By Rajini Srikanth

About Rajini Srikanth

Rajini Srikanth is Professor of English, affiliated faculty in the Asian American Studies Program, and Dean of the Honors College at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. She has authored two monographs, Constructing the Enemy: Empathy/Antipathy in U.S. Literature and Law (2012) and The World Next Door: South Asian American Literature and the Idea of America (2004), and co-edited several collections, including White Women in Racialized Spaces: Imaginative Transformation and Ethical Action in Literature (2002).


“Terrorism” comes from the Latin word terrorem, meaning “great fear, dread.” The Oxford English Dictionary (1971) marks 1795 as the first time the word was used, in the phrase “reign of terrorism,” to refer to the “government by intimidation as directed and carried out by the party in power in France during the Revolution of 1789–94.” The reference is to Maximilian Robespierre, a member of the Jacobin political club that overthrew the French monarchy; Robespierre terrorized opponents who, in his view, undermined the objectives of the revolution (Mayer 2000; Žižek 2011).

Terrorism seeks the following outcomes: “regime change, territorial change, policy change, social control, and status quo maintenance” (Kydd and Walter 2006, 52). Types of terrorism include “state-sponsored terrorism, religious terrorism, suicide terrorism, transnational terrorism, and homegrown terrorism” (Mahan and Griset 2008, xiii).

The earliest Asian American victims of terrorism were Chinese immigrants who were targeted by anti-Chinese groups …

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