"Exploring the Psychological, Social and Cultural Motifs of Suicide Killing in Science Fiction." Paper presented at Political Violence & Terrorism Specialist Group Symposium: Pop Culture & Terrorism, 2019.

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Suicide terrorism is often explained in terms of aberration and disconnection from mainstream social and cultural values. Perpetrators are frequently depicted in terms of being the pawns of radical ideologies, suffering from psychological vulnerabilities and manipulated by cynical handlers. Pop culture, however, can display a much more nuanced account of suicide killing and this is particularly clear in the context of science fiction, where suicide attacks and suicide killing have been a widely recurring motif. This paper explores the use of suicide killing in science fiction television and film, drawing examples from across a range of different series and films. The paper argues that suicide killing in science fiction clusters around identifiable (and often overlapping) themes, notably (1) sacrifice for the greater good, (2) strategic logic, (3) communication of intent, and, (4) escape from suffering. This paper explores these themes and their inferences, and draws attention to the potential implications for thinking about the wider understanding of suicide terrorism. 

Period28 Mar 2019
Event typeConference
LocationLondon, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionNational


  • popular culture
  • science fiction
  • suicide terrorism
  • suicide killing
  • psychology of terrorism
  • terrorist psychology