Fellowship - Ending Terrorism as Told by Former Italian Terrorists

Project: Research council

Project Details


Building on previous work by the Applicant, the research innovatively undertakes a comparative analysis of the self-narratives of different types of terrorists. Drawing on the Italian case study but also through a comparison with other European countries, the proposal addresses issues which have been under-researched, especially questions related to disengagement from, as opposed to engagement with, terrorism. The analysis focuses on the mental and psychological processes linked to de-radicalisation, as narrated by former terrorists and the ways in which they renegotiate their identity in this process. To this end the research analyses in depth the political memoirs of leaders and members of extreme-left and extreme-right terrorist groups, which operated in Italy in the 1960s and 1970s. Empirical material consists primarily of autobiographies, interviews, public debates, including roughly 50-hour recordings of televised interviews. Memoirs by former, mainly left-wing, terrorists as well as books containing original interviews with former terrorists amount to at least 50 volumes since 1990. More recently, former extreme-right terrorists have started to talk about their past involvement in terrorist violence, including bomb attacks against innocent civilians. Further interview transcripts are kept in the archives of various Italian Institutes: Casa della Memoria e della Storia, Rome; Casa della Memoria, Brescia; Istituto Cattaneo, Bologna. Surprisingly, these narratives have not been systematically examined, yet they form a unique and extremely rich source of first-hand testimony, providing invaluable insight into processes of youth de-radicalisation, social re-integration of ex-terrorists, as well as personal and collective healing and self-identity constructions. In addition, the Applicant will carry out further interviews with former terrorists, focusing on disengagement. \nThe research also addresses issues related to the social reintegration of the 'terrorist subject', exploring the nature of public/voluntary projects of reintegration and the ways in which they promote non-violent and democratic narratives and practices. The study also examines the role played by victims' associations, commemoration ceremonies, monuments and other cultural initiatives in providing a wider context of 'pacification'. As well as consulting published material, the Applicant will carry out interviews with Italian associations of the victims of terrorisms and other associations engaged in educational/cultural projects of national 'pacification'.\nFinally, the research analyses the Italian case in a broader European context, through a comparison with Northern Ireland, Spain, France and Germany. \nThe proposed research will result in completion of a jointly authored book, with Dr Philip Cooke, entitled Ending Terrorim, Italian Style, to be published by Routledge.\nTable of Contents:\nIntroduction: A brief overview of the literature on terrorism. \n1. Political memoirs and the study of terrorism: This chapter discusses the validity of studying terrorism through the memoirs of former terrorists, with reference to a variety of disciplinary approaches, from communication analysis (e.g. narrative analysis or discourse analysis) to psychology (autobiographical memory, narrative psychology) and history (how collective memory is constructed). \n2. Becoming terrorists: This chapter explores how those involved in terrorism in Italy in the 1970s narrate their path to political violence and membership of a terrorist organization.\n3. Disengagement and disassociation: Building on the preceding section, this chapter explores the circumstances in which terrorists withdraw from violence and the manner in which they narrate their experience.\n4. Negotiating personal and collective healing and identity after terrorism. This chapter investigates post-terrorist constructions of the self. 5. Italy in comparative perspective. Conclusion.
Effective start/end date4/01/113/08/11


  • AHRC

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


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