Terrorism and the Arts

Jonathan Harris and a team of international researchers have created an extensive new publication detailing the key definitions of terrorist activity in modern arts.

Jonathan Harris' new book, Terrorism and the Arts

Bashir Makhoul “Skein 4. v2” (detail), 2019, oil on canvas, 78x78 cm. Part of the “Punishment of Luxury” series. 

Full title: Terrorism and the Arts: Practices and Critiques in Contemporary Culture 

Funding: The project has also been supported by the Spanish Government, working with our authors, through a research programme based at the University of Barcelona. Others involved have sourced funding for reproduction of images. The project stemmed from a conference at BCU in June 2016, funded by the Arts, Design and Media faculty.



Anthony Downey, Jonathan Day, Alexandra Dundjerovic (UK), David Roberts (UK), Jonathan Harris (UK), Dora Apel (USA), Paula Barreiro Lopez (Spain/France), Marisa Cornejo (Chile/France), Lewis Johnson (UK/Turkey), Naeem Moheiamen (Bangladesh/USA), and Mathew Teti (USA).

Research background

Following the spate of bombings in Europe in 2015/16, it was decided to host a conference to examine artists, critics, and writers' responses to issues associated with terrorism.

An emphasis was placed on Art, Design and Media’s interests in arts, culture theory, practice. BCU hosted the one-day event and Jonathan subsequently agreed to produce a book proposal.

The proposal was accepted by the internationally-renowned publisher Routledge and will be published in 2021.

How has the research been carried out?

This project began with a series of discussions at various conferences, in particular an ongoing conversation with WJT Mitchell (University of Chicago), who took part in the Terrorism and Cultural Freedom Conference (Birmingham City University) that Jonathan organised in 2016.

Based on several of Mitchell’s book projects, those conversations helpfully laid out the grounds for a strong theoretical basis for the project’s development.

Since 2016, Jonathan has discussed the project with many authors, artists and others and negotiated their involvement with the book. He edited 11 essays and wrote the extended introduction to the volume. The book is 100,000 words in length and has approximately 65 illustrations.

Research aims

The research set out to examine a series of key issues from a range of perspectives both historical and theoretical, and involved practitioners in the range of disciplines taught and researched in ADM.

Although Jonathan did not get all of those who took part in the conference to contribute to the book, the eventual range of authors was international and thematically diverse.

Jonathan wrote a long introduction to the book dealing with historical, terminological and thematic issues in some detail and includes a critical synopsis of the contributions made by all the authors.

The intention of the project was to improve the quality of thinking and discussion on these matters and provide a resource for future researchers.

Outcomes and impact

Terrorism book Given that the project is just coming to completion (publication date February 2021), the team are just now considering related and future activities and projects.

It ties in well with Jonathan's other research concerns, in particular the issues of globalization, the new Cold War, and the critical and propagandistic uses of art and culture by states and other actors.

These research interests are likewise aligned with other authors in the volume, including  Downey and Barreiro Lopez.

A series of events will coincide with the book’s launch in 2021 and provide a further opportunity to consider future research and research networks, alongside ideas for future funding applications related to this project’s concerns.