New date set for annual sociology lecture that explores invention of terrorism

Lisa Stampnitzky
Lisa Stampnitzky

A new date has been set for the York Sociology Annual Lecture, after organizers postponed the event last March.

Lisa Stampnitzky, who is a lecturer in social studies at Harvard University, will be the guest presenter for the 2016 York Sociology Annual Lecture on March 23 from 2:30 to 4:30 pm in the Senate Chamber, N940 Ross Building.

Stampnitzky’s lecture is titled, “How Political Violence Became Terrorism” and is based on her first book, Disciplining Terror: How Experts and Others Invented “Terrorism” (Cambridge University Press, 2013). Her remarks trace how the problem of “terrorism” and the field of terrorism expertise took shape from the 1970s to the present, and how this shaped the post 9/11 “war on terror.”

Since 9/11, the public has been told that terrorists are evildoers beyond comprehension. Before the 1970s, however, hijackings, assassinations, and other acts of what is now called terrorism were considered the work of rational strategic actors.

book cover for disciplining terrorStampnitzky examines how political violence became terrorism and how this transformation ultimately led to the current war on terror. Drawing upon archival research and interviews with terrorism experts, she will trace the political and academic struggles through which experts made terrorism, and terrorism made experts.

She argues that the expert discourse on terrorism operates at the boundary – itself increasingly contested – between science and politics, and between academic expertise and the state. Despite terrorism now being central to contemporary political discourse, there have been few empirical studies of terrorism experts.

Her current book project, The Lawyers War: Legalizing Torture in the War on Terror, investigates the changing debates over the exercise of torture before and after 9/11.

The Annual Sociology Lecture is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served.