Terrorism focus of new series

Students gathered in remembrance in front of Miller Library at 9:11 p.m. on the tenth anniversary of September 11, 2001.

As a response to the tenth anniversary of September 11, the College’s annual humanities theme for the 2011-2012 academic year is “Reflections of Terrorism.” This theme will be explored through coursework, roundtable discussions, film screenings and other on-campus events.

Last year, Assistant Professor of German Cyrus Shahan first considered having a roundtable and a film series about terrorism in order to raise awareness about the topic. After collaborating with other professors in the humanities division, the idea was expanded and selected as the annual theme.

The first event in accordance with the theme was a read-in in the Pulver Pavilion on Monday, Sept. 12. Thirty members of Colby’s faculty and staff read from a variety of documents including personal reflections, obituaries, excerpts from the 9/11 Commission Report and speeches that Presidents Bush and Obama have given on the subject.

“We’re hoping... that people will stop through, stop, pause, listen, reflect, and that will be a way both to mourn the people all over the world who have died as a result of September 11,” Assistant Professor of Philosophy Lydia Moland said. “But also to open up some of these greater questions about what the history of terrorism is, what the definition is, what the future is of this thing that impacts our world so much.”

This semester, classes such as “Introduction to International Relations,” “Francophone Cultures and Literatures of the Americas,” “Moral Philosophy” and “Evil in Modern Literature, Film and Thought” all include terrorism as a topic of discussion. These classes are available as a part of the College’s regular yearly course catalogue, and students usually take one or more as a part of a major in government, global studies, philosophy and more.

Shahan is also teaching a one-credit independent study entitled “Terror on Film” to explore the media and cultural presentations of terrorism as a theme. A significant number of students expressed their interest in this course via e-mail and other means before its launch. The film screenings are weekly or bi-weekly, depending on the week, and began with a showing of A History of Violence on Sept. 13. The Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement provided the funding for these showings.

The discussion of terrorism is “a naturally interdisciplinary subject,” Moland said. The topic can be examined through the use of literature, philosophy, psychology, politics and history. “History is a very important player just looking at the many instances of terrorism…starting with the French Revolution where the word ‘terror’ was first used to designate political violence,” Moland said.

Moland also mentioned the relatively new bridge between the topic of terrorism and the sciences. Bioterrorism, nuclear terrorism, ecoterrorism and cyberterrorism are all integrated into the landscape of the international concern about terrorism.

The humanities division is planning a second roundtable next semester with a focus in the scientific aspects of terrorism to greater explore the interdisciplinary implications of terrorism. “It’s a way of getting the whole community to share what each different discipline can bring to this topic and have us talking together in very intense ways,” Moland said.

The humanities division plans to continue adopting an interdisciplinary, year-long theme in the future. Comedy is scheduled to be the 2012-2013 theme.

All of the film screenings are free, open to the public and take place in Diamond 141 at 7 p.m. The next showing is of The Rider Named Death on Sept. 21. Jerry Miller of Haverford College will also give a talk entitled “How We Became Immune to Terrorism” on Thursday, Sept. 22 at 4 p.m. A full schedule of film screenings and related events is available online at