Fiat Lux Seminars: Perspectives Post 9/11
Winter Quarter 2002

Honor & Shame in the Clash of World Cultures

S. Scott Bartchy; History

  • Honor and shame are core cultural values for most of the world’s people, including most Muslims. Not understanding this fact has led to serious mistakes in the foreign policies of the USA, when based on the values of achievement and guilt.

Bin Laden and Terrorism outside the U.S.: The Case of Uzbekistan

Andras J.E Bodrogligeti; Near Eastern Languages and Cultures

  • In the post-Soviet period there was an attempt to establish an Islamic Republic in Uzbekistan. Islam Karimov’s resistance in the Namangan meeting of radical Muslims. On February 16 a group of Bin Laden’s agents carried out a concentrated attempt to kill President Karimov. What were the conspirators’ objectives? What measures did the Uzbek government take toward the danger of Asama Bin Laden efforts? Were the Wahhabites involved in the plot? Prospectives for the immediate future?

Fictions of Terror vs. Real Terror

Frederick Burwick

  • English In arguments about the pretensions of realist drama in the 18th century, it was said that if a real execution was taking place in the town square, the population would go there rather than watch a pretend execution in the theater. Does the population have a morbid curiosity to watch real gore and slaughter? What is the purpose of violence in film, drama, and literature? Since the frequency and extent of terror and violence in the arts is not a constant, presumably the degree of morbid fascination is related to social events. This seminar will discuss fictive terror as a phenomenon in the popular media in relation to incidents of actual terror.

War in the Nuclear Age

Nina Byers, Physics and Astronomy; James N. Yamazaki, Medicine – Pediatrics

  • History of first atomic bombing. Biological effects. Current problems.

Rethinking National Security

Albert Carnesale

  • Policy Studies During the Cold War, Americans saw the Soviet Union’s nuclear arsenal as the primary threat to U.S. security. With the collapse of the Soviet empire, and in the wake of catastrophic terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, two fundamental questions arise: (1) what are the near-term threats to the security of the U.S. and other nations?; and (2) how might those threats best be met?

Helping the Professional Helper

Colleen Friend; Social Welfare

  • The events of 9/11 have raised our awareness of victimization and the network of helpers who care for those victims. This seminar will examine the impact of another’s trauma on the helper (secondary trauma). We will explore individual, collective, and anticipatory strategies for addressing this.

Politics and Literature

Georgiana Galateanu; Slavic Languages and Literature

  • This seminar explores the impact that politics has on literature–on form, content, literary techniques. Short stories from totalitarian communist East-European countries and from the Middle East are analyzed. Students are encouraged to share their thoughts about the current state of events and the affect these events have on understanding literature in a political context. Seminar will meet every other Friday for two hours. First meeting will be January 11th.

Culture, Religion, and the Deferral of Violence

Eric Gans; French and Francophone Studies

  • Religion, the central institution of human culture, maintains order through the deferral of violence within the community–which often means the channeling of violence outside the community. The current crisis involves the interaction of all three “Abrahamic”religions–Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. I would like to explore how the different ways in which these religions conceive God’s relationship to their adherents and to those outside the faith aid us in understanding the current world situation.

America as Hyperpower

Geoffrey Garrett; Political Science

  • The US today is far more powerful than it was during the cold war, arguably more powerful than any country in history. There are many dimensions to America’s global dominance: commerce, politics, security, media and entertainment. People in the US, on the street and in Washington, believe that American power has been used benevolently, for the good of all the world. But reactions tend to be very different outside America, running the gamut from polite disgruntlement to mass protests, and finally to the tragic events of September 11. How has the US used its power since the end of the cold war? Why have many in the rest of the world reacted negatively to this? How should the US act in the coming years?

An ‘East’ and a ‘West’? Thinking about the ‘Clash of Civilizations’

James L. Gelvin; History

  • The purpose of this seminar is to examine recent writings about the ‘clash of civilizations,’ written by both Anglophone and Middle Eastern scholars, to put them into their historical context, and appraise their validity for understanding history and contemporary events.

Genetic Engineering Bioweapons: Reality or Hype?

Bob Goldberg; Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology

  • Can genetic engineering be used to manufacture biological weapons and/or counter their destructive effects? This seminar will explore the potential use and misuse of genetic engineering in biological warfare.

Responses to National and Personal Crisis in Modern Hebrew Poetry in Translation

Lev Hakak; Near Eastern Languages and Cultures

  • Modern Hebrew Literature relates to every national crisis. Poets wrote about pogroms, about the various wars of Israel and about the holocaust. Parents-poets wrote about their children who were killed in wars. The class will offer the reading of various modern Hebrew poems, which were responses to a national or personal crisis.

Representations of Afghan Women in the Media

Leigh Harris; Writing Programs

  • Readings will include “Radio Address by Laura Bush to the Nation,” reports published by mainstream media organizations including The Washington Post and Newsweek, and material produced by The Feminist Majority and the Revolutionary Afghan Women’s Association (RAWA). In addition, we hope to view the Saira Shah documentary Beneath the Veil.

Literature & Violence

Eric Jager; English

  • In this course we will consider exemplary representations of violence in Western literature–ancient, medieval, and modern — discussing their moral, religious, aesthetic, and political significance. Seminar will meet every other Wednesday evening for two hours. First meeting will be January 16th. Limited to students in the Residence Halls. Enrollment by consent of instructor.

Perceptions of America Abroad: Discussions with Visiting Fulbright Scholars from Around the World

Ann Kerr; Near East Studies

  • The events of September 11 have revealed a need for Americans to better understand how people from other countries see us. In an increasingly global society our large continent and two vast oceans on either side no longer insulate us from the rest of the world. This seminar will offer an opportunity to listen to our international scholars and to explore together impressions of America from many different countries.

Women, Politics, and Violence

Judith Magee; History

  • The course provides a framework for those who seek to understand the causes and outcomes of political violence with a particular focus on women. The course begins with defining terms and concepts including power, force, terrorism, revolution, and war. We will move onto an examination of specific historical examples of women’s participation in different modes of political violence.

Perspective – Sept. 11 – Understanding, Respecting and Honoring the First Amendment in a Terrorist Environment

Joseph D. Mandel; Law

  • An examination of judicial opinions and supplementary materials that address interpretations and applications of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution in the context of the country’s most politically charged and turbulent times.

Terrorism in the Context of Modern Theories of Violence: Literature, Culture, Theory

Robert Maniquis; English

  • Religious, political, and literary aspects of terror in its modern Western contexts. Seminar will meet every other Tuesday evening for two hours. First meeting will be January 15th.

Utopian Visions about Human Biology

John Merriam, Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology; John Campbell, Neurobiology

  • Belief in “Genetic determinism” frequently underlies aspects of human behavior, such as eugenics, racism and warfare. Examples of genetic determinism abound in literature, newspaper cartoons and films. We will examine these messages, and their scientific origins and scientific merit by comparing a classic book, Brave New World, and a contemporary movie, GATACA.

Terror and Its Psychological Impact

Alan Nagamoto; Psychology

  • The unprecedented acts of terror committed on September 11 will likely leave indelible images in our memories. In the wake of these shocking attacks and amidst rumors of additional attacks,there arises a unique opportunity for us to learn firsthand about psychological trauma and its many levels of impact. This seminar will focus on what is known about psychological trauma and how this particular tragedy might be impacting us as a nation as well as individually. We will track together the psychological effects of this tragedy as it continues to unfold in unpredictable ways. Students will be encouraged to research relevant articles and to articulate what new understanding can be found through this national tragedy.

Civil Disobedience as an Alternative to Violence in the Middle East and the U.S.

Frances Olsen; Law

  • Achieving peace by ending conflict, while desirable, often seems unrealistic. This seminar examines possibilities for shifting the arena for conflict from violence to non-violent civil disobedience.

The World Conference against Racism: Illusions, Collusions, and/or Opportunities

William D. Parham; Psychology

  • Thousands of participants, including world leaders and caucus groups representing populations from around the globe, attended the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (WCAR) that convened in Durban, South Africa, August 29 – September 8, 2001. Answers to questions regarding the “real” outcome of the conference vary depending on the respondents being queried. Factors contributing to the successes and failures of the WCAR will be identified and the implications for said outcomes will be examined. Course participants will then be invited to review post-Durban recommendations for change and subsequently encouraged to think about ways of translating said or course generated recommendations into concrete programs for our campus and our home communities.

Silence, Slogans, and Flags

Carol Petersen; Writing Programs

  • This seminar will focus on the limits and uses of words, images, symbols, and symbolic acts in dealing with September 11 and on-going related events. These are means of confronting what seems incomprehensible and threatening to us as individuals and as a country. Something basic changed for those of us living in the U.S.– and, in different ways and to various degrees, for others as well — on September 11, but we don’t know all that has changed or what that change will mean in the future. In this seminar we’ll analyze language and images used by the government, the media, and artists in the process of defining and giving meaning to current events. Seminar will meet every other Tuesday afternoon for two hours. First meeting will be January 15th.

Islam and the West

Ismail Poonawala; Near Eastern Languages and Culture

  • In the aftermath of tragic events of Sept. 11, stereotypical images of Islam as monolithic, inflexible, and militant persist in the mainstream news media. Moreover, academic experts, corporate and governmental policymakers see Islam as representing anti-Western to an inferior medieval culture, a dangerously enthusiastic religion threatening ‘our freedom and democracy.’ This seminar will explore the root causes of more than fourteen centuries of confrontation between Christian and Islamic cultural traditions.

Remembering 9/11: Creating an Oral Archive

Jan Reiff; History

  • Following the September 11 attacks, Columbia University launched a project to interview people across the country about that momentous day. This class will permit students to participate in this nationwide project by conducting two interviews and using them to explore how individual memories are formed and how those memories become the source for larger national memories and histories.

Globalization and its Discontents

Robert Rhoads, Education

This 1-unit course explores the diverse conceptualizations of “globalization” and why various groups around the world have mounted anti-globalization movements. Included is a focus on the economic, political, and cultural cross-national interconnections that have led to the popularization of the term “globalization.” In terms of “discontents,” we explore the  nature and significance of anti-globalization movements (including WTO, IMF, and World Bank protests). What is the rationale various groups offer for resisting increased cross-national interdependence. How can we understand these movements in light of diverse economic, political, and cultural perspectives? What are the perceived consequences for localism? What implications does globalization have for the nation-state? And, to what degree is globalization and resistance being reconfigured in light of the events of September 11? Seminar will meet every other Wednesday evening for two hours. First meeting will be January 9th. Biological and Chemical Weapons: Assessing the Terrorist Threat Ralph Robinson; Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics In the months following the Sept. 11 attacks, fears have increased concerning the release of biological or chemical weapons (BCW). We will examine the types of agents that terrorist groups would most likely try to use. A historical review of BCW use by armies and terrorist groups will demonstrate how effective these weapons can be. The medical aspects of transmission, symptoms, treatment, and prevention will be discussed in lay person’s terms. Finally, we will examine the defensive measures being developed that will hopefully prevent terrorists from successfully deploying these types of weapons.

Biological and Chemical Weapons: Assessing the Terrorist Threat

Ralph Robinson; Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics

  • In the months following the Sept. 11 attacks, fears have increased concerning the release of biological or chemical weapons (BCW). We will examine the types of agents that terrorist groups would most likely try to use. A historical review of BCW use by armies and terrorist groups will demonstrate how effective these weapons can be. The medical aspects of transmission, symptoms, treatment, and prevention will be discussed in lay person’s terms. Finally, we will examine the defensive measures being developed that will hopefully prevent terrorists from successfully deploying these types of weapons.

Hoffer’s The True Believer: Reflections on a Modern Classic

Ronald Rogowski; Political Science

  • Eric Hoffer, a working longshoreman, radical, and self-taught intellectual provided some of the twentieth century’s deepest insights on the psychology of social movements — and, more particularly, the psychology of self-sacrifice to a social cause — in his 1951 classic, THE TRUE BELIEVER. 2001 marks both the fiftieth anniversary of that work’s publication and renewed cause to consider its claims. This seminar will offer a focused reading and discussion of Hoffer’s classic.

Responses to National and Personal Tragedies in the Bible (Prophets and Psalms)

Yona Sabar; Near Eastern Languages and Cultures

  • Selected texts of the prophets and the poets of the Bible. How do they reconcile their feelings of despair with their trust in God after an incomprehensible catastrophe? Which metaphors and other linguistic means do they use to express their visions for a better future and recovery? Knowledge of Hebrew preferred but not required.

Applications of Nuclear Physics to Counter-Terrorism

David Saltzberg, Physics

  • We will investigate how nuclear physics principles can be applied to prevent acts of terrorism. Topics include neutralization of biohazards in the mail, airport screening, and checks on nuclear proliferation. Emphasis will be placed on understanding the fundamental physics principles at work, such as the enenergy loss mechanisms of particles in matter. Students will be encouraged to investigate and develop new ideas for counter-terrorism. The course requirements are 1 or 2 homework sets and one oral presentation. The course prerequisite is one university-level course in physics, mathematics or chemistry.

Privilege, Power, and Difference: Is Tolerance Enough?

Ronni Sanlo; Education

  • This seminar explores thoughts, identities, and ideas about privilege and power, the differences with which each student comes to the campus community, and the difference each student can make. It also encourages students to share their thoughts about the events of September 11th, the current state of events, and the affect these events have on understanding difference.

Truth and Persuasion in Science

Felix Schweizer, Neurobiology; Stephanie White, Physiological Science

  • Through readings and discussion, this course will provide a foundation for understanding different views of science and for scientific truth. We begin by investigating the ideal of the scientific method in modern Western culture and compare that ideal to the current practice of science. From there, with active participation by students, we will examine other world views including those from sectarian societies. Through this understanding, the tools for fruitful scientific dialogue across cultures will emerge.

Public Health Responds to Disasters: Bioterrorism and More

Kimberly Shoaf, Public Health

  • This seminar surveys the many public health response activities involved in a crisis situation such as the September 11th incident and the subsequent bioterrorism event. Using case studies, faculty and students will explore the impacts of these incidents on the public’s health and what the public health system needs to do to protect the health of the community.

War Stories

Robert N. Watson, English

  • This seminar will explore literary approaches to the experience of war and its aftermath, probably including the fiction and journalism of Ernest Hemingway, Tim O’Brien, and Paul Fussell, the poetry of Wilfred Owen and Randall Jarrell, the drama of William Shakespeare, film treatments of war fiction such as The Thin Red Line, soldiers’ letter-writing, and current journalism about the war in Afghanistan. Seminar will meet every other Monday afternoon for two hours First meeting will be January 7th.

Can Religious Fanaticism be Philosophically Justified?

David C. Wilson, Philosophy

  • Many philosophers have argued that religious beliefs cannot be supported by ordinary appeals to evidence, BUT that it is nevertheless perfectly appropriate to passionately embrace them. This may open the door to familiar and edifying religious beliefs, but seems to open the door equally wide to beliefs of the most fanatical and dangerous sort. We will look at some of these philosophical arguments and consider whether such defenses of traditional religion can indeed justify horrendous terrorism–and, if so, what this means.

Viewing the Other: Russia’s Muslim Experience

Olga Yokoyama; Slavic Languages and Literature

  • What is the experience of Russians in their recent war in Afghanistan? What are their fears, prejudices, and sympathies towards the Chechens, whom they have been fighting for several years in their latest war and whom they started to fight almost two centuries ago? How does Russian literature and film view the culture of Islam? What stereotypes have Russians formed of Muslim men and women? The seminar will examine such questions through the literature and film of a non-Islamic neighbor that has had Muslims within and around its borders since the Middle Ages, and which provide a fascinating perspective for exploring outsiders’ views of Islamic Culture.

9/11: Issues on Campus

Jules Zentner; Scandinavian

  • Discussion of unity, patriotism, dissent, non-violence, religion, and other issues raised by the events of 11 September as they are reflected in campus publications such as “Daily Bruin” editorials, letters, and articles. Seminar will meet every Tuesday evening for one and one-half hours.