Nearly twenty years after 9/11, terrorism remains a pressing security concern that shapes domestic and foreign policy on a variety of critical issues. When it is mentioned, however, the topic of discussion is nearly always Islamist terrorism. Given this, it might come as a surprise to learn that since 9/11 far-right violent extremists in the U.S. have been responsible for almost twice as many terrorist attacks as Islamist terrorists and nearly half of all domestic terrorism fatalities. In fact, the Department of Homeland Security’s new counter-terrorism strategy (released in September 2019) notes that “white supremacist violent extremism, one type of racially- and ethnically-motivated violent extremism, is one of the most potent forces driving domestic terrorism.”
This course, designed to challenge preconceptions about terrorism in the United States, explores a range of terrorist activities in the United States including attacks motivated by the ideologies of ISIS, white supremacists, the anti-abortion movement, the incel movement, and the anti-immigrant movement. As part of understanding these incidents, we will ask a series of critical questions: What motivates terrorist violence? How do we (as a people, a society, a government) typically respond to terrorist violence? And how do issues like race and religion influence our understanding of the individuals and movements involved?
The course explores the concept of contemporary terrorism by looking at acts of terrorism that have occurred in the United States. We will explore individuals, movements, and incidents that are
inspired by ISIS and white supremacists, as well as at individuals, movements, and incidents inspired by the anti-abortion movement, the incel movement, and the anti-immigrant movement. We will, moreover, do this by engaging with materials written by academics, policy analysts, journalists, and terrorists themselves.
As part of understanding these incidents, we will ask a series of critical questions: What motivates terrorist violence? How do we (as a people, a society, a government) typically respond to terrorist violence? And how do issues like race and religion influence our understanding of the individuals and movements involved?
In short, this course will provide a foundation for further study – in International Relations, Political Science, Public Policy, American Studies, etc. – by giving students a more nuanced understanding of terrorism in the United States.
This course will:
(1) Provide students with a clear definition of terrorism.
(2) Introduce students to the diverse nature of terrorist activity in the United States.
(3) Provide an understanding of the American response to terrorism (socially, politically, journalistically, and governmentally).
(4) Teach students to engage with the public discourse – in popular media, political commentary, and mainstream news – as critical readers able to identify subtle biases and unspoken assumptions.
(5) Teach students to recognize and appreciate the influence of race and religion on America’s debates about terrorism domestically and internationally.
The instructor has a PhD from Brown University in Religious Studies. She is a Postdoctoral Fellow with the Center for Strategic Studies at Tufts University, a Visiting Postdoctoral Fellow working on counter-terrorism efforts with a team at the Harvard School of Public Health, and a national security Research Analyst with a DC-area non-profit research and analysis organization.
Prerequisites: There are no prerequisites for this course.
*For 1 week course sections scheduled for June 29 - July 2, 2020: Classes will not meet on Friday, July 3rd due to the observed Independence Day holiday. Due to the brevity of the course, meeting times have been adjusted accordingly Monday - Thursday to preserve in-class hours. We encourage students to remain on campus through Friday as our Campus Life team will be fully engaged with our students, offering a variety of activities.
Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences, offering over 200 non-credit courses, one- to four-weeks long, taught on Brown’s campus. For students completing grades 9-12 by June 2020.Visit Program Page Information Sessions Learn How to Apply