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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Roots of terrorism

Anthropologist Seeks the Roots of Terrorism

In spite of massive challenges, Scott Atran has managed to conduct extensive field interviews with would-be and convicted terrorists

Scott Atran during a visit to Damascus to conduct fieldwork.

Credit: Richard Davis/Artis Research
In the wake of terrorist attacks last week on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a Paris supermarket, the world has struggled to understand the combination of religion, European culture and influence from terrorist organizations that drove the gunmen. Scott Atran, an anthropologist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris, studies such questions by interviewing would-be and convicted terrorists about their extreme commitment to their organizations and ideals. Atran recently returned from Paris, where he talked with members of the shooters’ communities. He spoke with Nature about what he discovered.

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