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Legislating for Otherness: Proscription powers and parliamentary discourse

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 December 2015

Abstract

This article offers a discursive analysis of UK Parliamentary debate on the proscription of terrorist organisations between 2002 and 2014. It argues that these debates play an important constitutive role in the (re)production of national Self and terrorist Other that remains largely overlooked in existing work on this counter-terrorism mechanism. The article begins with an overview of this literature, arguing it is overwhelmingly oriented around questions of efficacy and ethics. While important, this focus has concentrated academic attention on the causal question of what proscription does, rather than the constitutive question of what is made possible by proscription. The article’s second section situates our analysis within discursive work in International Relations, upon which we investigate three pervasive themes in Parliamentary debate: (i) Constructions of terrorism and its threat; (ii) Constructions of specific groups being proscribed; and, (iii) Constructions of the UK Self. We argue that these debates (re)produce an antagonistic relationship between a liberal, open, and responsible UK mindful of cultural and religious difference, on the one hand. And, on the other, its illiberal, irrational terrorist Others conducting immoral violences on behalf of particularistic identity claims. This analysis, we conclude, has significance for contemporary debate on security politics, as well as for studies of counter-terrorism and international politics more generally.

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© 2015 British International Studies Association 

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Footnotes

*

Earlier versions of this article were presented to the Critical Global Politics research group at the University of East Anglia; the School of Politics, International Studies, and Philosophy at Queen’s University Belfast; and the 2015 annual conference of the British International Studies Association. The authors express their gratitude to all those who attended these events, the three anonymous reviewers of this article, and the editorial board for their helpful and constructive feedback. Any errors remain ours alone.

References

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18 Most prominent amongst these were a thirteen-year military campaign in Afghanistan and a six-year campaign in Iraq.

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123 Alistair Carmichael, Hansard HC vol. 437, col. 476 (13 October 2005).

124 Campbell, ‘Writing security’, p. 9.

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126 As the above discussion illustrates, the ‘we’ in this story is not fixed, referring variously to the British state, society, or the UK Parliament. We are grateful to one of the anonymous reviewers for clarifying this point.

127 See, for example, C.A.S.E. Collective, ‘Critical Approaches to Security in Europe: a networked manifesto’, Security Dialogue, 37:4 (2006), pp. 443–87 (pp. 457–8).

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131 Neal, ‘Legislative practices’, pp. 125–6.

132 The Australian state of Queensland, for example, has recently enacted legislation outlawing membership of specified motorcycle gangs. The Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Act 2013 targets so-called ‘Bikie gangs’ specifically and criminal organisations generally with the introduction of a suite of criminal offences targeted at members of such organisations, described as ‘vicious lawless associates’. Amongst other provisions, the Act includes a prohibition on three or more associates meeting in public; and mandatory sentences of 15 or 25 years for crimes committed as part of gang activities.

133 As one anonymous reviewer noted, much work also remains to be done in opening these ‘in-house’ debates to non-academic audiences. For a recent engagement with similar themes, see Fitzgerald, James, ‘Why me? An autoethnographic account of the bizarre logic of counterterrorism’, Critical Studies on Terrorism, 8:1 (2015), pp. 163180CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

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