The Process of Personality Radicalization Regarding Re-deification or De-deification of a Suicidal Terrorist (Case History: John Updike’s the Terrorist)

Dragana R. Mašović


The paper represents a study of the process of radicalization as that of ideological socialization by whichpersonality is transformed from a normal to extra-normal one (Sprinzak) due to the use of violencewithout moral restraints (Schmid), especially in the case of suicidal terrorists. Since it is a very complex phenomenon, with numerous social, ideological, cultural and other causes, the paper is focused on onepossible model analyzed with respect to the referential (not all-inclusive but relevant) theoretical works,elaborated in the novel The Terrorist by John Updike which in itself, with its open ending, points tomany other possibilities, conceptualizations and categorizations. The goal of this paper is to inquire into,by critical reading as appropriate method, a literary-sociological construct which is here primarilydefined as a form of micro analysis of psycho-social structure of the personality of a potential suicidal terrorist. Starting from Sprinzak, Moghadam and other theorists, the radicalization process is interpreted asunfolding in phases, from the initial crisis of confidence till the final suicidal or/and homicidal actionwithin a respective environment. A somewhat similar format is implied in some of the aspects of theabove mentioned novel, an engaged literary work written with the intention to support literature’s hopeto serve wider culture (Batchelor). This “wider culture” is represented in an extremely critical way aswell as an in-depth analysis of the profile of a potential terrorist illustrating the theoretical assumptionsof the radicalization process. In this way the writer becomes an analyst as well giving his owncontribution to the psychological analysis of the phenomenon but with the remark that his work, whilemerging fiction, psycho-sociological and cultural studies, also becomes open for debate and all sorts ofdifferent interpretations.


Radicalization; Violence; Terrorist; Terrorism; Ideology

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