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Classes address terrorism and its aftermath in post–9/11 world

Javed Nazir was the editor of The Frontier Post, an English-language newspaper in Pakistan, when he was forced to flee for his life in 2001 because of a charge of blasphemy over a letter to the editor published in his newspaper.

This year, the 2001-02 Michigan Journalism Fellow is teaching at U-M as a Marsh Professor of Journalism and will share his experience during a communications studies seminar. Students in Ethno-Religious Conflict and the Media (COMM 439) will study the rise of Islamic militancy and its impact on society in South Asia, as well as the upsurge in ethnic and religious violence in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which has impinged on the flow of communications and information.

As the University community reflects on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the events since then, some faculty members in LS&A are focusing their undergraduate courses on terrorism, its aftermath and continuing threats. Nazir’s communications studies course—as well as classes in psychology, history and political science—will deal with those issues.

“The initial events of Sept. 11 were of enormous magnitude, both as human tragedy and political act,” says Terrence McDonald, interim dean of LS&A. “And an incredible array of responses to them has emerged in their wake, involving foreign and domestic policy making, questions about the identity of Americans and others, a huge quantity of cultural production of all kinds and even important scientific questions. A liberal arts college in a great research university like this one has the breadth and depth of faculty expertise necessary to begin to comprehend all this.”

Nazir’s students will look at the infighting between the mainstream Islamic population and the extremists, and how the media are coping with the issue, Nazir says.

“Journalists seek objectivity and truth, confronting an extremely hostile environment often at considerable risk to their lives,” he says.

Another course is a first-year seminar, The Psychology of Negotiation and Conflict Management (PSYCH 120). Kim Leary, associate director of the Psychological Clinic and clinical psychologist at the Institute for Human Adjustment, plans to focus on the Sept. 11 attacks in two ways.

“First we’ll look at the general psycho-dynamics of violence, moving from there into the terrorist mind set,” Leary says. The focus then will shift to leadership in the face of war and terror when students read an article on that topic by Jane Dutton, professor of psychology and William Russell Kelly Professor of Business Administration.

“With that as background, we will do a case study of former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s leadership following the attacks on the World Trade Center. We will see a video about his leadership provided by a colleague at Harvard, along with video news clips of Giuliani in action,” Leary says. “My goal is to help the students get a sense of how negotiation skills function in the face of the terrorist goal to create and perpetuate mass victimization and helplessness in a population.”

Political Psychology is the subject of a course (PSYCH 393) being taught by David G. Winter, professor of psychology. According to the course description, students will survey the ways psychological factors affect politics, and vice-versa. After an initial analysis of psychology, gender and politics, students will consider leadership and war-versus-peace as two important topics involving psychology and politics.

“We’ll also consider some psychological-political processes, old and new ideologies, voting and other links between the personal and the political,” Winter says.

The course concludes with a study of political breakdowns, such as rebellion, terrorism and nationalism, and restoration through negotiation and mediation.

“The events of Sept. 11 and their aftermath will come up throughout the course,” Winter says. “I want to go beyond the clichés about terrorism and its political fallout. My goal here is to help the students get at least a couple of good analytic hand-holds that will lead them to a better understanding of the post–9/11 world,” he says.

Raymond Tanter, emeritus professor of political science, will lead a senior-level political science seminar, International Politics, Terrorism and Proliferation (POLSCI 498). The seminar meets primarily online and draws on social science literature to explain why international terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) abound in the post-Cold War era.

“I want the students to understand that terrorism and proliferation are two sides of the same coin, stamped ‘rogue regime behavior,’ ” Tanter said from his Washington, D.C., office. Regarding terrorism, the focus is on the American-led War on Terror. With respect to proliferation, the emphasis is on the debate about Washington’s effort to effect regime change in Iraq, because of the Iraqi threat of WMD in the aftermath of Sept. 11. With Tanter’s book “Rogue Regimes: Terrorism and Proliferation” as a basic text, students will look at why rogue leaders engage in terrorism and proliferation in the face of deterrent and coercive threats made by more powerful countries with the intent of dissuading them from taking such actions.

In War in the Twentieth Century Middle East (HISTORY 241), Juan Cole, professor of Middle Eastern and South Asian history, will examine the impact of the World Wars, the Cold War, the Arab-Israeli wars, Afghanistan, the Gulf War and the War on Terror in the shaping of the modern Middle East.

“In our study of the War on Terror, we’ll look closely at the conflict between the Afghan warlords and the Taliban, the growth of Al-Qaida and the Sept. 11 attacks, and finally a discussion of the Muslim world and U.S. security after Sept. 11,” Cole says.

A first-year literary seminar, Literature and Evil (ENGLISH 140), will be taught by Simon E. Gikandi, professor of English. In his course description, he writes that since Sept. 11, “there has been a tendency for students of literature and culture to conceive acts of violence and evil as large monumental events that demand big universal narratives. But the relationship between literature and violence is often subtle and discrete, characterized by what Hannah Arendt called ‘the banality of evil.’”

The course will examine how some of the most violent and evil events of the modern era—slavery, colonialism, totalitarianism and the Holocaust—have affected the nature of story telling in general and the novel in particular. Drawing on diverse authors and traditions, students will examine how literature deals with themes of violence, dislocation and death, and how evil acts determine the inner language of literature and its overall moral or ethical claims. Students will read works by Franz Kafka, Toni Morrison, Anita Desai, B. Mukerjee, Ferdinand Oyono, Mulk Raj Anand, Alex La Guma, Andre Brink and Nadine Gordimer.

David Chandler, visiting professor of history, will teach a colloquium, State Sponsored Terror in Asia (HISTORY 397). Students will examine several 20th century instances of nationally focused, government-sponsored campaigns in Asia that involved the mass killings of various regimes’ political enemies. Students will study the ways in which the concepts and definitions of politicide, terror and genocide overlap and contradict each other drawing on case studies from Cambodia (l975-1979), China (l949-1969) and Indonesia (1965-1966).

Philosophical, historical, anthropological and cultural approaches to these cases are designed to help illuminate why the terror and the killings occurred. The discussions also will address the shifting ways in which outsiders greeted these crimes against humanity at the time and in later years.


9/11 Plaque Dedication


Dave Webber, a craftsman at Arnet's Beckers-Burrells, cleans the grooves in a newly-engraved plaque created to honor of the U-M alumni who died in the Sept. 11 terrorism attacks. The black granite plaque will be dedicated Wednesday during a ceremony at the U-M Alumni Center, 200 Fletcher St. The engraving includes the list of 18 alumni and their years of graduation. Another event in honor of the anniversary is a bookbinding workshop, 'Reflections of 9/11,' offered by Arts at Michigan, 4-8 p.m. Wednesday. Participants can create a handmade book to hold memories and reflections of the event. Those interested in being a part of the event are encouraged to bring poems, writings, photographs and magazine clippings for a collage. Nancy Lautenbach, Arts at Michigan program coordinator, will facilitate the creation of a simple pamphlet-stitch book. The dedication and workshop are among many activities scheduled on campus to remember the victims of Sept. 11. For a complete list, go to: (Photo by Paul Jaronski, U-M Photo Services)

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