Knowing al-Qaeda: The Epistemology of Terrorism, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Knowing al-Qaeda

The Epistemology of Terrorism, 1st Edition

By Christina Hellmich

Edited by Andreas Behnke


192 pages

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Paperback: 9781138250819
pub: 2016-09-09
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Hardback: 9781409423669
pub: 2012-07-28
eBook (VitalSource) : 9781315591131
pub: 2016-04-22
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Despite a plethora of studies devoted to it, the current understanding of al-Qaeda and the threat it poses remains vague and ambiguous. Is al-Qaeda a rigidly structured organisation, a global network of semi-independent cells, a franchise, or simply an ideology? What role did Osama bin Laden play within the group and its terrorist campaign? What does it mean to talk about the "global Salafi-jihad" threat allegedly confronting the West? In addressing such questions many writers have sought to offer definitive answers, yet overall the truth about al-Qaeda remains elusive. This book moves beyond this traditional approach in order to investigate and critically assess how such answers reflect the particular epistemological frameworks within which they are produced. Its chapters explore the varied contexts within which the obscure entity labelled al-Qaeda is constituted as a comprehensible object of political, strategic, cultural, and scientific knowledge, and within which 'terrorism' is rendered an experience of quotidian life. This volume offers a much-needed critical reflection on Western ways of talking and of thinking about the frightening experience of global terrorism. In trying to know how we know al-Qaeda, it offers us an opportunity to try to know ourselves and our often hidden assumptions about legitimacy, violence, and political purpose.


'The death of Osama bin Laden has done nothing to dispel the widespread confusion over the nature and meaning of al-Qaeda. This important collection opens up new vistas in the search for a deeper understanding of how and what we know about terrorism. Interesting, incisive, and illuminating of contemporary counter-terrorist culture, this is critical social science at its very best.' Richard Jackson, University of Otago, New Zealand 'This book provides important new analytical ways of understanding the nature of al-Qaeda and 9/11 that challenges conventional wisdom in how we frame the terrorists, what they seek to achieve through violence and the pitfalls of responding to it. The book incisively and provocatively pushes new intellectual boundaries as to how we chose to analyze and respond to terrorism as a polymorpheous phenomenon in the post 9/11 period. A must-read for students of terrorism studies.' Magnus Ranstorp, Swedish National Defence College, Sweden

About the Author/Editor

Christina Hellmich is a lecturer in International Relations at the School of Politics and IR at the University of Reading. She is specialist in Middle East politics with a particular research interest in Political Islam, International Security and Global Health. Andreas Behnke is a lecturer in Political Theory at the School of Politics and IR at the University of Reading. His research interests include the Political Theory of International Relations, in particular Carl Schmitt, Critical Security and Terrorism Studies, and Critical Geopolitics.

About the Series

Rethinking Political and International Theory

Rethinking Political and International Theory
Committed to show you in what ways traditional approaches in political and international theory may be applied to 21st century politics, this series will present inventive and pioneering theoretical work designed to build a common framework for the latest scholarly research on political theory and international relations. Intended to be international and interdisciplinary in scope, the series will contain works which advance our understanding of the relevance of seminal thinkers to our current socio-political context(s) as well as problematize and offer new insights into key political concepts and phenomena within the arena of politics and international relations.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Freedom & Security / Terrorism