The Role of Suicide in Politics, Conflict and Terrorism.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The central argument of this paper is that suicide has had a long and explicit role in politics and in conflict. Turning to historical examples for insight offers many advantages to current efforts to understand and respond to suicide terrorism. In particular, it facilitates greater objectivity and a calmer consideration of the actors and circumstances than can often be the case with contemporary events. Explanations of suicide in terms of madness, brainwashing, coercion, and fanaticism ring hollow with many of the historical cases, and other explanations, causes, and processes take on greater significance. By considering a number of case examples, this article shows how improved historical awareness can provide badly needed objective insight and help reveal strategic trends and issues. The article illustrates how historical cases offer valuable material and insight which is often extremely difficult to acquire on contemporary protagonists. Lessons and issues for research and policy are highlighted.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-46
Number of pages12
JournalTerrorism and Political Violence
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • terrorism
  • suicide
  • suicide terrorism
  • kamikaze
  • self-sacrifice
  • martyrdom
  • terrorist psychology

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