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

Public Talk – Michael Deutsch

October 27, 2016
12:15 pm

Hampton Room
Malott Commons
Scripps College

Representing and Defending Political Activists in U.S. Courts in the Age of Terrorism

Mr. Deutsch will discuss the emergence of Federal and State "terrorism" laws, including sentencing enhancements, special court secrecy and security procedures and the use of Grand Jury inquisitions which target and criminalize political activists involved in international solidarity work and domestic protests and demonstrations.

Michael Deutsch is a renowned human rights attorney with the Chicago "People's  Law Office," and a past Legal Director of the New York based "Center for Constitutional Rights." Mr. Deutsch a public interest lawyer of the year has served on the legal teams of the rebelling Attica prisoners and Puerto Rican independence activists, has challenged the use of special high security prison control units, and has successfully defended Black prisoners facing the death penalty. Most recently Mr. Deutsch has represented Palestinian activists in the United States and "Occupy" demonstrators falsely accused under Federal and State terrorism statutes.