Genealogies of Terrorism

Revolution, State Violence, Empire

Verena Erlenbusch-Anderson

Columbia University Press

Genealogies of Terrorism

Pub Date: July 2018

ISBN: 9780231187275

296 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $30.00£25.00

Pub Date: July 2018

ISBN: 9780231187268

296 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $90.00£74.00

Pub Date: July 2018

ISBN: 9780231547178

296 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $29.99£25.00

Genealogies of Terrorism

Revolution, State Violence, Empire

Verena Erlenbusch-Anderson

Columbia University Press

What is terrorism? What ought we to do about it? And why is it wrong? We think we have clear answers to these questions. But acts of violence, like U.S. drone strikes that indiscriminately kill civilians, and mass shootings that become terrorist attacks when suspects are identified as Muslim, suggest that definitions of terrorism are always contested. In Genealogies of Terrorism, Verena Erlenbusch-Anderson rejects attempts to define what terrorism is in favor of a historico-philosophical investigation into the conditions under which uses of this contested term become meaningful. The result is a powerful critique of the power relations that shape how we understand and theorize political violence.

Tracing discourses and practices of terrorism from the French Revolution to late imperial Russia, colonized Algeria, and the post-9/11 United States, Erlenbusch-Anderson examines what we do when we name something terrorism. She offers an important corrective to attempts to develop universal definitions that assure semantic consistency and provide normative certainty, showing that terrorism means many different things and serves a wide range of political purposes. In the tradition of Michel Foucault’s genealogies, Erlenbusch-Anderson excavates the history of conceptual and practical uses of terrorism and maps the historically contingent political and material conditions that shape their emergence. She analyzes the power relations that make different modes of understanding terrorism possible and reveals their complicity in justifying the exercise of sovereign power in the name of defending the nation, class, or humanity against the terrorist enemy. Offering an engaged critique of terrorism and the mechanisms of social and political exclusion that it enables, Genealogies of Terrorism is an empirically grounded and philosophically rigorous critical history with important political implications.
Erlenbusch-Anderson’s work is a brilliant contribution to Critical Terrorism Studies, not only deconstructing the labelling processes of this violence, but analysing these in relation to the historical, social, and political contexts that allowed the emergence of these dispositifs, and reflecting on the power relations embedded in these processes and societies in general. Critical Studies on Terrorism
Inspired by Wittgenstein and Foucault, and contemporary debates about concepts, in this remarkable book Verena Erlenbusch-Anderson undertakes a significant examination of terrorism. Rather than assuming its meaning and looking for that in her sources, she instead allows a multifaceted understanding to emerge from a historical study of texts and practices. A powerful and urgent intervention for our troubled times. Stuart Elden, University of Warwick
This book is political philosophy at its best. It offers an instructive model of mobilizing philosophical genealogy for a critique of a highly-charged idea. It complicates the seeming obviousness with which the concept of 'terrorism' is today purveyed. Through meticulous historical and philosophical analysis, this book shows how the concept of terrorism came to be an explosive, dangerous, and contested political idea. Colin Koopman, University of Oregon
Verena Erlenbusch-Anderson’s careful genealogy of 'terrorism'—tracking the term’s multiple and overdetermined meanings since its first appearance as a political concept in the late eighteenth century—powerfully shows us how we all too frequently ask the wrong questions about terrorism. This critical book offers a necessary corrective to how we think about terrorism, and it reshapes the grounds upon which we should have any meaningful debate about terrorism in the present moment. Andrew Dilts, Loyola Marymount University
One can only be impressed by the depth and scope of Erlenbusch-Anderson’s treatment of terrorism. . . . I should think that the impact of her book will reach beyond philosophy and political theory, beyond the academy. It is, to borrow a phrase, must reading for anyone who wants to understand the historical emergence of terrorism and how it continues to shape the contemporary world. Michael Clifford, Syndicate
This is an urgently needed intervention. The longstanding shared academic/policy-maker endeavor to define terrorism has failed spectacularly, to the point that cliché now best expresses the term’s meaning. . . . Genealogies of Terrorism is a refreshing refusal of both philosophical and political orthodoxies that have only obscured clarity on the subject of terrorism, whether they be a dogmatic insistence on the definitional enterprise or the outright refusal of history. C. Heike Schotten, Perspectives on Politics
Erlenbusch-Anderson provides an eloquent account of terrorism as a dispositif and compiles an impressive amount of historical evidence to locate and excavate various uses of the word 'terrorism' throughout its history. Sarah DiMaggio, Syndicate
Makes a valuable contribution to an under-developed literature and she offers some tantalizing points of departure for future explorations of an important and timely subject. Genealogies is an eminently worthwhile read. ID: International Dialogue
Acknowledgments
1. The Trouble with Terrorism
2. The Emergence of Terrorism
3. State Terrorism Revisited
4. Terrorism and Colonialism
5. Reimagining Terrorism at the End of History
6. Towards a Critical Theory of Terrorism: Genealogy and Normativity
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Read and excerpt from chapter 1 of GENEALOGIES OF TERRORISM: REVOLUTION, STATE VIOLENCE, EMPIRE.

About the Author

Verena Erlenbusch-Anderson is assistant professor of philosophy at Syracuse University.