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Objective of the Task Force on Political Violence and Terrorism

The following is an articulation of the mission of the APSA Task Force on Political Violence and Terrorism from former APSA President Margaret Levi.

From Margaret Levi:

"With the goal of enriching public understanding of the political violence and terrorism that so threaten national security, the AmericanPolitical Science Association has constituted a Task Force on Political Violence and Terrorism, chaired by Professor Martha Crenshaw, Stanford University. As with the earlier APSA Public Presence Task Forces, there are two primary and interdependent aims of this task force: first, to clarify what political scientists know on the subject; and, second, to covey this knowledge in a way that makes it accessible and useful to the media, policy-makers, an informed public (including our own members who are not specialists in the given area), and students. By making our expertise relevant to the debate, we hope to help raise the quality of public discourse.

"The Task Force will assess the contribution of political science to our understanding of how trends in civil violence, including the ways in which states respond to and/or instigate violence, affect domestic and international political order. The scope of the Task Force inquiry includes civil wars, riots, protest, terrorism, guerrilla warfare, insurgency, communal and ethnic or religious violence, genocide; and government reliance on violence or force to quell resistance from nonstate organizations or civilian populations: in short, political violence short of interstate warfare. We are concerned with violence that takes place within the boundaries of a given state and with the transnational dimensions of civil violence and terrorism.

"The work of the Task Force will bridge the gap between comparative and international politics and join area studies specialists with scholars interested in abstract theory and modeling.

"In terms of organization, we propose to follow the successful model of the Task Force on Inequality and American Democracy. APSA has provided us $10,000/year for each of the two years of the Task Force, and, thanks to Martha Crenshaw, we also have a generous grant from the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation. We shall use those monies to meet several times a year. The Task Force members will be subdivided among working groups focused on significant sets of issues encompassed within the larger theme. The working groups will produce sections of the final report. In addition, there will be a group devoted to outreach. Details of the task forcechairs of the working groups, membership, and precise topicswill be worked out by Professor Crenshaw in consultation with the members.

"The Task Force members should be prepared to present in-progress materials at various meetings, offer a draft report to the APSA Council at its meeting at the 2006 Annual Convention, then revise the report in light of reactions from the Council and others, and submit the final report by early 2007. We shall be seeking external funding to support meetings and conferences beyond those which can be financed by our APSA budget and Guggenheim grant.

"The final products will be the Report of the Task Force and possibly a book. We also plan to have a web site, curricular materials, and other additional documents we deem useful to the media and policy-makers. We may wish to produce an educational video. A press conference, upon the completion and publication of the Report, should underline the role of professional political science as a source of expertise on vital public issues.

"A strong group of leading scholars has agreed to serve. Their names and affiliations are listed below. I wish to thank them for their willingness to serve the APSA and the larger community by becoming a member of the Task Force on Political Violence and Terrorism. I know all such efforts represent a sacrifice of time, and I deeply appreciate the generosity their commitment reflects. I look forward to working with them over the coming two years."


American Political Science Association
1527 New Hampshire Ave NW
Washington, DC 20036-1206
(202) 483-2512 • Fax: +1 (202) 483-2657

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