Event Title

The Terror Experts: Producing and Policing Terrorist Subjects at a University Research Center

Presenter Information

Liam McLean, Oberlin CollegeFollow

Location

King Building 101

Start Date

4-27-2018 12:00 PM

End Date

4-27-2018 1:20 PM

Abtract

My research examines the production and circulation of discourses related to (counter)terrorism at a university-affiliated terrorism and security studies research center in eastern Massachusetts. Much of the existing social scientific literature on the relationship between U.S. national counterterror policy and academic research emphasizes a powerful, government-funded nexus of terrorism experts who produce knowledge that legitimizes U.S. imperialism in the name of combatting terror. I analyze ethnographic data gleaned from participant observation, interviews, and media analysis to bring a more nuanced understanding to bear on academic terrorism “experts” and the students they teach. I came to understand these “experts” as relatively peripheral to (trans)national counterterrorism and invested more directly in the consolidation of their own “expertise” than in legitimizing state violence. At the same time, they are embedded in larger economies of knowledge and power that structure the research they produce. I investigate how this research tends to abstract the “terrorist” from structural inequities, producing an imagined figure of the depoliticized radical that serves the interests of both academic regimes of expertise and state regimes of counterterrorism.

Keywords:

counterterrorism, security, academia, expertise, imperialism

Notes

Session II, Panel 7 - Politicized | Knowledge
Moderator: Sarah El-Kazaz, Assistant Professor of Politics

Major

Anthropology; Creative Writing

Advisor(s)

Erika Hoffman-Dilloway, Anthropology
Sylvia Watanabe, Creative Writing

Project Mentor(s)

Crystal Biruk, Anthropology

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Apr 27th, 12:00 PM Apr 27th, 1:20 PM

The Terror Experts: Producing and Policing Terrorist Subjects at a University Research Center

King Building 101

My research examines the production and circulation of discourses related to (counter)terrorism at a university-affiliated terrorism and security studies research center in eastern Massachusetts. Much of the existing social scientific literature on the relationship between U.S. national counterterror policy and academic research emphasizes a powerful, government-funded nexus of terrorism experts who produce knowledge that legitimizes U.S. imperialism in the name of combatting terror. I analyze ethnographic data gleaned from participant observation, interviews, and media analysis to bring a more nuanced understanding to bear on academic terrorism “experts” and the students they teach. I came to understand these “experts” as relatively peripheral to (trans)national counterterrorism and invested more directly in the consolidation of their own “expertise” than in legitimizing state violence. At the same time, they are embedded in larger economies of knowledge and power that structure the research they produce. I investigate how this research tends to abstract the “terrorist” from structural inequities, producing an imagined figure of the depoliticized radical that serves the interests of both academic regimes of expertise and state regimes of counterterrorism.