The structure of Stern’s book is crucial: it takes the form of the interview. This already tells the reader about the methodological approach of Stern’s anthropology and sociology: she does not want to create a speculative approach, based on “off the shelf” theoretical concepts from anthropology, sociology and political science, to then map unto the existing religious terrorist phenomenon. Rather, she wants to let those involved in these actions to speak for themselves, providing a viewpoint upon how they themselves construe their decisions for terror.
Arguably, it can be interpreted that this gives Stern a credibility which shows itself in the revealing information she can extract from the interviewed subjects. There is a frankness to these interviews which show that the granting of an audience is precisely what the terrorist wants: the act of terror is an attempt to seize an audience, for Stern, since the terrorist has been alienated and humiliated. (5) Terrorism in other words is a response to alienation and humiliation, just as much as it is a response to religious doctrine.
Stern accordingly portrays herself as someone who is not contributing to the alienation and humiliation of the terrorist by letting the terrorist speak. This allows her to create a frank and enlightening dialogue with the terrorists in the book. Accordingly, the terrorists do not view her as an enemy, a representative of the West (although she worked for the Council on Foreign Relations, one of the most prominent neo-conservative groups), but as a type of social scientist. She is not seen as a female or a male, but as someone who gives the terrorist the audience they need: there is nothing about this method that is related to her own gender, but rather a commitment to a particular method.
Stern, Jessica. Why Religious Militants Kill: Terror in the Name of God. New York: HarperCollins, 2003.