Hybrid (Counter-) Terrorism: New Chapter

In March 2014 I spoke at a workshop at the University of Birmingham on the idea of hybridity. At the time, as this post shows, I was somewhat skeptical of what the concept of hybridity (as lens, or frame, or otherwise) might have to bring to law and, especially, to counter-terrorism and the law. However, the workshop got me thinking and next year (2016) an edited book from the workshop will be released for which I wrote a chapter building on my intervention at the workshop.

The chapter was written in the fall of 2014, and may be revised before finalisation of the manuscript to take account of post-Paris developments, but it brings together in a short form some of my key thoughts about hybrid (counter-) terrorism. I have uploaded the pre-print here, and the introduction gives a flavour:

Legal scholars have written much about different ‘models’ of counter-terrorism, with the ‘criminal justice’ and ‘military’ models dominating the discourse. However, these models of counter-terrorism law and its place within a broader ecosystem of counter-terrorism measures, policies and practices, fail to appreciate the breadth, complexity and drivers of counter-terrorism when viewed in the round. Indeed, this is indicative of legal scholarship on counter-terrorism, which tends (in contrast to some sociological scholarship in the field) to focus almost exclusively on doctrinal legal research, infrequently placing counter-terrorist law and policy within its broader context. In this, hybridity may be a helpful lens through which to view counter-terrorism law and practice; it may facilitate our understanding of counter-terrorism as a field of practice with multiple limbs and elements, indicating more fully the terrain on which critical engagement with terrorism and counter-terrorism ought to focus. This chapter aims to illustrate the hybrid nature of terrorism and counter-terrorism as mechanisms of resistance within asymmetrical power relationships and, through considering its combination of measures and engaged actors, to illustrate the critical usefulness of conceptualizing counter-terrorism as a hybrid phenomenon.

Discovering ‘Hybridity’; Sceptical Notes in Advance of a Workshop

This afternoon I will make my way to Birmingham for a workshop on ‘Hybridity’ at the University’s Institute of Advanced Studies there. Hybridity is a concept that seems to have a lot of purchase in peace and development studies, and to advance on theories of post-colonialism. Some–especially Rosa Freedman–are trying to explore its purchase in legal scholarship now as well.

Concerned with power, hybridity seems to me to be a theory that tries diagnostically to describe, see and structure exercises and stratagems for the (re)appropriation, shifting and reshaping of power and of hegemonic structures or concepts. I am not well read into the theory, and I think I have been invited in order to offer some provocations from the counter-terrorism perspective, but it will be interesting to see whether or not the day fleshes the theory out for me any.

At the moment, and from what I have heard and read so far, it seems to be difficult to distinguish in terms of intellectual content from much of queer theory, some of feminist theory, and quite a lot of regulatory theory (especially around participation, constitutionalism and legitimacy) and in at least some contexts a large chunk of transitional justice work.

I will go with an open mind, and I’ll share my speaking notes and slides and some reflections after the workshop, but it is interesting already to see how different disciplines seem to ‘miss’ each other and to become convinced of the novelty of their own frameworks when–seen from another perspective–they seem so close to that which exists elsewhere. The answer perhaps might be that hybridity is much more concerned with the practice of ordering power than the theory, but who can say that feminism isn’t concerned with practice? Or regulatory theory which is deeply reflexive (in fact, that is for me at the source the really compelling thing about it)?

I am sure all of these questions will be raised and discussed tomorrow, and if nothing else it proves the value of inter disciplinary conversations and workshops and of having institutions such as the IAS at Birmingham–and indeed our own Institute of Advanced Study here in Durham–to facilitate and support these conversations.