Facing the Consequences of Political Violence and Terrorism: ‘Resilient’ Subjects?

McGowan, WJ
(2018) Facing the Consequences of Political Violence and Terrorism: ‘Resilient’ Subjects? Doctor of Philosophy thesis, University of Liverpool.

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‘Resilience’ has become something of a 21st century buzzword in both environmental and social policy, attracting widespread usage and yet provoking considerable critique within social science and beyond. This thesis takes resilience as its point of departure and return as a ubiquitous, much used concept but one that is nonetheless poorly understood and rarely subject to critical, empirical scrutiny. Its discursive deployment in relation to counter-terrorism, radicalisation, and security as a more ‘positive’ development to the negative and defensive category of risk encourages the building of robust community structures, preparedness amongst emergency responders, and the capacity to 'bounce back' in the event of terror attacks. Despite this shift, there is very little empirical work underpinning present policy initiatives and a distinct lack of attention to the ways in which people who have survived political violence and terrorist attacks cope with trauma in the short, medium or long term. Addressing this lacuna, this thesis draws on in-depth interview data from a small sample (n=21) of survivors of political violence and terrorism (PVT) from a range of critical incidents. These incidents span a diverse time-place range and include both institutional violence committed ‘from above’ (for example, the shooting of peaceful protestors by the British military in Northern Ireland in 1972), as well as anti-institutional violence ‘from below’ (for example, the 2005 London bombings) (Ruggiero, 2006: 1). Participants share a connection with a non-governmental organisation in Warrington, UK – The Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace (FfP) – who work for peace and non-violent conflict resolution and who provide needs assessments and support to survivors of violence through their Survivors Assistance Network (SAN). While the spectacle of ‘terrorism’ feeds into a host of public anxieties, often harnessed by media and state actors to justify the ceaseless ‘war on terror’, survivors with first-hand experience of violence have an intimate vantage point from which to reflect on such issues. Unpacking some of the lived complexity evident in the interview data and prior fieldwork, this thesis offers empirical insight into how individuals have coped in the face of personal injury and devastating loss. Through a close reading of their narratives, the work maps a range of impacts of PVT, details the ‘resilience resources’ (Overland, 2013: 204) survivors draw on in traversing this suffering and loss, and highlights a temporal complexity to survivors’ narratives typically rendered over within counterterrorism and security policy discourses espousing notions of citizen resilience and empowerment.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy)
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Law and Social Justice
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 20 Aug 2019 14:42
Last Modified: 19 Jan 2023 01:12
DOI: 10.17638/03028914
URI: https://livrepository.liverpool.ac.uk/id/eprint/3028914