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What we mean when we talk about terrorism: A chat with Rebecca Wolfe of Mercy Corps

Street scene in Mogadishu, the capital city of Somalia that, for many, represents the connections between violence and inequity. Photo credit African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM)

Rebecca Wolfe of Mercy Corps

For today’s Humanosphere podcast, we are talking with Rebecca J. Wolfe of Mercy Corps about how we talk about terrorism. No, that’s not a grammatical error. We wanted to ask Wolfe, a renowned behavioral scientist specializing in violence prevention, about the standard narrative around terrorism and if it over-simplifies or disguises some of the less-appreciated root causes of violent extremism – like inequity as opposed to just ideology. Spoiler alert: Wolfe believes we do need a better narrative and more precise language. Wolfe is currently director of Mercy Corps’ Peace and Conflict team, where she has developed and supported violence prevention or reduction programs in Africa, the Middle East, Central and South Asia, Southeast Asia and Latin America.

Wolfe has taught at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School for Public and International Affairs and at the Wagner School for Public Service at New York University. She received her PhD in Social Psychology from Harvard University. If you want to get a fresh, more nuanced perspective on terrorism or violent extremism, have a listen!

As always, before we get to our main interview, Humanosphere’s editor Tom Paulson and I explore some of the week’s news highlights (or low-lights, depending) beginning with the Trump Administration’s ill-received proposal to slash the budget for improving our relationships with the rest of the world. Specifically, as Tom Murphy reported in his story on the Less is More pitch from Sec. of State Rex Tillerson, we’re talking about the current regime’s suggestion to cut State Department and USAID funding by more than 30 percent.

In the good news category, we wanted to draw further attention to a story by Lisa Nikolau on Canada’s plan to shift much more of its foreign aid over time to specifically benefit women and girls. Hailed as ‘feminist foreign aid,’ the strategy is based on the belief, which is backed up by plenty of data, that you get more bang from the buck improving a community’s overall welfare when you support and empower women and girls.

Finally, in the not-so-good news category, Tom and I discuss two political stories by Joanne Lu that deserve a lot more attention: First, the Myanmar government’s crackdown on poor people living in slums and the Japanese government passing a ‘thought police’ law that reminded us of the movie Minority Report.

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About Author

Imana Gunawan

Imana Gunawan is Humanosphere's social media manager and podcast producer. A University of Washington graduate in journalism and dance, Imana's interests include underrepresented communities, the intersection between politics and culture, global-local issues and the arts. She can be reached at @imanafg on Twitter or