Roundtable Teaching the History of Terrorism

AHA Session 240
Sunday, January 9, 2011: 8:30 AM-10:30 AM
Room 104 (Hynes Convention Center)
Randall D. Law, Birmingham-Southern College
Mary Habeck, Johns Hopkins University , Lynn Ellen Patyk, University of Florida , Randall D. Law, Birmingham-Southern College and Jennifer S. Holmes, University of Texas at Dallas

Session Abstract

In recent years the amount of research on the history of terrorism has dramatically increased. But while courses on terrorism and its history are now taught on campuses across the country, historians have spent little effort exploring the question of how to most productively teach the subject. The goal of this roundtable panel is to engage in a spirited discussion of several fundamental issues regarding how terrorism and its history is taught in undergraduate courses. Few subjects allow historians to so easily draw the link between academic material and contemporary importance. The broad public is concerned and interested in terrorism, and students, not surprisingly, are now attracted in record numbers to courses on terrorism and violence. Scholars can and should influence public debates through their monographs, journal articles, and public interviews, but, I suspect, we sometimes forget that our students still allow us an avenue by which to have a direct impact on critically important social and political issues of our day. Just as importantly, teaching the history of terrorism also gives instructors a point of entry into a broad ranges of other issues not to mention the opportunity to encourage the development of our students' critical thinking and writing skills. The panel will consist of five experts on terrorism who are drawn from different disciplines and regional specializations but united by one belief: that terrorism must be taught in its historical context to achieve the greatest possible understanding of the phenomenon. Each participant will give a short presentation of ten minutes highlighting a few issues concerning the teaching of the history of terrorism. Then the participants will discuss these issues among themselves, finally opening the conversation up to members of the audience. Topics that will be addressed through presentations and/or discussion include: 1) How to pedagogically engage and constructively problematize the issue of defining terrorism? 2) How to construct productive frameworks, present grand themes, choose engaging readings, find valuable resources, and forge appropriate narratives to teach the subject? 3) An exploration of multi- and inter-disciplinary approaches to teaching terrorism. What can historians learn from other disciplines, and how might members of other disciplines benefit from incorporating terrorism's historical dimension? 4) What are some ways to productively incorporate the study of terrorism into other history courses, such as Western Civilization and World History surveys, regional surveys, and thematic courses (the history of warfare, etc.)? The participants on this panel do not seek consensus on how to present and explore terrorism; rather, we want to compare notes about how we teach the subject with an eye toward clarifying the problems and opportunities that are present, enriching our teaching of the subject, and introducing to others how the history of terrorism could be integrated into the teaching of other subjects. In other words, the audience for this panel is not limited to those who teach the history of terrorism.

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