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Sociology of Terrorism


Admission requirements

Course for students enrolled in master program Crisis and Security Management.


The course is a sociological perspective on terrorism and the issues inherent in terrorist threats, real or imagined, posed by non-state, transnational actors, nationalist groups and nation-states. This course explores a variety of concepts in the sociological study of terrorism and political violence in the post-War era. Throughout, the focus will be on mainstream and critical approaches to the field, ensuring students become aware of the rich variety of perspectives. It provides students with an appreciation of the social forces that are important in the study of extremism, radicalisation and terrorism, and develops the intellectual and critical thinking skills they need to participate in academic and professional arenas shaping the contemporary international agenda.

Students will explore theories of social conflict, functionalism and symbolic interactionism in the study of terrorism. Students will also explore questions relating to migration, ethnicity and identity; inter-generational change; and integration/assimilation. Labelling theory, moral panics and media discourses and symbolism are also be explored. Theories of gender (men and women in terrorism), masculinity and the manosphere as well the politics and policy of counter-terrorism, deradicalisation and CVE also feature in this course. Finally, a focus on state terrorism, genocide, human rights and social justice will help the students to strike a balance between theoretical and practical elements in the study of terrorism.

Case studies will look at the role of the PKK in Turkey, FARC in Columbia, ETA in Spain, ISIS in Iraq and Syria, Al-Qaida Sudan and Afghanistan, and the Far Right, Incel and the manosphere. A focus on state terrorism explores questions relating to Israel and the Palestinians, Myanmar and the Rohingya, India and Kashmir and the experience of Srebrenica as state genocide.

Course objectives

This course engages with traditional notions of terrorism and interrogates widespread presuppositions, perceptions and popular images of terrorists and the threats they pose. Students are expected to be equipped with the requisite tools to understand terrorism through sophisticated theoretical engagement with the sociology of terrorism with case studies. Students are also expected to be able to problematise the responses to terrorism by states in the Global North and Global South. The objectives are;

  1. Identify key sociological theories about why terrorism occurs.
  2. To advance student sociological knowledge of terrorism and political violence.
  3. To explore and analyse competing sociological approaches to understanding terrorism and political violence.
  4. To reflect critically on different sociological frameworks for understanding terrorism and political violence.
  5. To explain and analyse the evolution of the debate on political violence, particularly in the post-war period in both the Global North and the Global South.
  6. To evaluate human rights issues and debates emerging because of political violence.
  7. To improve the ability to articulate thoughts about course material during class discussions and in written assignments.
  8. To develop analytical skills that allows students to frame and answer intelligent and timely sociological questions about terrorism.

Although this course will examine terrorism from a sociological perspective, students from all majors are welcome. The course draws on material from other disciplines with the diversity of student background permitting the possibility of better appreciating a wider range of issues. The classroom is an open and constructive space for critical engagement while respecting and appreciating all the perspectives generated by the discussions. Class discussions are richer with students from different perspectives and backgrounds.


On the right side of programme front page of the E-guide you will find links to the website and timetables, uSis and Blackboard.

Mode of instruction

Seven seminars including guest lectures.

Course Load

5 EC = 140 hours
contact hours: 21
self-study hours: 119

Attendance is mandatory.

Assessment method

  1. Paper proposal (10%), 1,000 words (max)
  2. Book review (25%), 1,500 words (max)
  3. Final paper (65%) 4,000 words (max)

Compensation rule: Only assessments with the weight of 30% and lower are compensable. This means that one does not have to pass an assessment if it weighs less than 30% in order to pass the course, if the average of all assessments combined is at least a 5.5. In addition, assignments with less than 30% are not re-sitable, meaning that if one failed an assessment of less than 30%, one is not allowed to redo it.

Re-sit takes the same form.


Available three weeks prior to the start of the lectures .
Contains the syllabus of the course, references, links to articles and recommended videos.

Reading list

See syllabus. Only open access articles and reports, or articles to be accessed with Leiden University Library membership.


To be announced by OSC staff.


Dr. Tahir Abbas
Office hours: only by appointment