Identity and Terrorism

Michael Pearson, Salve Regina University


Terrorism is prevalent not only in conflict zones, but also non-conflict zones, albeit at a much lower scale and smaller scope. There are no shortages of studies on conflict, terrorism, or those of identity. However, there remains a significant gap related to links between regions of preexisting conflict, identity mobilization, and the development of terrorism. With that in mind, this dissertation focuses on conflict zones because they are in more pressing need of being addressed. Although identity is not the source of violent conflict or terrorism, it still plays an important role. This dissertation argues terrorism is more pervasive in conflict zones where identity can be more easily mobilized. Preexisting regions of conflict commonly present conditions that act to increase the efficacy of salient forms of identity, thereby increasing its availability as a tool for mobilization by elites and increasing the likelihood of protracted conflict, extremism, and terrorism. As such, identity is not a cause for terrorism, but identity is mobilized in conflict areas, and specific organizations adopt terrorism on behalf of the identity group and its causes. In the following chapters the link between conflict, identity mobilization, and terrorism is substantiated through a thorough literature review, historical examples, scholarly research, case studies, and statistical data related to regions with preexisting conflict. The case studies and statistical data provide unbiased information for comparative analysis, which ultimately leads to the dissertation’s argument and conclusion. This dissertation discusses the common characteristics or traits of such regions, how identity mobilization takes place, and its role in intensifying violence and increasing the likelihood of terrorism. This study informs the current theoretical understanding by introducing an expanded focus on the relationship between conflict zones, identity mobilization, and terrorism. This is done with the goal to contribute and expand the knowledge and understanding of the subject of international security issues and to support future counterterror and preemption efforts.

Subject Area

International Relations

Recommended Citation

Pearson, Michael, "Identity and Terrorism" (2021). Doctoral Dissertations. AAI30319103.

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