Governmental responses to terrorist attacks in Europe since 2000

Call for papers
Deadline : 15 December 2017
Workshop :
Governmental responses to terrorist attacks in Europe since 2000
25 May 2018
European University Institute, RSCAS, Florence, Italia

Convenors : Laurie Boussaguet (EUI, Florence) & Florence Faucher (Sciences Po, Paris) et

More information :

The terrorist attacks that struck Paris on 7, 8 and 9 January 2015 was neither the first, nor the most lethal, of the attacks perpetrated by people claiming allegiance to radical islamism. The attacks can now be placed as one in a series of events in European cities and marks the beginning of a new wave of killings (in France, Germany, Denmark, Belgium, the UK, Spain).

However, the assassination of journalists at Charlie Hebdo in January 2015 created an unprecedented international and national shock. One expects any society that is attacked to increase its cohesion, each of its members gathering behind its leaders and symbols. In Paris, the French government effectively organised in a few days the largest march since the 1944 Libération de Paris (Boussaguet, Faucher, 2017), as well as a unique gathering of heads of states and governments. Since then, the strength of the publics’ reactions to terrorism can be seen online as well as offline and notably on the streets and receives wide coverage in the media and the social media. How do governments help their societies respond to the crisis?

If the literature on crisis management (Boin, al. 2011) addresses such questions, research on terrorism in advanced liberal democracies tends to consider governmental responses separately rather than as a whole, with focus either on legislative responses or on policies and instruments relating to policing, securitising and international cooperation (C.A.S.E., 2006; Megie, 2010), on radicalistion, deradicalisation and prevention of radicalisation (Roy, 2016). Others consider societal reponses such as rallies-around-the-flag behaviours (Hetherington and Nelson 2003; Baker and Oneal 2001; Baum 2002; Chowanietz 2010) and, more rarely, symbolic responses (Collins 2004) or how the media and the government frame the events (Norris, Kern, and Just 2003; Baum 2013) or the electoral impact (Chari 2004). These literature rarely engage with each other. Our objective is to overcome such divisions and to analyse how the many facets of the governments response adress the crisis.

In 2015 for instance, the French government not only responded by restoring public order (stopping the terrorists as well as reaffirming its monopoly on the use of violence and its ability to protect society) but also led the efforts to restore the symbolic order (orchestrating ceremonies, developing national solidarity, insisting on political unity, appeasing social groups and possible tensions (Faucher, Boussaguet, 2017)). Its reponses to the three days crisis was multi-faceted and encompassed societal and political initiatives.

We know little about how, and how effectively, European governments whose countries have been struck by terrorism on their soil respond to similar social emotion and the chaos. How do they gauge expectations? How do they define the extent of the crisis and manage it? How does context affect the reactions from the publics, the media, the opposition? Do the targets or the magnitude of the events matter? What about repetition? How does it matter whether an election is approaching and who is in charge (institutional and political dimensions)? How do governments work to restore trust in their ability to protect, to anticipate and to heal? How do they work to convince the opposition and the publics to steer away from further division and internecine conflicts? What symbolic resources are available and which ones are mobilised? We would like to know more about these reactions from a comparative perspective.

We welcome papers (either comparative or single case studies) analysing the mobilisation by European governments of symbolic instruments aiming at restoring order, trust and political legitimacy after a traumatic terrorist attack. Please send paper proposals (up to a page long) to both Laurie Boussaguet and Florence Faucher before 15 December 2017.

Baker, William D., and John R. Oneal. 2001. ‘Patriotism or Opinion Leadership?: The Nature and Origins of the « Rally “Round the Flag » Effect”’. The Journal of Conflict Resolution 45 (5): 661–87.

Baum, Matthew A. 2013. ‘The Iraq Coalition of the Willing and (Politically) Able: Party Systems, the Press, and Public Influence on Foreign Policy’. American Journal of Political Science 57 (2): 442–58.

Boin, Arjen, Paul ’t Hart, Erik Stern, and Bengt Sundelius. 2011. The Politics of Crisis Management: Public Leadership Under Pressure. Cambridge, UK ; New York: Cambridge University Press.

Boussaguet Laurie, Florence Faucher. 2016. Mobiliser des symboles pour répondre au terrorisme. L’exécutif français face aux attentats de 2015 à Paris. LIEPP Policy brief, 26.

Boussaguet Laurie, Florence Faucher. 2017. « Quand l’Etat convoque la rue. La Marche républicaine du 11 janvier 2015 ». Gouvernement et action publique, vol 6 (2), pp 37-61.

C.A.S.E.. 2006. Critical Approaches to Security in Europe: A Networked Manifesto, in Security Dialogue, 37(4). 443–487

Chari, Raj. 2004. ‘The 2004 Spanish Election: Terrorism as a Catalyst for Change?’ West European Politics 27 (5): 954–63. doi:10.1080/0140238042000283247.

Chowanietz, Christophe. 2016. Bombs, Bullets, and Politicians. France’s Response to Terrorism. Montréal: McGill Queen’s University Press.

Collins, Randall. 2004. ‘Rituals of Solidarity and Security in the Wake of Terrorist Attack’. Sociological Theory 22 (1): 53–87.

Faucher Florence, Laurie Boussaguet. 2017. « The politics of symbols. Reflections on the French government’s framing of the 2015 terrorist attacks », avec Laurie Boussaguet. Parliamentarty Affairs, DOI: 10.1093/pa/gsx013.

Hetherington, Marc J., and Michael Nelson. 2003. ‘Anatomy of a Rally Effect: George W. Bush and the War on Terrorism’. PS: Political Science & Politics 36 (1): 37–42.

Mégie Antoine. 2010. “La fabrication des normes antiterroristes post 11 septembre en Europe et en Amérique du Nord“, Champ pénal, 7. DOI : 10.4000/champpenal.7810

Norris, Pippa, M. Kern, and Just, eds. 2003. Framing Terrorism: Understanding Terrorist Threats and Mass Media. Oxford: Routledge.

Roy Olivier. 2016. « Peut-on comprendre les motivations des djihadistes? », Pouvoirs 3 (158), 15-24.


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