Working Group on Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism (O.C.T.A.V.)

Scientific Coordination

Nadia Marzouki, Laurent Bonnefoy and Philippe Bonditti


Researchers in this group intend to recapture jointly and at their root the related issues of “terrorism” and “anti-terrorism”. The sessions of this group are part of the research seminar of the Collaborative Observatory on Terrorism, Anti-Terrorism and Violence (O.C.T.A.V.)

The working group emerged from the observation that there have never been as many episodes of so-called “terrorist” violence as there have been since the 1970s and the gradual institutionalization, in France, Europe and the United States, of what we have come to call “anti-terrorism”. This does not suggest that “anti-terrorism” would generate “terrorist” violence, rather, to reject the terrorism/anti-terrorism opposition that has structured political, media and expert discourse since then. From the 1970s onwards, largely fuelled by that of experts, itself widely spread by the media, the political discourse has constantly pitted “terrorism” against “anti-terrorism”, exclusively presenting the latter as the states’ response to “terrorist” violence. In so doing, the political discourse ignores the mimicry of practices which, since that time, is at the heart of the emergence of anti-terrorism: the more “terrorism” has been described as a new form of violence whose entrepreneurs would act as a network, the more security, defence and intelligence actors have been called upon to organise themselves in turn as a network, via increased use of computing tools, and to develop a renewed form of state intervention against the violence labelled as “terrorist”. It is this renewed form of state intervention against so-called terrorist violence that is now called anti-terrorism.

This diagnosis of a transformation of non-state violence exclusively—to which the security and defence apparatuses of modern states would only respond by adapting to it—is wrong. In addition to locking up so-called terrorists and modern states’ security, defence and intelligence apparatus in a worrying escalation of violence and repression, it also blocks the reflection about alternative public policies that could provide a different treatment of violence, the contemporary transformations of which do not only affect non-state violence, but also state violence, as evidenced by the most recent proposals, in France or the United States, to increase anti-terrorist capabilities.

Through a three-year programme (2017-2020), the group's sessions intend to explore the broad hypothesis according to which what is called “terrorism” and “anti-terrorism” together refer to the plural and complex transformations of the particular way in which the general phenomenon of violence has been problematized and categorized under modernity to allow its treatment by state authorities whose process of legitimization has been described and analysed by a Weberian-EIliasian historical sociology. Under this hypothesis, it is accepted that the analysis of the violence involved in the terrorism/antiterrorism cycle can no longer rest upon the series of oppositions—historically accredited and yet often misleading—between individual violence and state violence, between “terrorism” and “anti-terrorism”, between democracy and barbarism, between modernity and Islam, between the West and the Middle East, etc. Such an analysis implies a reflexive gesture of distancing such categories of thought that structure the entire political and expertise discourse.

Together with its counterparts within the partner institutions, this working group forms the Collaborative Observatory on Terrorism, Anti-Terrorism and Violence (O.C.T.A.V.). O.C.T.A.V. is an initiative of researchers and lecturers from various disciplinary backgrounds, supported and funded by LabToP-CRESPPA-Paris8-CNRS, ESPOL-ICL, REPI-ULB and CERI-SciencesPo/CNRS. Its members address the issues related to “terrorism” and “anti-terrorism”, jointly and at their root, by questioning their relationship to the contemporary transformations of violence and politics. To this end, O.C.T.A.V.’s activities are conducted within two platforms: a university research seminar and a series of “practitioner meetings” (under Chatham House Rules) with professionals from the fields of security, defence, intelligence, justice and social work. The sessions of the research seminar and the practitioner meetings alternate around the same theme. 


Voir le programme des deux années 2017-2018 et 2018-2019

Voir le programme du 1er semestre 2019-2020


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