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Rethinking the Beirut bombing, rethinking terrorism: theorising counterviolence

Middle EastCountering Violent Extremism (CVE)


After the January 6 attempted armed takeover of the Capitol, many commentators warned that describing the day as an act of domestic terrorism risked intensifying policing regimes targeting communities of colour. Others, however, encouraged the broadening of the domestic terrorism label to include armed white supremacists, given their violent efforts at regime change. Although these interventions have debated both the danger and utility in applying the terrorism label, few have challenged the concept of terrorism itself. Is terrorism a useful interpretive framework to understand the wide-ranging forms of political violence given that label, such as the September 11 attacks, the January 6 events, the Indigenous water protectors contesting the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Black organisers classified as “Black Identity Extremists” for protesting police brutality? What are the material dangers of collapsing divergent political groups embedded in vastly different power relations under the terrorism label? Guided by these questions, this article examines the evolution of political vies for power between state and non-state actors to theorise counterviolence as a conceptual framework capable of interrogating the relationship between power, politics, and violence to better understand acts facilely reduced to “terrorism.”

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