Honors Thesis Spotlight: Second-Generation Terrorism: A Phenomenon

Terrorism has proven itself to be a worsening plight, and it continues to broaden world political unrest. Through violence and chaos, terrorism is most often used as a tool to control global political opinions and manipulate social and political processes. After the Al-Qaeda attacks of 2001 on the United States that shook the nation, terrorism and violence sky-rocketed. Many got their terrorist and violent inspirations from these radical ideas which were heightened from the attacks. These acts of terrorism from within were usually carried out by immigrants (e.g., second and third-generation immigrants, long-term foreigners, or religious converts) who “held particular grievances associated with their immediate socio-political environment and were radicalized with the assistance of local facilitators,” (1).

The second-generation phenomenon is a phenomenon directly affiliated with this global security threat. It refers to the children of immigrants and names them as a particular demographic that has grown in interest in regards to terrorism. In this phenomenon, they are referred to as a potentially high-risk population for radicalization, and with their strategic significance can pose a distinct and complex security challenge for countries. Second-generation immigrants hold a strategic position for terrorist organizations, thus, making them ideal targets. This phenomenon can create a critical profile identifying potential markers and foundations that can breed terrorism. This phenomenon may prove helpful in discovering any red flags before terrorist attacks unfold or finding the purpose of said terrorist attacks.

Past research on the underlying precursors that lead to further radicalization highlight 3 key factors: context, process, and identity. These factors distinguish individuals within a specific population and give push factors for their decision of terrorism. Context refers to political and historical contexts and current psychological contexts. History, culture, and politics create the foundation for violence and hostility, which therefore helps us better understand terrorism. Psychological conditions often stem from historical and political contexts. Factors such as instability and lack of security, as well as adverse physical conditions such as poverty and injustice, become obstacles that fuel a population to resort to terrorism to create change in their situation.

The second factor, process, refers to the process of terrorism. By better understanding the process of how terrorism occurs rather than why it occurs, we open up opportunities to better

Diaz Thesis

understand the act of terrorism. Lastly, identity factors are critical components in the process of terrorism.

“Identity factors can be comprised of group identification and its related issue of world view defense and are important in understanding terrorism. These factors develop within and mutually influence context and process factors, this interconnection between these factors are particularly important in understanding second-generation terrorism and the vulnerability markers that exist within these populations,” (9).

Thus, when there are threats to these worldviews, such as imminent social change or other groups with different world views, they can be experienced as threats to the self which accounts for humanity’s tendency towards warfare and violence.

The researcher overall claims that with the second-generation phenomenon, we can change the dynamic of managing terrorism by considering and addressing the factors that lead individuals down this path. Rather than only responding to the aftermath of the violence, we could change this dynamic to one in which countries can mitigate and prevent tragedies before they occur.

Wendy Diaz is a graduate of the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy at Florida State University. This post was based on Wendy’s honors thesis, written by COSSPP Blog Intern, Jillian Kaplan.

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