Who is the Terrorist? Winter 2022

Instructor: Professor Lynn Patyk

E-mail: Lynn.E.Patyk@dartmouth.edu

Office: Reed Hall 213

Office Hours: Wed 2-4 and by appointment


The mid-nineteenth century witnessed the birth of a new "enemy of the human race" (hostis humani generis): the modern political terrorist. Almost simultaneously in Great Britain and Russia, individuals who were willing to kill and die for their political beliefs appeared as a force to be reckoned with and a figure of radical hostility and mystery. As we will see, the question "Who is the terrorist?" is more a riddle than a question and may be answered in many ways, depending ultimately on how we define terrorism and who "we" are. Both the individual and the state may be terrorist actors. Our course examines both revolutionary (or insurgent) terrorism and state terrorism, and while our primary areas of focus will be the U.S. and Russia, we will dip into Europe and Northern Africa. Our historical trajectory begins in the 1870s, with the emergence of populist terrorism in Russia and white supremacist terrorism in the U.S.A., and we conclude with the Putin administration's destruction of the political opposition in 2021 and the violent insurrection at the U.S. capitol on January 6.

This is a First Year Seminar, and so we will intensively engage these questions through writing, broadly conceived as developing, articulating, and refining our ideas in written form. Writing, talking about writing, and writing instruction are a central part of our course and key to making sense of and assimilating the ideas we will encounter. We will be challenged to analyze the rhetoric, the narratives, and the first premises of our course's texts. Our ultimate purpose is to enable you to reflect critically upon received and preconceived answers to the question "Who is the terrorist?" and to synthesize your own historically informed and deliberated position from our class's joint inquiry.

Additional course information