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Fighting Words: Naming Terrorists, Bandits, Rebels and Other Violent Actors

Michael V. Bhatia
Third World Quarterly
Vol. 26, No. 1, The Politics of Naming: Rebels, Terrorists, Criminals, Bandits and Subversives (2005), pp. 5-22
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3993760
Page Count: 18
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Fighting Words: Naming Terrorists, Bandits, Rebels and Other Violent Actors
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Abstract

This introductory paper identifies some of the core background themes and theories through which the 'politics of naming' and other forms of discourse conflict can be examined. The focus is on the nature, power, role and function of names, with a final section examining the ethics of naming and examining terrorism. The central unifying theme is the contested relationship between the actual nature of a movement and the name applied, particularly in terms of the attempt to identify the essence or true nature of a movement and how this relates to other dissenting or surrounding factors. Once assigned, the power of a name is such that the process by which the name was selected generally disappears and a series of normative associations, motives and characteristics are attached to the named subject. Indeed, the long historical relationship between the naming of opponents, empire and colonialism, as well as the manner in which the global media frame armed conflict, only provide further reason to doubt the truthfulness of the names assigned, and their ability to address the micro-realities involved in these conflicts and movements.

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