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Article

In the name of national security: articulating ethno-political struggles as terrorism

The discourse of terrorism is one of the most powerful political discourses of our times. More often than not, its labels and assumptions – including the division of the world into sharp dichotomies of ‘free’ and ‘civilized’ states vs. ‘evil’ and ‘barbarian terrorists’–go unquestioned in related political speeches, media reports, and public deliberation. These unquestioned assumptions, however, become problematic when the signifier ‘terrorism’ is used to depict an armed struggle of ethno-nationalistic groups for independent self-governance. This is because struggle against ‘terrorism’ justifies a completely different arsenal of response strategies, which might lack legitimacy when countering separatism. This problem becomes apparent when states respond to separatism by manipulating the fear of terrorism to justify undemocratic actions in the name of national security. Using as a case study the post-Maidan confrontation in the East of Ukraine and analyzing related coverage by three political websites, this paper discusses how the discourse of terrorism has been formed within the public sphere of Ukraine.