Skip to content Skip to navigation

Martha Crenshaw

Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies

Martha Crenshaw is a senior fellow at CISAC and FSI and a professor of political science by courtesy at Stanford. She was the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor of Global Issues and Democratic Thought and professor of government at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., where she taught from 1974 to 2007. She has written extensively on the issue of political terrorism; her first article, "The Concept of Revolutionary Terrorism," was published in the Journal of Conflict Resolution in 1972. Her recent work includes “Trajectories of terrorism: Attack patterns of foreign groups that have targeted the United States, 1970–2004,” in Criminology & Public Policy, 8, 3 (August 2009) (with Gary LaFree and Sue-Ming Yang), “The Obama Administration and Counterterrorism,” in Obama in Office: the First Two Years, ed. James Thurber (Paradigm Publishers, 2011), and “Will Threats Deter Nuclear Terrorism?” in Deterring Terrorism: Theory and Practice, ed. Andreas Wenger and Alex Wilner (Stanford University Press, 2012). She is also the editor of The Consequences of Counterterrorism (Russell Sage Foundation, 2010). In 2011 Routledge published Explaining Terrorism, a collection of her previously published work.

She served on the Executive Board of Women in International Security and is a former President and Councilor of the International Society of Political Psychology (ISPP). She coordinated the working group on political explanations of terrorism for the 2005 Club de Madrid International Summit on Democracy, Terrorism and Security. In 2005-2006 she was a Guggenheim Fellow. Since 2005 she has been a lead investigator with the National Center for the Study of Terrorism and the Response to Terrorism (START) at the University of Maryland, funded by the Department of Homeland Security. In 2009 she was awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation/Department of Defense Minerva Initiative for a project on "mapping terrorist organizations." She serves on the editorial boards of the journals International Security, Political Psychology, Security Studies, Dynamics of Asymmetric Conflict, Orbis, and Terrorism and Political Violence. She recently served as a member of the Committee on Evaluating the Effectiveness of the Global Nuclear Detection Architecture of the National Academies of Science.
Academic Appointments: 
Honors and Awards: 
Woodrow Wilson Fellow, Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation (1967)
Fellowship for Independent Study and Research, National Endowment for the Humanities (1977-1978)
Fellow, Richardson Institute for Conflict and Peace Research (London) (1977-1978)
Fellowship (declined), American Council of Learned Societies (1982-1983)
Postdoctoral Fellowship, Russell Sage Foundation (1982-1983)
Research Grant, Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation (1987-1988)
Project Grant, Ford Foundation (1987-1989)
Scholar, Institute for East-West Security Studies (1987-1988)
Outstanding Alumna Award,, Newcomb College (1989)
Pew Faculty Fellowship, Wesleyan University (1992-1993)
Research Grants, United States Institute of Peace (1995-1996, 1998)
Award for Teaching Excellence, Wesleyan University (1995)
Nevitt Sanford Award for Distinguished Scientific Contribution, International Society of Political Psychology (2004)
Fellowship, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (2005)
Jeanne Knutson Award in Recognition of Long-Standing Service to the Society, International Society of Political Psychology (2005)
National Science Foundation Award, NSCC/SA “Mapping Terrorist Organizations”, National Science Foundation (2009-2012)
Distinguished Scholar Award, International Studies Association International Security Section (2016)
Ph.D., University of Virginia (1973)
B.A., Newcomb College of Tulane University (1967)
Academic and Contact Information
Alternate Contact: 
Research & Scholarship
Mapping Militants, Stanford University (2009 - Present)
Mapping Militants

Interactive website tracing relationships among militant groups in armed conflicts. See


Iraq, Syria, Yemen, North Africa, Pakistan, Colombia, Sri Lanka

Courses Taught: 
Academic Year: 
Independent Study Courses: 
Senior Thesis
INTNLREL 198 (Aut, Win, Spr)
Academic Year: 
Independent Study Courses: 
Senior Thesis
INTNLREL 198 (Aut, Win, Spr)
Academic Year: 
Independent Study Courses: 
Academic Year: 
Independent Study Courses: 
Terrorism Research: The Record INTERNATIONAL INTERACTIONS Crenshaw, M. 2014; 40 (4): 556-567
The Long View of Terrorism CURRENT HISTORY Crenshaw, M. 2014; 113 (759): 40-42
Will Threats Deter Nuclear Terrorism? Deterring Terrorism Crenshaw , M. Stanford Security Studies. 2012
Explaining Terrorism: Causes, Processes, and Consequences Crenshaw , M. Routledge . 2011
Consequences of Counterterrorism, The edited by Crenshaw , M. Russell Sage Foundation . 2010
The Consequences of Counterterrorism Crenshaw , M. The Russell Sage Foundation. 2010
Intimations of Mortality or Production Lines? The Puzzle of "Suicide Terrorism" POLITICAL PSYCHOLOGY Crenshaw, M. 2009; 30 (3): 359-364
Trajectories of Terrorism: Attack Patterns of Foreign Groups That Have Targeted The United States, 1970-2004 Criminology & Public Policy Crenshaw, M., LaFree, G., Yang, S. 2009; 8 (3): 445-473
The Debate over "New" vs. "Old" Terrorism Conference on Values and Violence - Intangible Aspects of Terrorism Crenshaw, M. SPRINGER. 2008: 117–136
What Should This Fight Be Called? Metaphors of Counterterrorism and Their Implications. Psychological science in the public interest Kruglanski, A. W., Crenshaw, M., Post, J. M., Victoroff, J. 2007; 8 (3): 97-133


This monograph examines from a psychological perspective the use of metaphors in framing counterterrorism. Four major counterterrorism metaphors are considered, namely those of war, law enforcement, containment of a social epidemic, and a process of prejudice reduction. The war metaphor is as follows: Wars are fought by states; the enemy is thus an identifiable entity whose interests fundamentally oppose your own. The conflict is zero-sum-the outcome will be victory for one side or the other-and there is no compromise. The war metaphor is totalistic and extreme. Arguably, it was adopted in light of the immensity of damage and national hurt produced by the 9/11 attack. It has insinuated itself into the public discourse about counterterrorism, and it has guided policy, but it has also met challenges because of lack of fit and the availability of counteranalogies with different lessons of history. Some of the drawbacks of the war metaphor are addressable in the law enforcement metaphor of counterterrorism. Unlike war's special status and circumscribed duration, law enforcement is an ongoing concern that must compete for resources with other societal needs. A major advantage of law enforcement over warfare is its focused nature-targeting the actual terrorists, with less likelihood of injuring innocent parties. Yet despite its advantages, the law enforcement metaphor exhibits a partial mismatch with the realities of terrorism. Its complete and uncritical adoption may temporarily hamper terrorists' ability to launch attacks without substantially altering their motivation to do so. The public health epidemiological model was usefully applied to the epidemic of terror that followed the 9/11 attacks. It utilizes a partition between (a) an external agent, (b) a susceptible host, (c) an environment that brings them together, and (d) the vector that enables transmission of the disease. In the specific application to jihadist terrorism, the agent refers to the militant Islamist ideology, the susceptible host refers to radicalizable Muslim populations, the environment refers to conditions that promote the readiness to embrace such ideology, and the vectors are conduits whereby the ideology is propagated. The epidemiological metaphor has its own advantages over the war and law enforcement metaphors, but also limitations. Whereas the latter metaphors neglect the long-range process of ideological conversion and radicalization that creates terrorists, the epidemiological metaphor neglects the "here and now" of counterterrorism and the value of resolute strikes and intelligence-gathering activities needed to counter terrorists' concrete schemes and capabilities. Framing counterterrorism as the process of prejudice reduction addresses the interaction between two communities whose conflict may breed terrorism. This framing shifts the focus from a unilateral to a bilateral concern and acknowledges the contribution to intergroup tensions that the party targeted by terrorists may make. A major tool of prejudice reduction is the creation of positive contact between members of the conflicted groups. Efforts at prejudice reduction via positive contact need to take place in the context of a larger set of policies, such as those concerning immigration laws, educational programs, and foreign policy initiatives designed to augment the good-will-generating efforts of optimal-contact programs. For all its benefits, the prejudice-reduction framework is also not without its drawbacks. Specifically, the positive-contact notion highlights the benefits of mere human interaction; it disregards differences in ideological beliefs between the interacting parties, thereby neglecting an element that appears essential to producing their estrangement and reciprocal animosity. Too, like the epidemiological metaphor, the prejudice-reduction framing takes the long view, thereby neglecting the "here and now" of terrorism and the need to counter specific terrorist threats. Thus, each of the foregoing frameworks captures some aspects of counterterrorism's effects while neglecting others. Accordingly, an integrated approach to counterterrorism is called for, one that exploits the insights of each metaphor and avoids its pitfalls. Such an approach would maximize the likelihood of enlightened decision making concerning contemplated counterterrorist moves given the complex tradeoffs that each such move typically entails.

View details for DOI 10.1111/j.1539-6053.2008.00035.x

View details for PubMedID 26161891

"Explaining suicide terrorism: A review essay" SECURITY STUDIES Crenshaw, M. 2007; 16 (1): 133-162
What Should This Fight Be Called? Metaphors of Counterterrorism and Their Implications Psychological Science in the Public Interest Kruglanski, A. W., Crenshaw, M., Post, J. M., Victoroff, J. 2007; 8 (1): 97-133
Coercive Diplomacy and the Response to Terrorism The United States and Coercive Diplomacy Crenshaw , M. United States Institute of Peace. 2003: 305-357
Terrorism and International Conflict Handbook of War Studies Crenshaw , M. University of Michigan Press . 2000
Encyclopedia of World Terrorism Crenshaw , M., Pimlott , J. M . E. Sharpe. 1997
Why Violence is Rejected or Renounced : A Case Study of Oppositional Terrorism The Natural History of Peace Crenshaw , M. Vanderbilt University Press . 1996
Terrorism in Context edited by Crenshaw , M. Pennsylvania University State Press . 1995
The Effectiveness of Terrorism in t he Algerian War Terrorism in Context Crenshaw , M. 1995
Terrorism in Africa edited by Crenshaw , M. G.K. Hall/Maxwell Macmillan International,. 1994
Crisis in Algeria Mediterranean Politics Crenshaw, M. 1994 ; 1: 191-211
Organized Disorder : Terrorism, Politics and Society The Democratic Imagination and the Social Science Persuasion Rist , R. C. Transaction Press. 1994
Political Violence in Algeria Terrorism and Political Violence Crenshaw , M. 1994 ; 6 (3): 261-280
Current Research on Terrorism : The Academic Perspective Studies in Conflict and Terrorism Crenshaw , M. 1992; 15 (1): 1-11
Decisions to Use Terrorism : Psychological Constraints on Instrumental Reasoning Social Movements and Violence: Participation in Underground Organizations Crenshaw , M. JAI Press Inc. . 1992
Current Research on Terrorism : The Academic Perspective Studies in Conflict and Terrorism Crenshaw , M. 1992; 15 (1): 1-11
How Terrorists Think : Psychological Contributions to Understanding Terror ism Terrorism : Roots, Impact, Responses Crenshaw , M. Praeger . 1992
How Terrorism Declines Terrorism and Political Violence Crenshaw, M. 1991 ; 3 (1): 69-87
The Logic of Terrorism : Terrorism as the Product of Strategic Choice Origins of Terrorism : Psychologies, Ideologies, Theologies, States of Mind Crenshaw , M. Cambridge University Press . 1990
Questions to be Answered, Research to be Done, Knowledge t o be Applied Origins of Terrorism : Psychologies, Ideologies, Theologies, States of Mind Crenshaw, M. Cambridge University Press . 1990
On Terrorism and Counterterrorism Security and Arms Control Crenshaw , M. Greenwood PRess . 1989: 169-295
Terrorism and International Cooperation Crenshaw , M. Westview PRess . 1989
The Subjective Reality of the Terrorist Current Perspectives on International Terrorism Crenshaw, M. St. Martin's . 1988
Theories of Terrorism : Instrumental and Or ganizational Approaches Journal of Strategic Studies Crenshaw , M. 1987; 10 (4)
The Psychology of Political Terrorism Political Psychology: Contemporary Problems and ISsues Crenshaw, M. Jossey-BAss. 1986: 379-413
The Persistence of IRA Terrorism Terrorism in Ireland Crenshaw, M. St. Martin's . 1984
Terrorism, Legitimacy, and Power : The Consequences of Political Violence edited by Crenshaw , M. Wesleyan University Press . 1983
Revolutionary Ter rorism : The FLN in Algeria, 1954 - 1962 Crenshaw [Hutchinson], M. Hoover Institution Press . 1978
Defining Future Threat: Terrorists and Nuclear Prol iferation Terrorism : Interdisciplinary Perspectives Crenshaw , M. The John Jay Press . 1977 : 298-316
Transnational Terrorism and World Politics Jerusalem Journal of International Relations Aoki , M. 1975; I (2): 109-129
The Concept of Revolut ionary Terrorism Journal of Conflict Resolution Crenshaw [Hutchinson], M. 1972; XVI (3): 383-396