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What is terrorism? Is it true that one person's terrorist is another person's freedom fighter, or can we make ethical distinctions between instances of terrorism?  How does terrorism differ from other kinds of violence, for instance the violence of war or domestic violence? How do we distinguish between eco-activism and eco-terrorism, or criminal hacking and cyber-terrorism? How has terrorism shaped history, and how does it form the present?

Reflections of Terrorism, the Colby College Annual Humanities Theme for 2011-2012, is a year-long, campus-wide initiative designed to probe such issues. Our goal is to foster interdisciplinary discussions of forms of terror(ism) and to showcase the multiple levels on which the Colby community addresses this complex topic.

Related Coursework

Spring 2012


Government    Professor Jennifer Yoder

This course examines the worldviews and political goals of various forms of radicalism on the "right" and "left" against the background of important political developments in Europe in the last century, such as the Bolshevik revolution, the rise of fascism and Nazism, the emergence of domestic terrorism, the explosion of nationalisms and fundamentalisms, and the collapse of Soviet-style communism. We explore the relevance of the domestic political, economic and social contexts for radical movements as we compare the Weathermen in the United States and the Red Army Faction/Baader-Meinhof Gang in Germany.


Women's, Gender, Sexuality Studies    Professor Hollis Griffin, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow

"Feeling Theory" foregrounds questions of affect and emotion to examine a broad range of issues, including globalization, terrorism, and radical activism. Throughout, the course examines the lived, felt dimensions of contemporary cultural politics. Students will interrogate feelings as a critical paradigm for assessing sociocultural issues. The class considers how emotions are bound to capitalism and structures of power, and determine under what circumstances feelings can foment cultural change


Philosophy    Assistant Professor Lydia Moland

In this course, we will consider terrorism through the lens of global justice, asking whether just war theory can be applied to terrorism, how terrorism responds to real or perceived instances of global injustice, and how moral theory can be extended beyond the nation state to assess international terrorism.


English    Associate Professor Tilar Mazzeo

When a state occupies another state and terrorizes its population, is that terrorism? This course (EN398D) considers international and Anglophone literature written in France during the Second World War and the period of the Nazi occupation, with an eye toward interrogating questions of "national literature," the relationship between literature and forms of political propaganda, and the genre of the memoir and nonfiction as it develops in the 20th century. Authors and artists include Nemirovsky, Zinovieff, Berr, Hemingway, Cocteau, Laval, Beach, and Tartiere; photography of Zucca; films of Arletty; art/music by Breker, Picasso, Reinhardt; additional secondary materials. All works read in English.


English    Associate Professor Anindyo Roy

This course examines--among other themes-- violence of the post-colonial state, family violence, as well as terrorism and political violence in the context of the state (Palestine/Israel).


German and Russian    Assistant Professor Cyrus Shahan

This course parses various intersections of politics and violence, of “normal” citizens and violent radicals, of “us” versus “them.” Are there lessons to be learned from such encounters or does our experience of them force us to subscribe to the simplified binary of good and bad? Above all, we will investigate how the theater as a specific form of media and practice offers challenges to the socio-political roles we play in our lives and those we project onto others.


Spanish    Assistant Professor Dean Allbritton

This course examines the creation and proliferation of the metaphor of the body politic in contemporary Peninsular literature and film. Throughout the semester we will devote ourselves to a few key questions: How is a body politic formed? How does it function? Can it get sick, does it age, what is its sex? How does terrorism interact with this body politic, blowing cells apart? We will also consider the historical importance of ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, the Basque separatist organization) and how it has played into specific terrorizing moments in Spain's recent history, from the military coup d'etat of 1981 to the Madrid train bombings of 2004.


Fall 2011


Philosophy    Professor Dan Cohen, et al.

The Reuman Reading Group (PL 277) this semester will be discussing Stephen Nathanson's Terrorism and the Ethics of War. Nathanson discusses the difficulty of defining terrorism, asking whether violent acts must be political, indiscriminate, and aimed at non-combattants to count as terrorism. He argues that understanding terrorism requires us to compare it to the ethics of war; he asks whether some acts of war, for instance the Allied bombing of German cities in World War II, should be classified as terrorist acts. The Reuman Reading Group is a one-credit, non-graded group that meets once a week over dinner.


Government    Associate Professor Walter Hatch

A study of war and peace, conflict and cooperation, in the global system. Among many other things, we examine the nature and meaning of terrorism, including the competing definitions of this term, the different actors who use it, why they might choose such desperate means, and the consequences of their actions.


French and Italian    Professor Benedicte Mauguiere

This course addresses the events in Quebec that led to the War Measures Act. Course topics will include the emergence of the FLQ (Front de Libération du Québec) and the movement for independence from Canada.  Students will examine a series of events known as the October Crisis and the 1970s-era Canadian terrorism.


Philosophy    Assistant Professor Lydia Moland

This course considers major moral theories and their application to contemporary problems. As regards terrorism, students will consider questions such as: what distinct features make terrorism morally wrong? Is terrorism always immoral, or is it justified if employed in a just cause? Must violence be indiscriminate and aimed at noncombattants in order to count as terrorism?


French and Italian    Visiting Instructor Erin Ponnou-Delaffon

In FR 397, we will question how French-language fiction and film represent, account for, and respond to the forms evil and suffering have taken in the modern world.  As relates specifically to terrorism, we will study Xavier Beauvois' recent acclaimed film "Of Gods and Men" and French intellectuals' reactions to 9/11. 


German and Russian    Assistant Professor Cyrus Shahan

In conjunction with the semester-long film series "Terror on Film," this independent study (GM 491) addresses how the representation of terror(ism) in cinema also plays a significant role in mainstream representations of terrorism. In what ways does cinema contribute to discourses of terror that transcend national, political, or ideological boundaries? How does cinema complicate the intersections of violence and politics?


German and Russian    Associate Professor Arne Koch

GM 234 is an introduction and exploration of German culture through analysis of German-language cinema from its inception in the 1890s through the post-unified cinema of the present. As part of our discussion of the New German Cinema of the 1960s through 1980s, we compare and analyze Heinrich Böll’s acclaimed narrative The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum (1974) with its filmic adaptation by Volker Schlöndorff and Margarethe von Trotta (1975) as exemplary (inter)national reactions to domestic terror as well as state and media control.

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