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.

Calendar of Events

The full calendar of public events for this semester is available here.

Coming Soon

Public Lecture- Joseph Masco

September 20, 2016
4:15pm

Balch Auditorium
Scripps College

Anticipatory States and Planetary Peril

What are the emerging impacts of “pre-emption” as a key policy of the post-9/11 counter-terror state in the United States? In this lecture, Joseph Masco – professor at the University of Chicago and author of two award-winning books – traces the emergence of anticipatory governance from the Cold War to the War on Terror and considers the implications of pre-emption policy across a range of new objects and populations.  Masco argues that one of the lasting effects of the war on terror is a changed relationship to the future, and tracks a series of case studies that demonstrate the unforeseen aspects of pre-emption.

Joseph Masco is Professor of Anthropology and of the Social Sciences in the College writes and teaches courses on science and technology, U.S. national security culture, political ecology, mass media, and critical theory. He is the author of The Nuclear Borderlands: The Manhattan Project in Post-Cold War New Mexico (Princeton University Press, 2006), which won the Rachel Carson Prize from the Society for the Social Studies of Science and the Robert K. Merton Prize from the Section on Science, Knowledge and Technology of the American Sociology Association, and the J.I. Staley Prize from the School for Advanced Research. His most recent book is The Theater of Operations: National Security Affect from the Cold War to the War on Terror.  His current work focuses on the interplay between affect, technology, and threat perception on topics ranging from policing to national security to the environment.