Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2011-2012 (archived)

Module SGIA43115: Terrorism, State and Society

Department: Government and International Affairs

SGIA43115: Terrorism, State and Society

Type Open Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Available in 2011/12 Module Cap None.


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To introduce students to both orthodox and critical approaches to terrorism studies within the context of conflict studies.
  • To broaden the study of terrorism by situating terrorism and counter-terrorism in the context of protest, conflict and state-building/maintenance more broadly, and considering both coercive and non-coercive responses to terrorism and the interplay between national and human security.
  • To deepen the study of terrorism by analysing the assumptions and normative frameworks underpinning terrorism studies and counter-terrorism practices and critically evaluating any knowledge claims surrounding terrorism and counter-terrorism.
  • To study the dynamics of terrorism and counter-terrorism through the lenses of defence, development and diplomacy as they apply to conflict prevention, conflict intervention and post-conflict reconstruction.
  • To look at the impact of terrorism and counter-terrorism on the state, society and the international system, and vice versa.
  • To examine the dynamic interaction between counter-terrorism practices and (non-state) terrorism through an analysis of specific practices (such as, for instance, targeted assassinations and suicide bombing, or counter-terrorism legislation and violent radicalisation; which specific practices the module will focus on depends on the research interests of the staff participating in the teaching of the module)


  • This module will introduce students to both orthodox and critical approaches to terrorism studies. It will start by looking at the politics of defining terrorism, and the power structures within which terrorism and counter-terrorism narratives and practices are embedded. It will then expose students to some of the key competing accounts of why and how terrorism occurs, with a particular focus on the dynamic interactions between state and society/non-state actors, between economical and political factors, and between structures, agents and ideas (including beliefs, identities, gender and culture). It will continue with an analysis of various key counter-terrorism responses, with a particular focus on law and ethics and on the impact of counter-terrorism on terrorism. Other indicative typical themes include: the relationship between terrorism and the media; the impact of terrorism-counter-terrorism cycles on society; and the future of terrorism (including the debate over the merits of the term ‘new’ terrorism).

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • To identify and explain, demonstrating interdisciplinary awareness, key approaches, ranging from orthodox to critical, to terrorism and counter-terrorism
  • To understand how terrorism and counter-terrorism are shaped by, and impact on, the state, society and the international system;
  • To understand and critically evaluate the main explanatory frameworks for explaining why and how terrorism occurs, and why and how particular forms of counter-terrorism are adopted;
  • To apply these explanatory frameworks to historical and contemporary cases;
  • To situate terrorism and terrorism studies within the wider context of conflict and conflict studies, and to look at terrorism and counter-terrorism through the lenses of defence, development and diplomacy perspectives in the phases of conflict prevention, conflict intervention and post-conflict reconstruction;
  • To apply a selection of conceptual and methodological tools acquired through the theoretical inputs and study of cases to practical situations.
  • To understand the methodologies used to study terrorism and counter-terrorism, the impact of our choice of methodology and conceptual framework on our understanding of terrorism and counter-terrorism and vice versa, and in particular to understand the cultural specificity of and assumptions embedded in the notions of terrorism and counter-terrorism.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • To identify, analyse and evaluate different academic approaches to terrorism and counter-terrorism, their causes and effects, and their relationship to the state, society and the international system;
  • To appraise the importance of socio-cultural and historical context to understanding the various forms of terrorism and counter-terrorism and the paradigms with which we interpret these phenomena;
  • To apply some of the studied approaches and advanced theoretical models to the evaluation of current local and global issues, to interpret and analyse empirical data at an advanced level and according to competing explanatory frameworks, and to recognise the impact of a chosen conceptual framework on one’s research findings;
  • To engage in research projects at MA level in the subjects of religion, culture and conflict.
Key Skills:
  • To construct and synthesise arguments critically for both oral and written presentation from different sources of material, including material delivered orally and in reports and essays.
  • To demonstrate an independent approach to learning, thinking (self-)critically and creatively, and problem-solving;
  • To use sophisticated techniques of information retrieval and management using an array of print and digital resources;
  • To participate in and reflect on collaborative group work;
  • To formulate complex arguments in articulate and structured English in an effective way, within the discursive conventions and genres of academic writing and written to high academic standards;
  • To demonstrate effective time management

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • The module will be delivered as a block in workshop format over a period of an evening and two full consecutive days, and will involve a mixture of lectures, short presentations, discussion and small group work, and a role play or oral presentation based on real or constructed cases.
  • Summative assessment will include a pre-workshop article review or role briefing, and a post-workshop module essay, report or policy document. Which pre- and in-workshop assessments are chosen is dependent on the module convener, so as to maximise flexibility for the interdisciplinary team delivering the programme. Which post-workshop assessment is selected is in the hands of students (in consultation with the module convener), so as to maximise flexibility with a view to the wide range of professional backgrounds and needs students attending the course are expected to have. The post-workshop assignment has to be directly linked to one of the themes discussed during the workshop. The pre-workshop assignment is designed to provide students with a focused task to prepare them, through self-guided learning, for the workshop’s discussions and/or role play, the knowledge, analytical pointers and literature advice for which will be provided through a virtual induction.
  • Formative assessment is intended to develop students' oral communication and academic writing skills, as well as effective time management. Students will receive continuing formative feedback in seminar and group discussions. They will receive formal formative feedback on their role play or oral presentation in a debriefing session after the event, in which students’ performances will be discussed in view of the learning outcomes.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Activity 1 Term 1 or 2 2 days 18
Preparation and reading Term 1 or 2 132
Total 150

Summative Assessment

Component: Assessment Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Role Brief or Article Review 1000 words 30%
Report or Module Essay or Policy Document 1500 words 70%

Formative Assessment:

Role play or oral presentations; continuing feedback in seminar and group discussions.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University