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“The Toronto 18” Case Study: The Challenges and Pitfalls of Terrorism Research
Conducting research in the field of terrorism studies faces several methodological challenges. This paper highlights some of these challenges through a re-examination of the disrupted 2006 “Toronto 18” terrorist plot in Canada. An in-depth case study of this plot was created in 2010 and re-visiting this case for the ten-year anniversary uncovered new and previously unreleased information. This provided new insight into several key aspects of the case. These revelations change the dynamics of how the attack should be understood and more importantly how it has been represented in the literature to date. The paper focuses on the case study and highlights the new information by contrasting it with previous accounts of the case found in the literature. It frames the discussion within the larger challenges we face gathering information and conducting research in the field of terrorism studies today. These include growing concerns about problems including an emphasis on “timeliness versus accuracy,” and the fact that the field tends to focus on current events and incidents at the expense of analysis and investigation of previous events. This case study demonstrates how our initial analyses may be incomplete or inaccurate and discusses the potential repercussions of failing to correct these them moving forward.
Michael Zekulin is a lecturer in political science at the School of Politics and International Relations, at the Australian National University. Michael’s research focuses on all forms of terrorism; he investigates radicalization, counter-radicalization strategies, and anti-terror legislation. Current projects investigate the impact that counter-terror and counter-radicalization policies might have on a state’s society and identity as a whole. Michael has published articles in Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, Journal of Military and Strategic Studies and Defense and Security Analysis. He has written policy papers for The Canadian Defense and Foreign Affairs Institute (CDFAI) and has contributed several op-eds for major newspapers.