Michael Roberts ….. This article appeared first in Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, 2007, vol. 30: 857-88.with the title “Suicide Missions as Witnessing: Expansions, Contrasts” and is reproduced here with its original American English spelling. The re-working of this article was seen to by Ms Nadeeka Paththuwaarachchi of Battaramulla. The pictorial images are embellishments that were not part of the original essay. I have also added highlighting emphasis in orange as well as a few hyperlinks to other standard sources of information. The bibliographical references are within the End Notes as in the original format.
ABSTRACT: Studies of suicide missions usually focus solely on attacks. They also have highlighted the performative character of suicide missions as acts of witness. By extending surveys to suicidal acts that embrace no-escape attacks, theatrical assassination, defensive suicide, and suicidal protest, one gains further insight into the motivations of individuals and organizations. Illustrative studies, notably the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi and Sadat as well as Tamil Tiger operations, generate a typology that underlines the benefits of such extensions. The Japanese and Tamil contexts reveal the profound differences in readings of sacrificial acts of atonement or punishment by local constituencies. Norman Morrison in Washington in 1965 and Jan Palach in Prague in 1969 did not have such beneficial settings and the immediate ramifications of their protest action were limited. Morrison’s story highlights the significance of a societal context of individuated rationalism as opposed, say, to the “pyramidical corporatism” encouraging martyrdom operations in the Islamic world.