Date of Completion


Embargo Period



terrorism, state, discourse, power, United Nations, UNCCIT, counter-terrorism, political sociology, state project, networks

Major Advisor

Davita Silfen Glasberg

Associate Advisor

Elizabeth Holzer

Associate Advisor

Bandana Purkayastha

Associate Advisor

Mary Bernstein

Associate Advisor

Ruth Braunstein

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


The absence of a comprehensive, universal and legally binding definition of terrorism has characterized the international terrorism discourse for decades. Scholarship on the interplay between states, discourse, and power in shaping this dilemma has been largely absent. This project is an attempt to sociologically examine this theoretical relationship by primarily looking at the role of the state in producing, framing, and otherwise manipulating the definition of terrorism, and consequently, the global terrorism discourse within the United Nations. Applying the sociological concepts of states, discourse, and power, while drawing on the theoretical lens of Bob Jessop’s (1990) strategic-relational approach to examining states, this study assesses the strategic political processes engaged in by UN member-states over the last two decades to define and frame the discourse of terrorism. At the very core of the political impasse to define terrorism is a confluence of three tightly linked ingredients: 1) varying political interests carried out through ‘state projects’; 2) the relative strength of geopolitical alliances or networks of states through which state projects flow and operate; and 3) the need for states to attain political clout in transnational social life by shaping and framing discourse as a weapon of power. By viewing the state as a product of social and political relations within a larger global state system, this study sheds light on how states shape, manipulate, or otherwise use a constructed body of meaning, i.e. the terrorism discourse, to influence decision-making processes and norms in international security affairs.