Terrorism: A Comparative Politics Perspective

Academic Year: 
Course Description: 

While transnational terrorism dominates the headlines, the most common type of terrorist attack is domestic. This course introduces students to the Comparative Politics of terrorism. It conceptualizes terrorists and 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 stop 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.
  • One position paper (25%)
  • One individual presentation (25%)
  • Active seminar participation (10%)
  • Research paper (40%)

For week 2, marked as “debate” in the syllabus, you are asked to write a position paper of 1000 words
(everything included). 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 is due the day before class that week, at midnight.

The presentation is an individual presentation that should last not more than 15 minutes. It is assessed
using the criteria found at the end of this syllabus. Presentations are normally scheduled for the
Thursday session. The choice of topic should be done in consultation with the instructor.

The final paper is an individual, original, research paper on a particular aspect of terrorism. The paper
may build on the presentation. 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. All written work should be uploaded on Turnitin and will be checked for plagiarism.

Reading material

All the course material is available in electronic form. The syllabus only contains the required reading.
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.