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Experts Weigh In on Sept. 11

UCR Experts Weigh In On Aftermath of Sept. 11

Faculty available to discuss the impact of the attacks on American culture, politics and foreign policy.

(August 13, 2007)

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, continue to impact American culture, politics and foreign policy as well as global security and relations between allies. The Sept. 6 announcement that Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden intends to release a video message to Americans before the sixth anniversary of Sept. 11 is a further reminder of those impacts.

These University of California, Riverside faculty have recently published new research or can offer new insights into how the events of Sept. 11 changed Americans, the U.S. and the world, and what lies ahead.


Reza Aslan, assistant professor of creative writing
E-mail: Reza Aslan
While Osama bin Laden has attained almost mythic stature as the leader of a unified global network of terrorism, many scholars of Islam view him as a criminal and a principal figure in what is being referred to as “the Islamic Reformation,” Aslan says. Islam is undergoing an historic reformation, he says, but not the one Bin Laden intends. Islam is adapting itself to the realities of the world around it. The internationally known Iranian-American writer and scholar of religions is a regular commentator for American Public Media’s Marketplace and the Middle East analyst for CBS News, and has written for numerous national publications. His first book, “No god but God,” was published in 2005 and has been translated into half a dozen languages. His next book, “How to Win a Cosmic War: Why We're Losing the War on Terror,” will be published by Random House in 2008.

June O’Connor, professor of religious studies
E-mail: June O'Connor
An expert on comparative religious ethics, O’Connor is studying testimonials by women in Latin America where regime torture has been a feature of dictatorships. She is interested in the ways torture operates in the life of the individuals over time, and what the testimonials of those who have been tortured say about the time and strategies used. Discoveries about the ways moral choice is compromised for torturer and tortured alike may lead to strategies to “confront evil without naiveté,” she says. O’Connor has written about making a case for the common good in a global economy, fostering forgiveness in the public square and ethics in popular culture. She can discuss the application of criteria for a just war and the effective use of just peacemaking strategies. She also studies the ways in which religious justifications can be used and abused in times of conflict.

Ivan Strenski, professor of religious studies and Holstein Family and Community Professorship
E-mail: Ivan Strenski
Islamic suicide bombers deviate from the Muslim norm of the sacrificial restraint exemplified by Abraham, conforming instead to a new extremist view of sacrifice as total annihilation, Strenski says. To understand Muslim “human bombers,” he says, one must see them within the discourse of jihad, sacrifices and gifts. Human bombers act because of their social relationships — whether these are with other human beings or with divine persons, conditions or states of affairs, Strenski says. “Human bombings are not, therefore, simply matters of utilitarian military tactics, but are also religious and social as gifts, martyrdoms and sacrifices.” Strenski has written several articles on the clash of cultures between Muslims and the West. He also studies the relevance of shrines and memorials in the process of mourning and in the public consciousness.


Charles Evered, assistant professor of theater
E-mail: Charles Evered
Evered was one of a handful of New York playwrights who were invited to write for the Brave New World showcase commemorating the one-year anniversary of Sept. 11. His 10-minute play about a sophisticated couple from New York City who forget they’ve volunteered to “adopt” a sailor for dinner during Fleet Week became a full-length play and is being shot as a feature-length movie. “Adopt a Sailor” does not allude to Sept. 11, rather it focuses on a young sailor heading off to war and the sacrifices of men and women in the armed forces. “It’s about how just because we hold different viewpoints that doesn’t make us unpatriotic,” Evered says. The film stars award-winning actors Bebe Neuwirth and Peter Coyote, and newcomer Ethan Peck, grandson of actor Gregory Peck. One percent of the film’s profits will be donated to the Fisher House Foundation, which provides housing for families of service members who are hospitalized.

Stephanie Hammer, professor of comparative literature/Germanic studies
E-mail: Stephanie Hammer
Hammer, an author and satirist, teaches courses on literature and writing that relate to writing and witness. After the Sept. 11 attacks she wrote a short story about efforts to heal, “Il Faut,” which was published in the Bellevue Literary Review. She is the author of “Schiller’s Wound: The Theater of Trauma from Crisis to Commodity,” which compares the German playwright with 20th century writers such as Beckett and Camus and films about trauma such as “The Thin Red Line” and “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.” Hammer can talk about the ways in which trauma is commodified as entertainment, a procedure that is important to consider today. She also can discuss how we have come to understand the theater and other media as venues for the display of personal pain.

Toby Miller, professor and chair of the Department of Media and Cultural Studies
E-mail: Toby Miller
Television news has not adequately reported on fundamental issues and the influence of the United States around the world. The impacts are enormous when it comes to public ignorance regarding peace, militarism and the environment, Miller says. “The international political content of news has diminished significantly (since 1981), excusing and excluding U.S. citizens from a vital part of the policy process — informed public comment, dissent and consent.” TV coverage of governmental, military and international affairs dropped from 70 percent of network news in 1977 to 60 percent in 1987 and 40 percent in 1997, he notes. Miller’s most recent book, “Cultural Citizenship: Cosmopolitanism, Consumerism, and Television in a Neoliberal Age” (Temple University Press, 2007), includes a chapter on media coverage of Sept. 11 and the Iraq invasion. Miller has been interviewed extensively by national and international media including CNN, BBC, the Associated Press and the New York Times.

Jonathan Ritter, assistant professor of music
E-mail: Jonathan Ritter
Ritter, the co-author of “Music in the Post-9/11 /World” (Routledge in 2007) says that people around the world continue to turn to music as a way of making sense of the events of Sept. 11 and their aftermath. “Within the United States, such musical reactions ranged from contemplative laments to vitriolic odes of revenge, heard in contexts that ranged from the intimacy of private homes and community churches to the public stages of mass-mediated benefit concerts,” he says. Music also was used in more subtle ways: in television news coverage; in the kinds of music that classical music institutions chose to program or cancel; and in the decisions made by media corporations and musicians about what sort of music and types of messages were appropriate at the time.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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