Terrorism: A Comparative Politics Perspective

Academic Year: 
Course Description: 

While transnational terrorism dominates the headlines, the most common type of terrorist attack is domestic terrorism. This course introduces students to the Comparative Politics of terrorism. It conceptualizes terrorist groups as actors whose actions should be understood within the context of a country’s political system. This provides the key to our understanding of a range of fundamental questions that will be addressed throughout the semester: What is terrorism? How has terrorism changed? Who are these terrorists? What are the causes and origins of terrorism? Are democracies more vulnerable to terrorist attacks than dictatorships? How can democracies prevent or end terrorism?

Learning Outcomes: 

At the end of the course the student should be able to:

  • Understand the specific challenges posed by terrorism to open societies and democratic states;
  • Reflect critically on the concept of terrorism;
  • Understand the causes, conditions, and consequences of terrorism;
  • Make an informed choice of political institutions that help to prevent, mitigate, or stop terrorism;
  • Summarize arguments, assess evidence, and formulate an opinion;
  • Communicate effectively his/her informed opinion on the topics covered in class.

• Two position papers (2 x 22.5%)
• Active seminar participation (10%)
• Research paper (45%)

There are two weeks that are marked “debate” in the syllabus (week 2 and week 5). For both, you are asked to write a position paper of 1000 words each. In this paper, you summarize and critically engage with the arguments and evidence in the reading for that week, concluding with your own evaluation. In addition to the core reading, the position paper for week 2 should also cover at least one of the additional readings listed in the syllabus. The position paper for week 5 should include at least one other academic publication on the topic. The position papers are due the day before class that week, at midnight. The final paper is an individual, original, research paper on a particular aspect of terrorism. The word limit is 2,000, everything included. The due date will be determined in consultation with the class.
Active class participation is expected and graded. Some tips: participate regularly, make informed contributions, focus on the main points, formulate clearly, respond to others in the discussion, and demonstrate critical engagement.
Please note that for all assessments, late submission and violation of the word or time limit will result in a lower grade.
Reading material
All the course material is available in electronic form. The syllabus only contains the required reading. At the end of each week, suggestions for further reading will be discussed in class.


No prior knowledge is assumed. Students are expected to be present at all seminars and to come prepared. If you are unable to attend class, you should notify me via e-mail prior to the session.