How Political Violence Became Terrorism
Since 9/11, Americans have been told that terrorists are pathological evildoers, beyond comprehension. Yet before the 1970s, hijackings, assassinations, and other acts that we now call terrorism were generally considered to be the work of rational strategic actors. My research shows how over the course of the 1970s, a new discourse of terrorism and a new field of terrorism expertise took shape, with the identity of “terrorist” displacing prior notions of “terror” as a tactic, fundamentally reshaping the frameworks through which Americans understood political violence. This talk will analyze how this transformation took shape, and its effects upon the possibilities for the production of expertise and political debate continuing to the present day.