Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Jackson, R. Unknown knowns: The subjugated knowledge of terrorism studies, Critical Studies on Terrorism, Volume 5, Issue 1, April 2012, Pages 11-29

This article employs Foucault’s concept of ‘subjugated knowledges’ to explore forms of knowledge which provide explanations of the nature, causes and solutions to terrorism and political violence, but which have been suppressed and silenced within the terrorism studies field. Subjugated knowledges include historical knowledges that are present within the functional and systemic ensemble of terrorism studies itself, but which have been masked by more dominant forms of knowledge, as well as knowledges outside of the field that have been disqualified and excluded as naïve, inferior or below the required level of scientificity. This article analyses some of the primary mechanisms and processes by which knowledge subjugation takes place in terrorism studies and the consequences of such suppressions and exclusions. It argues that the presence of subjugated knowledge means that the field exists in a highly unstable condition where certain forms of knowledge are simultaneously known and unknown and where eruptions of subjugated knowledge periodically destabilise the dominant discourse. Among others, the rise of critical terrorism studies represents such an eruption in the field. The article concludes by suggesting that one of the key future tasks of critical terrorism studies must be to liberate a range of potentially important subjugated knowledges and that Bourdieu’s concept of the ‘collective intellectual’ provides a potentially important model for undertaking this difficult task.

Author keywords
Foucault; peace studies; subjugated knowledge; terrorism studies

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