“[Lewis] has penned a fascinating and frightening story of a sinister world that is bent on toppling governments and entire societies…” — Military Heritage, December 2012
"The Business of Martyrdom is a welcome addition to the literature and deserves a wide reading. Summing up: Highly recommended."—Choice Magazine , December 2012
“Lewis has provided a highly valuable service to the field of terrorism studies. The Business of Martyrdom is a thoroughly researched, well written, and well-argued book–one that ranks among the most important and comprehensive works published on this topic to date.”—Perspectives on Terrorism, August 2012
The Business of Martyrdom is the only comprehensive history available of suicide bombing from its origins in Imperial Russia to the present day. The book examines not only the bombers themselves but the users of suicide bombers—the organizations that train and sponsor them—to explain differences in suicide bombing over time and from region to region. Writing for a broad audience, the author draws on the history and philosophy of technology to explain the diffusion and evolution of suicide bombing, pulling together recent literature on the subject and reconciling explanations that seem to be at odds with one another.
Lewis presents a model for suicide bombing that integrates individual psychology, organizational motivations, and social support. He argues that suicide bombing is a technology that has been invented and re-invented at different times in different areas but always for the same purpose: resolving a mismatch in military capabilities between antagonists by utilizing the available cultural and human resources. To explain inconsistencies, he examines suicide bombing as a technological system that integrates human beings, cultures, and devices and directs them toward specific ends. He views suicide bombers as components within a much larger system that has been shaped by a host of social, cultural, and operational constraints throughout its existence. Incorporating insights from the historical analysis of other technological systems with current thinking on suicide bombing, the book helps readers develop a full appreciation of the unified yet diverse phenomenon. His explanations of the global decline in suicide bombing and the success of some countries in reducing the threat of suicide bombing add significantly to a better understanding of the subject.
Jeffrey William Lewis teaches in the Undergraduate International Studies Program at The Ohio State University and focuses on international security issues. He earned his PhD from Ohio State in 2002 and was the recipient of a Fulbright Hays Grant for doctoral research and a guest scholar of Germany’s Max Planck Society for the Advancement of the Sciences. In 2007 he received a postdoctoral research fellowship from the START Center (Studies on Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism) at the University of Maryland. He lives in Columbus, OH.
Advance Praise for The Business of Martyrdom
“If The Business of Martyrdom was only a comprehensive history of suicide bombing, it would be an essential text. But it is much more than that. A standout, groundbreaking contribution in a crowded market, Jeffrey Lewis has done something very special. This is an ambitious, fresh interpretation of suicide bombing as 'technology', constantly invented and re-invented, deployed throughout history at different times and in different places. Lewis has provided an exciting and intriguing new agenda for researchers and consumers alike who need to understand how suicide terrorism grows, innovates and diffuses. A wonderful, necessary, and extremely valuable contribution.”
—DR. JOHN HORGAN, Director of the International Center for the Study of Terrorism, Penn State University, author of The Psychology of Terrorism and Walking Away from Terrorism
“Suicide bombings, with their reliance on uncompromising self sacrifice and random violence, are emblematic of contemporary terrorism and the public fear connected to it. Lewis shines a critical light on this vicious yet spellbinding behavior by situating it within the life cycle of a technology that was invented, diffused and eventually went global.”
—GARY LAFREE, Director, National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), University of Maryland
“In this lucid, theoretically informed study, Jeffrey Lewis illustrates that suicide bombing is a technological process that involves not just the individual bombers that detonate their explosives, but the organizations and cultures that produce them. Suicide bombers are not born, they’re made, constructed by cultures of martyrdom that persuade them to sacrifice themselves, and others, for their cause and organizational innovations that turn them into intelligent detonation systems that scan their environment for behavioral cues and respond accordingly, often with devastating results. Drawing on organization theory and the philosophy of technology, Lewis develops a ground-breaking theoretical framework that explains the rise, spread, and ultimately decline of this technological process. Then, in what amounts to the most comprehensive history of suicide bombing to date, he applies his innovation and diffusion framework to an impressive array of case studies, including the People’s Will in 19th Century Russia, Shia militant groups in war torn Lebanon during the 1980s, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka, Palestinian suicide bombers since the 1990s, and al Qaeda and the broader jihadist movement of today. In doing so, he deftly combines theory and history to produce a first-rate study, one that resolves some of the current debates plaguing the academic literature on suicide terrorism while contributing to our understanding of this deadly real-world phenomenon. The Business of Martyrdom is an engaging—and important—piece of scholarship, one that will be profitably read by scholars and policymakers alike.”
—MICHAEL KENNEY, PH.D., Associate Professor of International Affairs, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Pittsburgh; author of From Pablo to Osama