On suicide bombings: questioning rationalist models and logics of gender

Abstract : The theories of rational choice have been widely used in analysing suicide bombings. Such a use is here critically examined along three lines. First, the limits of this theoretical framework when applied to sacrificial violence are assessed and especially the internal contradictions which appear with the notion of 'symbolic posthumous rewards'. Second, differences emerge in the use of rational choice theory when the focus is upon female suicide bombers. Indeed, deprivation theories come then to the fore, the idea of personal crisis and the impact of patriarchal social relationships. This switch in the analysis, which does not seem based on differences in the data, confirms gender studies which underline the specific difficulty to envisage female political violence. Finally, to go beyond both reductionisms, a compared analysis of suicide attacks in Chechnya, Iraq and Israel/Palestine is proposed. It aims at restituting the context of action and the narratives at work, making a clear distinction between two levels of analysis, the one of the organizations, which can largely be understood in terms of their strategic rationale, and that of the suicide bombers themselves, for whom it seems more heuristic to use the concepts of narratives and horizons of expectation.
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Contributor : Pénélope Larzillière <>
Submitted on : Friday, June 29, 2018 - 9:24:50 PM
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Pénélope Larzillière. On suicide bombings: questioning rationalist models and logics of gender. International Review of Sociology, Taylor & Francis (Routledge), 2016, 27 (1), pp.108 - 125. ⟨10.1080/03906701.2016.1259136⟩. ⟨ird-01826844⟩

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