Mapping Terrorist Organizations



Date and Time

October 8, 2009 3:30 PM - 5:00 PM


Open to the public.

No RSVP required


Reuben W. Hills Conference Room

FSI Contact

A. Nancy Contreras

Martha Crenshaw will present a research project, "Mapping Terrorist Organizations," recently funded by NSF.

The purpose of the project is to identify patterns in the evolution of organizations that practice terrorism, specify the causes and consequences of these patterns, and analyze the development of Al Qaeda and its cohort in a comprehensive comparative framework.

The project analyzes the organizational structure of different families of organizations and traces their relationships over time. It will produce a series of dynamic maps of the architecture of violent and non-violent opposition groups operating in the same conflict theater.

It will also identify common patterns of organizational evolution, as groups form, split, merge, collaborate, compete, shift ideological direction, adopt or renounce terrorism, grow, shrink, and decline. Models based on comparisons of historical genealogies of terrorism will be applied to the case of Al Qaeda and its affiliates and associates, including the Afghani and Pakistani Taliban. Theories generated from the study will thus shed light on an important and constantly evolving national security threat.

The project will also identify or develop computer software to assemble, organize, and display information about organizations and their interactions over time.

Martha Crenshaw is a senior fellow at CISAC and FSI and a professor of political science by courtesy. She was the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor of Global Issues and Democratic Thought and professor of government at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., from 1974 to 2007. Her current research focuses on innovation in terrorist campaigns, the distinction between "old" and "new" terrorism, why the United States is the target of terrorism, and the effectiveness of counterterrorism policies.

She has written extensively on the issue of political terrorism; her first article, "The Concept of Revolutionary Terrorism," was published in the Journal of Conflict Resolution in 1972. Her recent work includes "Terrorism, Strategies, and Grand Strategies," in Attacking Terrorism (Georgetown University Press), "Terrorism and Global Security," in Leashing the Dogs of War: Conflict Management in a Divided World (United States Institute of Peace Press), and "Explaining Suicide Terrorism: A Review Essay," in the journal Security Studies. She is also the editor of a projected volume, The Consequences of Counterterrorist Policies in Democracies, for the Russell Sage Foundation in New York.

She served on the Executive Board of Women in International Security and chaired the American Political Science Association (APSA) Task Force on Political Violence and Terrorism. She has also served on the Council of the APSA and is a former President and Councilor of the International Society of Political Psychology (ISPP). In 2004 ISPP awarded her its Nevitt Sanford Award for Distinguished Scientific Contribution and in 2005 the Jeanne Knutson award for service to the society. She serves on the editorial boards of the journals International Security, Orbis, Political Psychology, Security Studies, and Terrorism and Political Violence. She coordinated the working group on political explanations of terrorism for the 2005 Club de Madrid International Summit on Democracy, Terrorism and Security. She is a lead investigator with the National Center for the Study of Terrorism and the Response to Terrorism (START) at the University of Maryland, funded by the Department of Homeland Security. She was a Guggenheim Fellow in 2005-2006. She served on the Committee on Law and Justice and the Committee on Determining Basic Research Needs to Interrupt the Improvised Explosive Device Delivery Chain of the National Research Council of the National Academies of Science. She was a senior fellow at the National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism in Oklahoma City for 2006-2007.


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Martha Crenshaw

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