START Webinar Series: Defining Terrorism



A recording of this event is available at this link

On Tuesday, May 26 at 12 p.m. ET, START Graduate Studies Director Marcus Boyd provided a virtual lecture on “Defining Terrorism.” If you have any questions, please email the START events team at

When we talk about terrorism, we often assume that others know what we mean and share the same definition. The words “terrorism” and “terrorist” tell us just as much about the person using the terms as it does about who they are describing. The terms and the tactics flow like a thread through history, but a comprehensive definition remains elusive. This talk, based on a lecture from START’s Graduate Certificate in Terrorism Analysis, delves into the difficulties and pitfalls of defining terrorism. By linking social theory and philosophical thought, we can begin to critically examine why a universal definition of terrorism remains just out of reach. 

Marcus is the graduate studies director and head of geospatial analysis at START where he oversees research relating to terrorism, illicit finance, and GIScience. He has advanced methodological training in spatial statistics, demography, sociology, and geographic information systems. His primary research interests are economic geography and regional science, spatial inequality, and illicit spaces. His research has been funded by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the National Science Foundation, the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, and others. Prior to coming to START, he served in a variety of roles supporting various agencies of the U.S. Government. Marcus completed his PhD in Earth Systems and Geoinformation Sciences at George Mason University. His dissertation research focused on the interplay between terrorist attacks, illicit finance, and illicit spaces.