What do you do, as an intellectual, when your primary community of family, friends, village, or country produces ‘terrorists’? What is your intellectual task – to define them, to diagnose them, to condemn them, to persuade them, to understand them, to exorcise them? Should you look at it as tragedy, irony, farce, romance, or sheer crime? Whether in the Basque Country, Ireland or the United States, intellectual approaches to ‘terrorism’ are of necessity enmeshed in the writer’s self-definitions and ideological investments. The result is that various readings and approaches to the phenomenon of terrorism are likely to produce antagonistic intellectuals. Given the logic of taboo and association by contagion that is typical of terrorism discourse, we might even ask whether ‘expertise’ on the terrorist Other presupposes a wilful ignorance of the actual life conditions and subjectivities of the violent actors.