Counter-terrorism: The consequences of policy and language


    Responding to the threat of terrorism has become a key global policy priority in recent years. Counter-terrorism policies and the language that surrounds them have gone on to have a big impact on British society.


    Prof Lee Jarvis researches the language that is used to describe terrorist violence and the consequences this has. How different communities respond to the claims that are made about terrorist threats is central to his research.

    Prof Jarvis’ latest book with Michael Lister, Anti-Terrorism, Citizenship and Security, explores how different publics make sense of and experience anti-terrorism powers, and the implications of this for citizenship and security. 

    The research behind the book, funded by an ESRC grant, represents the first systematic study of such questions at the level of ‘everyday life’.

    Jarvis and Lister argue that while transformations in anti-terrorism frameworks impact on public experiences of security and citizenship, they do not so in a uniform, homogeneous or predictable manner.

    This means that while white individuals are not necessarily unconcerned about the effects of anti-terrorism powers, many citizens from ethnic minority communities believe that such powers have directly and negatively impacted their own citizenship and security.  This variable experience of citizenship is, Jarvis and Lister argue, deeply troubling.

    How do you feel anti-terrorism-measures impact you results infographic


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    Prof Jarvis has recently secured funding from the AHRC and ESRC to further this research via a new project on British [Muslim] Values. In collaboration with UEA’s Prof Lee Marsden and Dr Eylem Atakav, Jarvis will be supporting members of different Muslim communities in the East England region to produce their own video documentaries on the theme of ‘British Values’. They are interested in exploring how political and media debate around so-called British-values impacts upon such communities and the lives of their members.

    A further strand of Jarvis’ research focuses on how politicians justify such powers to themselves and others, given the far-reaching consequences that they frequently have. 

    In his work with Tim Legrand of Australian National University, Prof Jarvis has been exploring the language used in Parliamentary debates around proscription: the process that leads to the banning of terrorist organisations within a particular territory. These debates, and the powers they create, contribute to a stark line between ‘us’ and ‘them’ and therefore have considerable significance for liberal democracy in the UK and beyond.

    Researchers at UEA are now expanding our understanding of these issues, with current PhD student Akin Oyawale looking at whether anti-terrorism policies in Nigeria have similar impacts on populations there. Prof Jarvis is also part of the organising committee for a NATO-funded workshop that will take place in Dublin in 2016 on terrorist uses of the internet. This workshop will bring together academics, policy makers, journalists, think tanks and others. It builds on his work as co-director of The Cyberterrorism Project: a multi-disciplinary research network that has, to date, produced four edited volumes on cyberterrorism and over £250,000 of research income.


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