Terrorcraft: empire and the making of the racialised terrorist threat

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Terrorism is so associated with Arabs, Muslims and South Asians that it has become common sense in the post 9/11 world. Drawing on various bodies of scholarship, this article traces the complex evolution of ‘race’ in relation to Arabs and Muslims from the 1960s to mid-’80s, alongside changing notions of ‘terrorism’, to advance an argument about the historically contingent nature of the racialised terrorist threat. The author argues that ‘terrorcraft’ – or terrorist racialisation – is a process. First, the racialised terrorist was crafted deep in the US empire. Counter-insurgency doctrine was instrumental in the US security state’s creation of the ‘Arab terrorist’ through racial profiling. Second, the ideology of terrorcraft followed, rather than preceded, the security state’s racialising practices, though racial stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims pre-date the 1960s. The ‘Arab terrorist’ is a new project of racial formation, the author argues. Third, the US’s strategic alliance with Israel after 1967 and two conferences organised by the Israeli Jonathan Institute laid the basis for the transatlantic production of terrorcraft. Over time, it evolved from its initial focus on Arabs to include Muslims during the 1980s and South Asians in the 1990s.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)34-60
Number of pages27
JournalRace and Class
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Archaeology
  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


  • Arab Americans
  • Iran hostage crisis
  • Islamic terrorism
  • Israel
  • Jonathan Institute
  • Munich Games
  • Operation Boulder
  • racialisation
  • terrorcraft


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