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Research & Projects

Research & Projects

Below is a selection of some of the research and projects taking place within TERC. Information about other previous and existing research projects can be found within individual staff profiles.

When a crime takes place, why do some people run away, others reach for their camera phone while others intervene? 

This was the hot topic debated during ‘Step up to stop hate’ – a new project run by the University of East London (UEL) to educate and activate young people in Newham around the issue of hate crime.

The inaugural workshop took place on 10 May at NewVIc College, Newham, involving a group of college students.

“Before today’s workshop I would’ve been scared to do anything if I saw a hate crime happening,” said Agnes Thiongo, 19, from Southwark. “But now I have some useful knowledge about what to do and how to do it. 

“People can be scared to intervene as there’s the fear that ‘I might have to get involved’ and be quizzed by the police. People want to protect themselves first.”

Research into ‘bystander behaviour’ has shown that when an incident such as a crime or accident occurs, a person on their own is more likely to feel a sense of responsibility and intervene. 

But if there is a group of people – as on a busy train or in a shopping centre – people feel less personal responsibility as they think someone else will take action. They are also more likely to conform to group behaviour, so if everyone else ignores what has taken place, they do the same.

During the NewVIc workshop, UEL lecturers and students gave talks on what the law says about hate speech and hate crime – offences perceived to be motivated by prejudice based on a person’s race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or whether they are transgender.

College student Stephen Appiah, 18, from Harrow, said he had initially been sceptical about how such crimes are reported by the media.

He said, “The news is good for being informed, but sometimes things are hyped up, and attention-grabbing words are used to get attention.

“But after this session on hate crime I now know the proper definitions and what is and isn’t’ a hate crime. There are real stories about hate crimes and not much has been done.

“Our laws around this are fine, but the issue is how they're enforced, as it can be very subjective what people find offensive. People have different thresholds.” 

Sally Holt, a research fellow at UEL’s Centre on Human Rights in Conflict, is leading the project with support from UEL criminologist Dr Aaron Winter and global studies principal lecturer Dr Tim Hall. 

“It was great to see our UEL students deliver their first workshop, which they’ve designed and developed themselves, to a really receptive and engaged group at NewVIc,” said Sally.

“The students will also get practical support from our students and community organisers, Citizens UK, on how to take a campaign project forward using what they've learned.”
NewVIc's student development manager, Kate Reed, explained that in March this year almost 500 NewVIc students had organised and led a campaign against female genital mutilation (FGM), before recently voting to take up the issue of hate crime and inviting UEL to help with a campaign about it.

A full report on the project can be found here.


As of May 2016 the threat level posed by Northern Irish related terrorism to Great Britain has risen from moderate to substantial. This means that an attack in England, Scotland or Wales is ‘a strong possibility.’ In parallel to this this threat level for terrorist activity in Northern Ireland remains as severe. This specifies that an attack is highly likely. The severity of this threat is predominantly related to the increase in violent dissident Irish republican (VDR) activity. The most active of the VDR groups are the New IRA, the Continuity IRA and Oglaigh na hEireann. Each of these groups distance themselves from the politicisation of their erstwhile colleagues in the Provisional IRA and Sinn Fein. They each believe in the maintenance of a paramilitary campaign with the stated aim of achieving a united Ireland independent of Great Britain. In recent years their violent activities have included the targeting of prison officers, police, and economic and political targets with lethal and near lethal attacks. However, one of the predominant activities have related to the violent vigilante targeting of those they portray as criminals from within the nationalist and republican communities of Northern Ireland. This has seen a recent rise in the levels of punishment attacks as well as the murders of those believed to be criminal actors.

This VDR violence, and the wider activities and origins of the groups, have been analysed by the TERC director Dr. John Morrison for the majority of his academic career. This research has been carried out through the analysis of VDR organisational statements, interviews with leadership and rank and file members of dissident and mainstream republican groups and finally the analysis of the VDR events and personnel database. The findings of this research has been published extensively in peer-reviewed journals, as well as his book the Origins and Rise of Dissident Irish Republicanism published by Bloomsbury Academic Press. The links below provide executive summaries of a selection of the key publications from this ongoing research.  

For further information on Fighting Talk: The Statements of "The IRA/New IRA" please read the executive summary

More summaries to follow shortly.

Dr Anthony Richards has, in recent years, focused on the issue of conceptualizing terrorism. His book on Conceptualizing Terrorism was published with Oxford University Press in September 2015 and has been nominated (by OUP) for the Political Studies Association’s best political science book of the year award (the W.J.M. Mackenzie prize). He has argued that, while there have always been good reasons for striving for a universally agreed conceptualization of terrorism, there are further reasons for doing so in the post 9/11 environment, notwithstanding the formidable challenges that confront such an endeavour. In a global context, where the term is often applied selectively and pejoratively according to where one's interests lie, there is a real need to instil some analytical quality into the concept of terrorism, not least in order to prevent the term being manipulated to justify all manner of counter-terrorism responses. He has argued that not only is this important for the policymaking context but it is also an imperative task within academia - in order to strengthen the theoretical foundation of terrorism studies, for all other terrorism related theories rest on what one means by terrorism in the first place. 

Anthony’s research has therefore explored the prospects for terrorism as an analytical concept. Arguing that the essence of terrorism lies in its intent to generate a psychological impact beyond the immediate victims, he proposes three preliminary assumptions: that there is no such thing as an act of violence that is in and of itself inherently terrorist, that terrorism is best conceptualized as a particular method of political violence rather than defined as inherent to any particular ideology or perpetrator, and that non-civilians and combatants can also be victims of terrorism. His research then draws out the implications that these assumptions have for the conceptual debate. Following on from this he has also studied the extent to which contemporary UK conceptions or ‘constructions’ of the terrorist threat, through current counter-terrorism strategy, fit with conventional understandings and interpretations of ‘terrorism’ from the conceptual literature of the past 50 years.
Prof. Andrew Silke is currently editing the Routledge Handbook of Terrorism and Counterterrorism. The handbook provides a wide-ranging overview of the current state of academic analysis and debate on terrorism and counterterrorism, as well as a detailed survey of key historical and contemporary terrorist groups and major counter-terrorism campaigns. Adopting a wide focus, the volume highlights key trends in these areas as well as cutting-edge topics and emerging critical issues. It also has a strongly international flavour intentionally drawing on conflicts and case studies from across the globe. Ultimately, the handbook will fill an important current gap in Routledge’s growing handbook series. It benefits from a superb collection of contributors and will provide a comprehensive, state-of-the-art overview of current knowledge in this area. The volume should be published later in 2016.