On the 20th anniversary of the September 11 2001 attacks, many people are reflecting on that tumultuous day, the responses and repercussions, its historical context and deeper meanings. It’s affected so many facets of life in the U.S. and also around the world.
Not surprisingly, analysis of 9/11 and understanding its aftermath have been woven into many MIT courses, with topics ranging from the Iraq War to electronic surveillance, the Ground Zero memorial to Islamophobia. As the attacks and what followed them shaped the 21st century, they’ve also shaped academic discourse and education at MIT.
2001 was also the year OpenCourseWare launched, with the goal of opening up MIT’s learning to the world. Having now published course materials from across the MIT curriculum for 20 years, OCW has become both a valuable resource for learners from all walks of life, and a unique archive of teaching and learning at specific moments in time across MIT.
OCW affords us all an opportunity to look back and keep learning. Among the 2,600 courses and supplemental resources currently on OCW, here are some suggestions for resources to reflect upon and learn about the post-9/11 world from different perspectives.
Catastrophe, Trauma and Recovery
Technology in a Dangerous World (2002)
An immediate cross-disciplinary response to 9/11. Professor Rosalind Williams’s introductory letter captures what it was like to keep teaching, learning, and trying to make sense of that time. The OCW site also includes brief video excerpts from an October 2001 MIT teach-in on “Technology, War, and Terrorism.”
Out of Ground Zero: Catastrophe and Memory (2005)
Asks the challenging question, “How do we memorialize the deaths of thousands of people?” The course analyzed responses to past catastrophes, through readings and study questions, and took a one-day field trip to NYC Ground Zero.
Introduction to Psychology (2011)
Within this broad survey of human psychology, sessions on memory and the science of stress can inform our understanding of how people responded to the events of 9/11 and their aftermath.
Global Cityscope – Disaster Planning and Post-Disaster Rebuilding and Recovery (2017)
Provides a broad framework for emergency management and disaster recovery. While the course is most focused on natural disasters and big industrial and infrastructure failures, some lessons are relevant to rebuilding after terrorist attacks.
Conceptions of Security and Conflict
Warlords, Terrorists, and Militias: Theorizing on Violent Non-State Actors (2009)
Explores why non-state actors (such as warlords, terrorists, militias, etc.) resort to violence, what means and tactics they use, and what can be done to counter that violence.
Violence, Human Rights, and Justice (2014)
Examines the problem of mass violence and oppression in the contemporary world, including terrorism and anti-terrorism policies, and the concept of human rights as a defense against such abuse.
Anthropology of War and Peace (2004)
A cross-cultural perspective on war, asking whether war is intrinsic to human nature, what causes war, how particular cultural experiences of war differ, and how war has affected American culture. It includes a substantial unit on 9/11 and the Iraq War.
Comparative Security and Sustainability (2004)
Considers how the interlocking factors of national security and environmental sustainability drive international relations.
Reading Seminar in Social Science: Intelligence and National Security (2005)
Explores the key intelligence agencies and the functions they perform, including collection, analysis, counterintelligence, and covert action.
Ethics and the Law on the Electronic Frontier (2005)
Examines the interaction between law, policy, and technology as they relate to the evolving controversies over control of the Internet. Includes a session on profiling and data mining post-9/11, and the U.S. Patriot Act.
The Middle East and Islam
Islam, the Middle East, and the West (2006)
Covers key themes and issues in Middle Eastern history from the rise of Islam to the present, with an emphasis on the encounters and exchanges between the “Middle East” (Southwest Asia and North Africa) and the “West” (Europe and the United States).
The Middle East in the 20th Century (2015)
Examines the history of the Middle East, from the end of the 19th century to the present, through major political, social, intellectual, and cultural issues and practices.
Comparative Politics and International Relations of the Middle East (2017)
Investigates the causes and consequences of political and economic development, the influence of social movements, Islamism, terrorism, colonialism and foreign occupation.
U.S. Foreign Policy, Military Action, and Homeland Security
American Foreign Policy: Past, Present, and Future (2017)
Explores the reasons for America’s past wars and interventions, traces the consequences of American policies, and evaluates these consequences for the U.S. and the world, including actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and against Al Qaeda.
U.S. Budgets for National Security (2010)
With the large increase in U.S. national security spending after 9/11, learn how budgets relate to military forces, systems, and policy choices, with sessions focused on the Iraq war and homeland security.
Race, Crime, and Citizenship in American Law (2014)
The final third of this seminar looks at U.S. national security policing: the development of a constitutional law governing the intersection of ethnicity, religion, and counter-terrorism, and the impact of counter-terrorism policy on domestic police practices.
Other Ways to Learn: Games and Conversations
International Politics in the New Century – via Simulation, Interactive Gaming, and ‘Edutainment’ (2005)
Considers how new visualization techniques and approaches to interactive political simulations could offer different perspectives on politics and the state of the world.
Games for Social Change (2013)
Learn how to design and prototype games for social change and civic engagement. Includes the example of “September 12: A Toy World,” which uses the language of video games to explore how violence begets more violence.
Conversations You Can’t Have on Campus: Race, Ethnicity, Gender and Identity (2012)
A seminar that brought together a diverse group of students to communicate openly about difficult issues includes a session on Islamophobia.