The political importance of labelling: Terrorism and Turkey's discourse on the PKK

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Labelling the 'other' is one of the most relevant aspects in an armed conflict context. Summarising what the opponent is in one single expression is a strong rhetorical tool in any belligerent discourse. The use of the 'terrorist' label assumes a particularly powerful role in such a construction. Employing Ole Wæver's layered discursive structure, this article aims to study the discursive practices and political consequences associated with the use of such labels. The political implications of using the 'terrorist' label in regards to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in Turkish politics will be analysed as an illustrative case study. The period under analysis extends from April 2007 to January 2008, corresponding to the escalation of a security discourse that led to the (brief) Turkish military incursion in northern Iraq in the winter of 2007-2008. The political exposure and intense usage of the 'terrorist' label in this period makes it particularly ripe for understanding the political discursive context that shapes Turkey's policies towards this protracted conflict. The focus on this period also sheds light on the political reasons underlying the intractability of this conflict.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-180
Number of pages18
JournalCritical Studies on Terrorism
Issue number2
Early online date1 Aug 2011
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2011


  • Discourse
  • PKK
  • Terrorism
  • Turkey

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations


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