Embargo Period


Degree Name

MA in Conflict Transformation

First Advisor

Dr. Bruce Dayton


For many who experienced it directly or indirectly, 9/11 marked a dramatic shift as the United States processed the attacks and went from a country at peace to a country at war. Though the attacks themselves were geographically targeted, 9/11 was a nationally traumatic event and resulted in the formation of a collective memory and national narrative across the country. With the War on Terror, the military became synonymous with patriotism, as leaders and the media invoked the trauma of Pearl Harbor and the glories of World War II. Military records from the time describe patriotism as the motivation behind the majority of enlistments following 9/11, contrasting the traditional motivation of money and economic opportunity. As the War on Terror nears the end of its second decade, with a recently announced Afghanistan troop surge, there is no end in sight, though the adversary spotlight has shifted from the Taliban and Al Qaeda to the Islamic State (IS).

Drawing from the theories of collective memory, transgenerational trauma transmission, and militarism, this research explores how 16–18-year-olds talk about 9/11 and the War on Terror and how they understand their patriotic obligations to the War on Terror. Understanding this will be critical to understanding how the War on Terror proceeds for the next generation, including peacebuilding efforts and how the United States recruits for and staffs the military. Three sets of data, two semi-structured interviews and one questionnaire survey, demonstrate that in 2018, 9/11 is still a significant presence in teenagers’ lives. Though no signs of trauma were noted in participants, the significance of the attacks and their implications were evident in responses, reflecting the curation of a collective memory. Additionally, the military and the flag were central to participants’ understanding of patriotism and patriotic obligations in addition to practices such as voting.


American Politics | International Relations | Near and Middle Eastern Studies | Other International and Area Studies