 50% of mark
  • Essay - 50% of mark

Resources Available:

  • Individual feedback and guidance sessions with module tutors.
  • Detailed 20-30 page module handbook
  • Dedicated module intranet site.
  • Extensive library materials, including a wide variety of electronic and digitised resources.

Opportunities for Further Study:

There is also the opportunity to deepen your knowledge by undertaking a supervised research project module an agreed topic arising out of work done on POL 3019. Students meet with their tutor individually for tailored one-to-one supervision and tuition, which will enable them to undertake research and be assessed on the basis of a 7,000 word project.

To find out more about the research project modules on offer, click here

Indicative Reading:

Bjorgo, T. (ed.) (2005) Root Causes of Terrorism: Myths realities and ways forward. Abingdon: Routledge.

Gottlieb, S. (ed.) (2010) Debating Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism. Washington: CQ Press.

Jackson, R. (2005) Writing the War on Terrorism: Language, Politics and Counter-Terrorism. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Jackson, R., Breen Smyth, M. and Gunning, J. (2009) Critical Terrorism Studies: A new research agenda. Abingdon: Routledge.

Jackson, R., Jarvis, L., Gunning, J. and Breen-Smyth, M. (2011) Terrorism: A Critical Introduction. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Jackson, R. and Sinclair, S.J. (eds.) (2012) Contemporary Debates on Terrorism. Abingdon: Routledge.

Martin, G. (2003) Understanding Terrorism: Challenges, Perspectives, and Issues. London: Sage Publications.

What our Students Say:

‘I really can't rate this module highly enough. I very much enjoyed the critical approach to terrorism, which I feel has impacted on my approach to the rest of my studies.’

‘Very interesting module! Well taught with very good content.’

‘I cannot think of any negatives with regards to this module. I really enjoyed all aspects of the module and found it incredibly interesting, stimulating and thought provoking.’

‘This module was by far one of the most interesting and informative modules I have taken at university.’