“Post 9/11 Haze” Leaves Americans Dealing with Jumbled Messages, Says Culture Expert

Originally posted: February 3, 2004

ST. PETER, Minn., February 3 — “America remains in a post-9/11 ‘haze,'” says Karen Larson, a cultural anthropologist and college professor who holds a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of California-Berkeley. “A year after 9/11, American culture as a whole struggles to respond effectively to terrorism,” she says.

Larson, who has researched the relationship between terrorism and American culture for the past 10 years and is writing a 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 September 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.

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