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Defining Terrorism: The Conflict of Politics and Objectivity

by Alexander Lavely

Terrorism is an issue that none can deny and all have experienced in one form or another; the very word strikes a chord in my own heart and calls to mind early memories of the attacks of September 11 and the Boston Marathon Bombing to name only a couple of those acts we deem terror which have occurred in my lifetime. The word itself seems natural to use, rolling off the tongue and calling to mind in all Americans the visions of many instances in which they could apply the term and find it fitting; however, the issue remains not in the wider population, but in the definition of the word itself and in its scholarly application. Terrorism is something which is hard to define not only because of the connotation in the citizenry, but also due to its deeply political roots, making the task of defining the term something of a confusing mess of policy and academics.

About the Author

Alexander Lavely is a junior at Millersville University, working towards a BA in Philosophy and History with a minor in English. He began this paper as a part of a course requirement for one of his history courses, but quickly found himself passionately involved in the discussion over how scholars should define a term as sensitive and controversial as terrorism. Thus, he came to write this essay with the intent of contributing in some manner to the larger discussion over how to define the field and the term of study; however, he came to the conclusion that the discussion is one that cannot be answered in an essay alone and thus continues his work in Philosophy and History with the intent of using this research and future research in his aspirations to work for either the US State Department or the US Justice Department. He considers this project essential to his current studies and endeavors as his first major attempt at tackling a serious issue, and believes the analytical work he undertook with the project has greatly improved his overall abilities to analyze and discuss academic matters.

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