The changing nature of suicide attacks: A social network perspective

Ami Pedahzur, Arie Perliger

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


To comprehend the developments underlying the suicide attacks of recent years, we suggest that the organizational approach, which until recently was used to explain this phenomenon, should be complemented with a social network perspective. By employing a social network analysis of Palestinian suicide networks, we have found that, in contrast to prevailing perceptions which view suicide attacks as a product of strategic decisions made within organizational frameworks, decisions have actually been made, to a great extent, by local activists, and struggles between heal and family groups have proved to be the best predictor of their actions in this context. We also found that the peripheral nature of suicide bombers has been a characteristic common to most networks. Finally, we have found that the existence of cohesive subgroups, as well as the number of hubs in a network, has an influence on the network's effectiveness. We conclude the paper by showing that the method of network analysis can also be of considerable assistance from the standpoint of dealing with suicide attacks. On the one hand, this is possible by identifying the network's central figures who are essential for its continued existence, and on the other, we identify the grassroots factors responsible for the emergence of these networks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1987-2008
Number of pages22
JournalSocial Forces
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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