Everyday security and the newspaper obituary: Reproducing and contesting terrorism discourse

Lee Jarvis, Andrew Whiting

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article explores the obituary as an important, yet neglected, site of everyday security discourse. Through an original analysis of 86 published obituaries of 11 prominent ‘terrorists’, we offer three arguments. First, obituaries play an important constitutive role in shaping public understanding of terrorism and terrorists. Second, in so doing, terrorist obituaries frequently draw upon and reproduce established constructions of terrorism. Especially important here, we argue, are claims associated with the influential, yet heavily contested, ‘new terrorism’ thesis that posits profound transformations in the motives, organisation, and violences of terrorist groups from the late twentieth century onwards. Third, notwithstanding the above, the (terrorist) obituary also offers important resources for nuancing and problematising dominant constructions – such as of ‘new terrorism’ – in part because of the opportunity for socio-political critique afforded by this mnemonic genre. In making these arguments, the article therefore offers new empirical and conceptual insight into the obituary as a genre of everyday security discourse, and into the mobility and resilience of security constructions.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSecurity Dialogue
Early online date9 Nov 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Nov 2023

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