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Countering terrorism: comparative perspectives from contemporary security policy


Admission requirements

Admission to the Master International Relations. Other students who are interested in this course, please contact the co-ordinator of studies.

Description and course objectives

What is counterterrorism? And, what are its main patterns in contemporary security policy? Recent developments have turned the spotlight on the subject of terrorism, on its manifestations and on the efforts by national governments to combat this phenomenon. Even though scholars generally disagree about the origins and main drivers of terrorist threats, it is widely recognized that counterterrorism policies and processes reflect a government’s understanding of terrorism and of its main causes, as well as the individual country’s political context. Nonetheless, as national governments and sub-state terrorist actors inter-relate with each other, they evolve determining changes also in the structures within which their interactions occur. A clear reflection of this is the increasing development of the legal and institutional framework for counterterrorism in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
In this context, the course will compare and contrast the changing politics, legality and ethics of concerted and cooperative effort by governments to combat terrorism via a series of case studies, ranging from Israel to India, from France to the United Kingdom and from Colombia to the Philippine, including US-led intervention in the civil war in Afghanistan after 9/11. In doing so, it will also evaluate the role of politicians, the media, public opinion and NGOs in these particular moments of counterterrorism practice. The course will be structured as follows:
a. It starts by offering an overview of the historical development and typologies of terrorism.
b. The second part of the course provides a critical assessment of the definitions of counterterrorism and of the theoretical approaches to the analysis of its elements and processes.
c. The third part delineates the evolution of the current legal and institutional framework within which contemporary counterterrorism processes occur, with specific attention to multilateralism and to global governance.
d. The fourth part offers examples and case studies drawn from different counterterrorism approaches and covering different geographical areas.
e. The course then concludes with an overview of the open, at times controversial issues and of future perspectives of contemporary counterterrorism. This is done with particular attention to human rights matters and to the tension between citizens’ liberty and privacy.
The course is designed for students who are already familiar with international relations and comparative politics theories.

Course Objectives

Upon successful completion of this course, students should be able to:
a. Explain the origins, the nature and development of terrorism and counterterrorism;
b. Recognize theoretical and comparative features of the principal contemporary counterterrorism matters and processes;
c. Understand how different actors have dealt and currently deal with terrorism;
d. Reflect on the differences and commonalities between counterterrorism actions conducted by a range of different governments from different geographical areas;
e. Conduct supervised research on contemporary counterterrorism issues in a theoretically informed manner; and
f. Have stronger writing and presentation skills.


Via the website.

Mode of instruction


Course Load

  • 24 hours of classes (attendance is compulsory)

  • 126 hours of reading

  • 130 hours for research, for preparing the presentation and for writing the final essay
    Total: 280 Hours for 10 ECTS

Assessment Method

  • Participation: 20%

  • Presentation: 20%

  • Final Paper: 60%
    The final paper will only be marked if the student has attended the seminars.


The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average.


The resit is only available to student whose mark in the final examined element is insufficient.

Exam review

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.


Blackboard will be used for this course.

Reading list

See the course syllabus.


Via uSis.

Contact information

Dr. Maria Giulia Amadio