September 11 in History: A Watershed Moment? Introduction

10 Pages Posted: 23 Aug 2003 Last revised: 21 Nov 2017

Date Written: August 1, 2010


Within hours after the collapse of the Twin Towers, the idea that the September 11 attacks had "changed everything" permeated American popular and political discussion. As the Introduction to this edited volume argues, in the period since September 11, the notion that 9/11 changed the nation and the world has been used to justify profound changes in U.S. law, public policy and foreign relations. Bringing together leading scholars of history, law, literature, and Islam, "September 11 in History" asks whether the attacks and their aftermath truly marked a transition in U.S. and world history or whether they are best understood as part of pre-existing historical trajectories. From a variety of perspectives, the contributors to this collection scrutinize claims about September 11. Essays range from an analysis of terms like Ground Zero, Homeland, and "the Axis of Evil" to an argument that the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay has become a site for acting out a repressed imperial history. Examining the effect of the attacks on Islamic self-identity, one contributor argues that Osama bin Laden enacted an interpretation of Islam on September 11 and asserts that progressive Muslims must respond to it. Other essays by legal scholars focus on citizenship and the deployment of Orientalist tropes in categorizations of those "who look Middle Eastern," the blurring of domestic and international law evident in a number of legal developments including the use of military tribunals to prosecute suspected terrorists, the question of whether September 11 should cause a paradigm shift in international law, and the justifications for and consequences of American unilateralism. This collection ultimately reveals that everything did not change on September 11, 2001, but that some bedrocks of democratic legitimacy have been significantly eroded by claims that it did.

Contributors include: Khaled Abou el Fadl, UCLA Law School; Mary L. Dudziak, USC Law School; Christopher L. Eisgruber, Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University; Laurence R. Helfer, Loyola Law School; Sherman A. Jackson, Department of Near Eastern Studies, University of Michigan; Amy B. Kaplan, Department of English, University of Pennsylvania; Elaine Tyler May, Departments of History and American Studies, University of Minnesota; Lawrence G. Sager, University of Texas Law School; Ruti G. Teitel, New York Law School; Leti Volpp; American University Law School; Marilyn B. Young, Department of History, New York University.

Keywords: September 11, war on terror, war, history, rights, homeland security, security, Islam, Muslims, Guantanamo, international law, human rights

Suggested Citation

Dudziak, Mary L., September 11 in History: A Watershed Moment? Introduction (August 1, 2010). USC Law and Public Policy Research Paper No. 03-18, Emory Legal Studies Research Paper, Available at SSRN: or

Mary L. Dudziak (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States

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