Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Legislating for Otherness: Proscription powers and parliamentary discourse


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.

Hide All

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.

Hide All
Tim Legrand and Lee Jarvis , ‘Enemies of the state: Proscription powers and their use in the United Kingdom’, British Politics, 9:4 (2014), pp. 450471

Charlotte Epstein , ‘Who speaks? Discourse, the subject and the study of identity in international politics’, European Journal of International Relations, 17:2 (2011), pp. 327350

Andrew W. Neal , ‘“Events dear boy, events”: Terrorism and security from the perspective of politics’, Critical Studies on Terrorism, 5:1 (2012a), pp. 107120

Andrew W. Neal , ‘Terrorism, lawmaking, and democratic politics: Legislators as security actors’, Terrorism and Political Violence, 24:3 (2012b), pp. 357374

Andrew W. Neal , ‘Normalization and legislative exceptionalism: Counterterrorist lawmaking and the changing times of security emergencies’, International Political Sociology, 6:3 (2012c), pp. 260276

Andrew Silke , ‘The road less travelled: Recent trends in terrorism research’, in Andrew Silke (ed.), Research on Terrorism: Trends, Achievements and Failures (Abingdon: Routledge, 2004), pp. 186213

Iain Cameron , ‘European Union anti-terrorist blacklisting’, Human Rights Law Review, 3:2 (2003), pp. 225256

John Finn , ‘Electoral regimes and the proscription of anti-democratic parties’, Terrorism and Political Violence, 12:3–4 (2000), pp. 5177

Christina Pantazis and Simon Pemberton , ‘From the “old” to the “new” suspect community examining the impacts of recent UK counter-terrorist legislation’, British Journal of Criminology, 49:5 (2009), pp. 646666

Suthaharan Nadarajah and Dahnanjayan Sriskandarajah , ‘Liberation struggle or terrorism? The politics of naming the LTTE’, Third World Quarterly, 26:1 (2005), pp. 87100

Jenny Hocking , ‘Counter-terrorism and the criminalisation of politics: Australia’s new security powers of detention, proscription and control’, Australian Journal of Politics & History, 49:3 (2003), pp. 355371

Jacob Torfing , ‘Discourse theory: Achievements, arguments, and challenges’, in David Howarth and Jacob Torfing (eds), Discourse Theory in European Politics: Identity, Policy And Governance (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2005), pp. 132

Benjamin Banta , ‘Analysing discourse as a causal mechanism’, European Journal of International Relations, 19:2 (2012), pp. 379402

Roxanne Lynn Doty , ‘Foreign policy as social construction: a post-positivist analysis of US counterinsurgency policy in the Philippines’, International Studies Quarterly, 37:3 (1993), pp. 297320

Jack Holland , ‘Foreign policy and political possibility’, European Journal of International Relations, 19:1 (2013), pp. 4968

Jeremy Waldron , ‘Security and liberty: the image of balance’, Journal of Political Philosophy, 11:2 (2003), pp. 191210

Michele G. Alexander , Shana Levin , and P. J. Henry , ‘Image theory, social identity, and social dominance: Structural characteristics and individual motives underlying international images’, Political Psychology, 26:1 (2005), pp. 2745

Ronen Palan , ‘A world of their making: an evaluation of the constructivist critique in International Relations’, Review of International Studies, 26:4 (2000), pp. 575598

Stuart Croft , Culture, Crisis and America’s War on Terror (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006)

Lee Jarvis , Times of Terror: Discourse, Temporality and the War on Terror (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2009)

Alexander Spencer , The Tabloid Terrorist: The Predicative Construction of New Terrorism in the Media (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2010)

Jef Huysmans and Alessandro Buonfino , ‘Politics of exception and unease: Immigration, asylum and terrorism in Parliamentary debates in the UK’, Political Studies, 56:4 (2008), pp. 766788

Paul Roe , ‘Securitization and minority rights: Conditions of desecuritization’, Security Dialogue, 35:3 (2004), pp. 279294

James Fitzgerald , ‘Why me? An autoethnographic account of the bizarre logic of counterterrorism’, Critical Studies on Terrorism, 8:1 (2015), pp. 163180

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Review of International Studies
  • ISSN: 0260-2105
  • EISSN: 1469-9044
  • URL: /core/journals/review-of-international-studies
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 9
Total number of PDF views: 125 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 474 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 18th October 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.