Ricin in the Senate, Crime or Terror?

Posted on February 3rd, 2004 by

“The question of whether a ricin attack on the U.S. Senate is crime or terrorism is outdated,” says Karen Larson, a cultural anthropologist and college professor who holds a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of California-Berkeley. “Since 9/11, concepts of crime and terrorism have been merging in American consciousness. In the wake of anthrax and snipers, the two ideas can no longer be completely distinguished.”

Larson, who has researched the relationship between terrorism and American culture for the past 10 years and has written an upcoming book about the relationship of American culture, terrorism, and 9/11, contends that post-9/11 American culture has more confusion than clarity about its identity and how to respond to terrorism — either foreign or domestic.

“The immediate aftermath of 9/11, anthrax and other agents of bioterrorism, Helder [mailbox bombings], Rowley [outspoken FBI agent], and the Department of Homeland Security present a jumbled set of cultural messages to the average American,” Larson says. “Individualism battles social bonding. Civil liberties and ‘heroism’ compete with demands to ‘connect the dots’ and attempts to create ‘seamless’ bureaucracy.”

A professor of anthropology and interdisciplinary studies at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn., Larson has research background and investigative experience in terrorism attacks in the United States. She has studied, written about, or commented on the Unabomber case, the Oklahoma City bombing, abortion clinic bombings, the Columbine High School incident, the Sept. 11 attacks, and the 2002 mailbox pipe bombings. She has taught seminars on terrorism and has served as a consultant on terrorism profiling for the FBI.

Larson is willing to discuss cultural issues resulting from terrorist attacks and offer resolutions.

To arrange an interview with Larson today (Feb. 3), or to obtain more information, contact Gustavus News Director Jonathan Kraatz at 507/933-7510 or .


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin


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