Rather than functioning as a final arbiter of justice, U.S. domestic courts are increasingly seen as counterterrorism tools that can incapacitate terrorists, maintain national security operations domestically, and produce certain narratives of conflict. Terrorism on Trial: Political Violence and Abolitionist Futures (University of Minnesota Press, 2023) by Dr. Nicole Nguyen examines the contemporary role that these courts play in the global war on terror and their use as a weapon of war: hunting, criminalising, and punishing entire communities in the name of national security.
Dr. Nguyen advocates for a rethinking of popular understandings of political violence and its root causes, encouraging readers to consider anti-imperial abolitionist alternatives to the criminalization, prosecution, and incarceration of individuals marked as real or perceived terrorists. She exposes how dominant academic discourses, geographical imaginations, and social processes have shaped terrorism prosecutions, as well as how our fundamental misunderstanding of terrorism has led to punitive responses that do little to address the true sources of violence, such as military interventions, colonial occupations, and tyrannical regimes. Nguyen also explores how these criminal proceedings bear on the lives of defendants and families, seeking to understand how legal processes unevenly criminalise and disempower communities of colour.
A retheorization of terrorism as political violence, Terrorism on Trial invites readers to carefully consider the role of power and politics in the making of armed resistance, addressing the root causes of political violence, with a goal of building toward a less violent and more liberatory world.
This interview was conducted by Dr. Miranda Melcher whose doctoral work focused on post-conflict military integration, understanding treaty negotiation and implementation in civil war contexts, with qualitative analysis of the Angolan and Mozambican civil wars.