Revisiting terrorism…

After a long absence, I’m in the process of blog resurrection (the cliched timing of said resurrection and the New Year sickens me too…). When I started these posts a few years ago, it was with the intention of starting to give a quasi-academic outlet to my study of courage as part of occupational roles. In the time between then and now, distractions and diversions have been plentiful – children, tenure, apathy – and it seems now like the conversations concerning courage have moved not only to prominence in the public sphere but also among academic outlets. As such, it seems a good time to jump on that bandwagon and start to look at the topic of courage in a more refined and admittedly topical manner. 

After nearly 7 years, I found myself buried back in the literature on terrorism – more specifically the psychological components of terrorism. Now, while this was always an interest of mine, I hadn’t really applied a tremendous amount of effort in its direction. I had spoken to paramiliraies and “terrorists” as part of my doctoral studies and while they provided great insight on the role that courage (and cowardice) play in certain organizations, the relevance or utility of their experiences to Organizational Psychology and my thesis fell short – or were at best shoehorned into my work. 

Now as the fields of terrorism research and psychology have intersected firmly and absolutely, it seems that there hasn’t been a place at the table for organizational psychology. The volume of publication across disciplines in the last few years has grown significantly (the same can’t be said for the quality of said research) but little if any have looked at:

A) The psychological experience of those who commit violence in the name of political movements 


B) The individual consequences of being a member of an organization that supports or conducts politically motivated violence. 

I feel that there is a temendous opportunity to make a contribution to the academic field by understanding the experience of “terrorists” and in turn, to integrate this into the realms of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior. 

So here goes; I’ll be focusing my research efforts on creating some space for this and while the ultimate goal is a dialogue and discourse on how the experience of terrorism can inform these (and other) organizations (no…I promise I won’t write a book with a title of “What Terrorist Can do for Your Organization!”), there will be publications and presentations along the way. It’s my hope that this space will act as somewhere to share the small steps along the big journey.



About Neil D. Walshe

Neil Walshe is an Assistant Professor of Organizational Behaviour at the University of San Francisco, California. His research looks at the role of courage and cowardice in the workplace in order to understand how moral behaviors relate to the world of work. While much of his work focuses on military and high-risk occupations, he tries to place the concept within the realm of more traditional white collar professions.
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