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Mapping Terrorist Organizations

PI: Martha Crenshaw, Stanford University

Year selected for award: 2010

Mapping Terrorist Organizations

Principal Investigator: Martha Crenshaw, Stanford University

Year of Award: 2010-2012

Managing Service Agency: National Science Foundation

Project Description:

This three year project is interdisciplinary among the social sciences, with special relevance for political science, international relations, and sociology, as well as history. It reaches out as well to involve those interested in technological means of displaying complex information. To our knowledge, no such general study of the evolution of terrorist groups exists in the literature on terrorism or other forms of oppositional violence, although some case studies are beginning to appear. This field includes the disciplines of history, international relations, political science, sociology, political economy, psychology, and communications, among others. There are excellent studies of individual groups or categories of groups (case histories or organizational analyses such as social network theory or the club model) and some comparative studies (e.g., of how terrorism ends or processes of terrorism). There is no overarching theory of relationships among groups over time. The maps developed in this project enhance our understanding of how terrorist groups develop and interact with each other and with the government, how strategies of violence and non-violence are related, why groups persist or disappear, and how opportunities and constraints in the environment change organizational behavior over time. The project contributes to explaining how militant groups respond to government initiatives, whether coercive or conciliatory. Attempts to explain terrorism in terms of macro-level conditions such as poverty, democracy, or foreign military occupation miss the significance of the independent decision-making capacity of sub-state actors.  Focusing on terrorist organizations in isolation from their context addresses the issue of agency but misses the significance of interactions. This project fills these gaps.

Associated Publications:

Crenshaw, Martha. "FSI | CISAC | MAPPINGMILITANTS CISAC - Mapping Militants".