This semester, the Scripps College Humanities Institute will present a series of programs around the theme “The ‘War on Terror’: 15 Years Later.” Professor of Anthropology and chair of the department Lara Deeb, who directs the institute, hopes to encourage students to look critically at U.S. policies, both abroad and at home, related to the “global war on terror” that President George W. Bush declared after the 2001 al-Qaeda attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Deeb has organized a series of workshops and discussions featuring scholars, activists, and artists whose work focuses on or intersects with issues such as foreign policy, immigration, national security, and civil liberties.
“It’s an honor to be able to bring a group of fantastic scholars and activists to the Scripps campus, and to teach in direct conversation and engagement with them,” she said.
One such scholar is University of Chicago Professor of Anthropology Joseph Masco, who visited Scripps on September 20 for a talk titled “Anticipatory States and Planetary Peril.”
“Masco’s most recent book, The Theater of Operations (2014), looks comparatively at relationship between ideas about ‘national security’ and emotions like fear during the War on Terror and the Cold War,” explains Deeb.
“One of the questions he’s answering is the series’ question about what aspects of the War on Terror are new and what aspects are a continuation of prior U.S. security ideas and practices.”
On October 11, historian and journalist Vijay Prashad will deliver a talk titled “The Global War on Terror from the Standpoint of its Victims.” A professor of international studies at Trinity College, Connecticut, Prashad regularly covers Middle East politics for international publications including The Nation, The Guardian, Frontline, and The Hindu. Other events include a lecture on October 6 by artist Molly Crabapple about her work on Guantanamo Bay prisoners, and a talk by University of California, Santa Barbara, Professor of Sociology Lisa Hajjar on November 10 about the United States’ use of torture over the past decade and a half.
Deeb notes that the attacks of 9/11, and the subsequent invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, occurred when most Scripps students were barely in elementary school, with the post-9/11 context the only reality they know.
“I’ve come to realize that many students view the current state of things like airport security, surveillance of U.S. citizens, and the existence of ‘terror alerts’ as the norm,” Deeb said.
“One of the goals of this series is to remind us all that there have been significant changes since 2001 that include both major U.S. wars and military actions and changes to how U.S. citizens experience their daily lives. If we can understand how we got here, perhaps we can think more clearly about how to create better change in the future.”
Although spring semester of Humanities Institute programs has a different theme, “Walls, Borders, and Fences,” Deeb has planned events so that the speakers from both semesters complement each other, looking broadly at the relationship between the U.S. and the world.
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