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The Discourse of Terrorism and Norms of International Violence

Ondrej Ditrych
Institute of International Relations
Ondrej Ditrych
Institute of International Relations
Open Panel

Abstract

The proposed paper, which draws upon the author’s recently submitted Ph.D. dissertation, engages in a genealogy of terrorism in the discourse among States to demonstrate how, over three chosen discursive series (1930s, 1970s and the present) narratives of terrorism in the discourse among States (limited in the present research to two international fora, League of Nations and the U.N.) defined the norms of legitimate international violence. Methodologically, it is inspired by the works of Friedrich Nietzsche and Michel Foucault. By pointing to the accidental origin of the terrorism discourse and contingent unity of „terrorism“ in each series against the background of underlying power relations, and by tracing continuities and discontinuities in the internal rules of terrorism discourse, it historizes the present discourse of terrorism to undermine convictions that ours are exceptional times – calling for, and normalizing exceptional responses. Different conditions of these discourses and their nature (hegemonic/contested) notwithstanding, since its inception terrorism in the discourse of States has been a central concept in the narratives of the “normal” in international relations, at once legitimizing and delegitimizing certain forms of both status quo and revolutionary violence. While predominantly inquiring into the discourse of States (i.e. discourse of power), the paper will also outline constitutive relationship of power and knowledge (terrorism science) in the latter two discursive series to show how the dominant terrorism knowledge has been complicit in reproducing truth claims sustaining the hegemonic power discourses.