Understanding and Responding to Global and Domestic Terrorism: A Social Science Perspective


Since the shocking terrorist attack of 9/11 and subsequent terrorism plots and attacks in numerous countries, terrorism has become the world’s greatest security threat. As countries like Canada try to respond appropriately and effectively, it has become increasingly important to better “understand” the distinctive nature and causes of modern terrorism and the special challenges it poses to the security of societies like ours.

This new course draws on the latest terrorism thinking and research from a variety of academic and other sources to develop a broad understanding of terrorism as a complex social phenomenon and a challenging domestic and global security problem.

Key learnings

After successfully completing this course, students will be able to:

  • describe the distinctive nature of terrorism, distinguishing it from other forms of violence.
  • demonstrate an understanding of the historical evolution of terrorism, with an emphasis on modern and post-modern terrorism.
  • identify terrorism typologies and types, with an emphasis on modern religious, political, and domestic forms of terrorism.
  • articulate theories and supporting research on various social and psychological factors and processes involved in explaining terrorism and terrorist radicalization.
  • comprehend the exceptional challenges of responding effectively and appropriately to both global and domestic terrorism in democratic societies like Canada.
  • explain security policy options and the balancing of collective security and individual rights.
  • describe the changing role and nature of public policing in a security environment.
  • discuss general trends in relation to the future of terrorism and anti-terrorism.

In addition to selected texts and readings, students will engage with related public issues and policy debates and participate in a research-based terrorist case study exercise. In summary, this course offers a broad social science understanding of terrorism and anti-terrorism which provides a sound foundation for more focused police terrorism strategies and approaches.

Course author/instructor

Dr. Christopher Murphy, Dalhousie University
Dr. Murphy has been involved with police-related scholarship as an academic, policy researcher and police consultant for over 30 years. He has taught, researched, and published on a variety of policing issues, such as community policing, policing change and reform, private policing, police culture, security policing, and future policing trends. This online course is based on 12 years of teaching a university seminar on terrorism, inspired by a desire to use social science to better understand the ongoing threat of terrorism.