Examining the Complexities of Terrorism: Definitions, Designation, and Racialization




Kotara, McKenzie Danielle

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The concept of terrorism is nebulous. There are numerous definitions of terrorism, each different in their own way for many reasons. Examination of terrorist designations draws attention to the ways that race may be considered when events and acts are deemed terroristic. Racial aspects are considered when apparently terroristic events are being defined. In this thesis, I examine how processes of racialization can shape the definition, conception, and application of terrorism. In order to do this, I work with two case studies: the racialization of Muslims and the racialization of terrorism in America, with a particular focus on whiteness. In doing this, I find that Muslims are heavily racialized and, in the minds of many Americans, deeply with terrorism. Along with this, I find that the inconsistency of the definition of terrorism makes it difficult to be applied to events, causing different events to either be defined as or not defined as terrorism, for example, Dylann Roof’s shooting of the Charleston Church in 2016. I also find that racialization plays a role in the determination of an act as terrorism, as Muslims are more likely to be seen as and considered terrorists before a white actor of terror.



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