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Title: Are Suicide Bombers Suicidal?
Authors: Araj, Bader
Issue Date: 2012
Publisher: Routledge: Taylor and Francis
Abstract: Recent work by Ariel Merari argues that, while certain contextual factors increase the probability of suicide attacks, they do not explain why particular individuals become suicide bombers. Merari seeks to demonstrate that suicide bombers are motivated by an unusually high prevalence of depression and suicidal tendencies. This article questions the representativeness of Merari’s sample. It raises the possibility that interviewer and contextual effects contaminated his findings. Finally, it presents evidence that challenges Merari’s conclusions. This evidence is drawn from interviews with immediate family members and close friends of a 25 percent random sample of Palestinian suicide bombers who conducted attacks between 2000 and 2005. Based on their analysis, the authors question the value of a psychological approach to the study of suicide bombers and assert the importance of focusing on the political and social roots of the phenomenon. Since the 1980s, researchers have argued that a wide range of factors motivate suicide bombers. These factors include religious fanaticism, the desire to liberate occupied territory, the craving for revenge against occupiers, inter-group competition aimed at attracting recruits and supporters, desperation originating in material deprivation, and irrational urges grounded in psychopathology.1 The large body of research literature devoted to suicide bombers has helped to deepen the understanding of how these factors operate, singly and in combination. It has broadened the evidentiary basis for the present analysts’ generalizations. Nonetheless, the ability to resolve many of the debates in the field, especially those concerning the relative causal weight of different variables in different contexts, continues to be hampered by methodological problems that are sometimes acknowledged but rarely overcome.
Description: Sociology
Appears in Collections:Fulltext Publications

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