Social network analysis and terrorism: an introduction to the special issue
The potential utility of social network analysis (SNA) for understanding and combating criminal and terrorist activity is nothing new. The academic study of such ‘dark’ networks has grown exponentially since Sparrow (1991) explored this concept more than two decades ago, and SNA studies of terrorism became particularly popular after the attacks of September 11, 2001, beginning with Krebbs’ (2002) analysis of the 9/11 hijackers. In an era where individual explanations for involvement in terrorism have lost currency and where societal-level explanations are seen to be limited, it is natural that more attention be paid to the ‘middle ground’ (Bergin, 2009). Indeed, one of the most influential studies of terrorism in recent years, Sageman’s (2004) Understanding terror networks, was premised on the need to understand social connections between actors. Moreover, as globalization continues to advance and we are increasingly confronted by dynamic, transnational terrorist networks which defy easy classification, SNA appears to be even more relevant now than at any time previously.
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