The Humanities Institute

Founded in 1986, the Humanities Institute presents a thematic program each semester on a topic related to the humanities. As part of Scripps’ tradition of interdisciplinary education, this program includes lectures, conferences, exhibitions, performances, and film series bringing prominent and younger cutting-edge scholars to campus.

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Latest Program


The "War on Terror," 15 Years Later

September 2016 marks the fifteen-year anniversary of the al-Qaeda attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and U.S. President George W. Bush’s declaration that the United States was now engaged in a global “war on terror.” While President Barack Obama later moved away from that phrasing, his rhetorical shifts did not necessarily signal changes in policy or outlook. Nor did Bush’s initial declaration necessarily mark a new beginning; recall that the Reagan administration declared a “war on terrorism” in the 1980s. What, then, does it mean to think about the period from 2001-2016 as characterized by a global war on terror? How does this framework highlight important changes while masking key continuities in U.S. foreign and domestic policies related to “national security”? What can we learn by comparing the “war on terror” to the “war on drugs” and the “war on trafficking” and how are these declarations of global war related to one another?

Shifts in political rhetoric aside, over the past fifteen years, the U.S. has waged this global war through extrajudicial killings, detention in offshore sites, rendition, torture, and drone attacks, as well as two major wars that included troop deployments. Inside the U.S., this war has involved surveillance and monitoring of both citizens and non-citizens, arrests and deportations, and racial profiling that included “special registration” requirements for Arab students and visitors. Hate crimes and violence against Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians increased alongside growing Islamophobia and anti-Islam bigotry. And because the worlds inside and outside the United States are of course interconnected, the global war on terror has seen the exchange of policies and practices across our borders – most clearly in the militarization of police forces across the country and in the violence to which prisoners and detainees are subjected. What have the consequences of various aspects of the global war on terror been for different groups of people around the world, including in the U.S.? How have these events, practices, and policies affected people’s lives? What new forms of discrimination, policing, surveillance, and warfare have emerged, and how are these forms related to earlier ones?

During Fall 2016, the Scripps Humanities Institute seminar and programming will address these questions and topics. Events may include public lectures or films on Thursdays at 4:15 or 7pm, talks/conversations with faculty as part of the Tuesday Noon Academy, and student-only workshops (open to students outside the seminar as well) with activists, organizers, lawyers, and journalists. By engaging with a range of disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives, including anthropology, cultural studies, history, journalism, legal studies, media studies, sociology, and political science, we will begin to better understand how this global war on terror has – and has not – changed both the United States and the world in the twenty-first century.

Upcoming Event

Tuesday Noon Academy – Sumita Pahwa

November 1, 2016
12:15 pm

Hampton Room
Malott Commons
Scripps College Performing Arts Center

How Islamist Intellectuals, Activists and Militants Have Responded Differently to the West

Islamist activists in the Middle East have been fundamentally shaped by the political, intellectual and religious challenges that Western influence has posed to their societies over the past century. Starting with Muslim Brotherhood founder Hasan al-Banna’s mobilization against Western missionaries and colonialism, and the more radical Sayyid Qutb’s framing of secular, Western-backed governments as apostates, and tracing the influence of the U.S. role in Saudi Arabia and Iraq on the emergence of Al-Qaeda, and later Islamic State, this lecture explains how Western policy has been viewed through the lens of local religious politics to mobilize Islamist militancy over three generations. Sumita Pahwa teaches Middle East politics and religious politics at Scripps, and her research focuses on the evolution of Islamist movements in Egypt and Morocco.

Sumita Pahwa
, Assistant Professor of Politics, Scripps College, works on the comparative evolution of religiopolitical movements in the Middle East and South Asia and have done field research in Egypt and India. She is currently focusing on how Islamist movements in Egypt and other parts of North Africa have adapted to new political environments after the Arab Spring, and on comparative political transitions in Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco. Professor Pahwa has lived and worked in Cairo for the past three years. Her academic interests also include the politics of identity and religion in India and Pakistan and comparative secularisms in the Middle East, South Asia, Europe and North America.



This program is co- sponsored by the Scripps Humanities Institute and the Office of Public Events and Community Programs.