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Marvel Comics' Civil War: September 11 Attack, Cultural Trauma, and Fiction as Therapy

Marvel Comics' Civil War: September 11 Attack, Cultural Trauma, and Fiction as Therapy

Wednesday, February 13, 2019
11:00am - 12:00pm

On Wednesday, February 13 at 11:00am, Max Erdemandi will give a lecture titled "Marvel Comics' Civil War: September 11 Attack, Cultural Trauma, and Fiction as Therapy" at START headquarters. The event is free and open to the public, but RSVPs are appreciated. If you are not a START affiliate, please email Eva Coll (escoll@umd.edu) if you're interested in attending for more information.

Cultural trauma occurs when "...members of a collectivity feel they have been subjected to a horrendous event that leaves incredible marks upon their group consciousness, marking their memories forever and changing their future identity in fundamental and irrevocable ways" (Alexander, Eyerman, Giesen, Smelser, and Sztompka 2004). Events of such extraordinary magnitude present a moment of “historic rupture” (Smith and Goodrum 2011, 487; Neal 2005), disrupting the natural progression of the perceived future from the present, and challenging the dominant sociocultural narratives. They threaten to destroy the established social order and the underlying collective ideological beliefs, and as a result, the destabilizing aspects of cultural trauma weaken consensus and lead to the fragmentation of society (Smith and Goodrum 2011). The ideal progression of cultural trauma, therefore, is chaos and disorder first, then reflection and dialogue, and finally order and healing. This lecture intends to analyze the terrorist attacks of September 11 as cultural trauma and focuses on the fictional retelling of the September 11 narratives in Marvel's Civil War cross-over as a therapeutic process.

Fictional narratives, such as Civil War, became an important tool as they inserted the traumatic events of September 11 in fictional narratives as a way of “speaking the unspeakable” (Laub 2003), allowing the story to be stripped of its “immediacy and horror whilst maintaining a certain kernel of truth” while being told “with a different location, happening to different people and with different outcomes” (Gray 2011; Smith and Goodrum 2011). Published over a period of roughly one year between 2006 and 2007, Civil War questions the very core of the American identity and values, incorporating the contentious post-September 11 public discourse on national security and civil liberties as well as elements from other significant events from the American history such as the American Civil War and McCarthyism. The series’ critique of the post-September 11 hyper-nationalism, increased domestic surveillance, and War on Terror captures the idea of the September 11 attacks as a cultural trauma that has fundamentally and irrevocably changed the American consciousness and identity.

Max Erdemandi is a Faculty Specialist at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) at the University of Maryland, where he works on government-funded (DOD, DOS, NIJ, CTTSO, SMA) research projects on political instability, counterterrorism, P/CVE, capacity building, near-peer competition and conflict, and strategic influence. He also engages in research and gives lectures on public diplomacy, cultural sociology, cross-cultural radicalization, and foreign policy. Prior to joining START, he worked as a Researcher and Project Manager at his alma mater, Duke University's Social Science Research Institute (SSRI), managing several projects funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, including a Minerva Research Initiative and Army Research Office grants.