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Kearns -

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The Handbook of Homicide

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The study of terrorism has bridged multiple scholarly domains. Terrorism is discussed within political science as a form of political violence (Crenshaw 1981) related to civil conflict (Findley and Young 2012) and interstate war (Findley, Piazza, and Young 2012). Terrorism is studied within criminology as a form of criminal violence along with homicide and assault, and under political crime as a form of oppositional action put alongside sedition and treason (J.I. Ross 2006). In scholarly work, it is becoming increasingly more common to see works on terrorism connected to political violence (e.g., Thomas 2014) or political crimes (e.g., Chermak, Freilich, and Suttmoeller 2013), but less so with other forms of crime (e.g., Mullins and Young 2012).

How is studying homicide different from studying terrorism? And how is it similar? The term terrorism evokes images of 9/11, the Boston Bombing, or other grizzly attacks committed for an ideological reason. Conversely, the term homicide brings to mind shootings on the streets or in one’s home, generally for personal reasons. At first glance, these two concepts may not appear connected to one another. LaFree and Dugan (2004), for instance, explore the relationship between terrorism and crime, including homicide, and suggest a long list of affinities and differences. While their investigation is theoretical, this chapter provides an empirical approach.

We use standard modeling approaches from the homicide and terrorism literatures to predict each outcome cross‐nationally. Potentially surprising to some who feel these are wholly distinct phenomena, we find more similarities than differences between the factors that predict each.

In what follows, we discuss the issues with defining, operationalizing, and measuring both terrorism and homicide, and challenges with finding valid and reliable cross‐national data on both. We discuss the cross‐national study of both terrorism and homicide, including their similarities, differences, and what lessons could be learned from the study of other cross‐national forms of political violence. We then use cross‐national data to see if models of homicide can predict terrorist attacks and vice versa. We conclude with a discussion of the replication results, research that blends violence types, and future research directions.


This is the accepted manuscript of a chapter in The Handbook of Homicide published by Wiley. It is copyrighted and deposited with permission for Wiley Publishing in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions. All rights are reserved, for permissions contact Wiley directly.

© 2017 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Published 2017 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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