America Still in a Post-9/11 Cultural Haze

Posted on August 17th, 2004 by

“Three years after 9/11, America remains in a cultural haze, with more confusion than clarity about how to respond to terrorism-either foreign or domestic,” says Karen A. Larson, a cultural anthropologist who holds a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. “Americans, convinced after 9/11 that they and their nation were ‘changed forever,’ live in an environment where individualism and fear combat impulses toward connected dots and social regeneration.”

Government reforms, from the new Department of Homeland Security to the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, are based in the need for cultural change, but without a clear sense of what “culture” is or how to go about changing it. The nation’s challenge to reshape its bureaucratic subcultures goes far beyond the familiar “culture wars” of the political left and right.

Larson’s recently published book, “Culture and Terror: The Jackal and the Phoenix in America,” traces the roots of domestic terrorism, through American cultural responses to 9/11, concluding with a prescription for true reform in American society and national character, both inside and outside of government. An excerpt of the book is available at

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 provided commentary on the Unabomber case, the Oklahoma City bombing, abortion clinic bombings, 9/11, the 2002 mailbox pipe bombings, and anthrax and ricin. She has taught seminars and lectured on terrorism, and serves as a consultant on terrorism for the FBI and the Rand Corporation.


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication Luc Hatlestad


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