Robert Jay Lifton Fellows

Robert Jay Lifton Fellows

The Lifton Fellowship Program

One of the goals of the Center on Terrorism is to deepen and disseminate knowledge about contemporary weapons of mass destruction and our post-cold war nuclear situation. It is our strong belief that university students must be made aware of the issues associated with nuclear armaments and to grasp the significance of nuclear threat. From the 1950s to the 1970s, growing concerns within universities helped create a generation of activism that peaked in the 1980s. The university, we believe, should be the place where committed scholars and students reflect – and act–on the moral, philosophical, and psychological meanings of nuclear weapons. Therefore, university curriculum must change through the content of specific courses on ultimate threats from almost any point of view, whether political, historical, literacy, scientific, anthropological, sociological, religious, ethical, or philosophical.

While the public is deeply afraid of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction after 9/11, few scholars are seriously reflecting on the issue. Many believe we are in a more dangerous situation today than during the first half-century of the nuclear age because of the changing international landscape, notably the shift in U.S. military strategy, new technological developments, globalization, and the threat of international terrorism.

Project Description

In 1998, The Center on Terrorism, then known as “The Center on Violence and Human Survival,” initiated a Citizens Panel on Ultimate Weapons with a panel of academics, public intellectuals, activists, and journalists including Jonathan Schell, Richard Falk, Carole Gallagher, Kai Erikson, Rolf Ekeus, Karl Meyer, Robert Musil, Merav Datan, and John Burroughs. The “Lifton Fellowship Program” began in the fall of 2000. The panel extended its’ reach by hosting a remarkably effective national conference on the general topic of overcoming existing nuclear complacency and how to reawaken the academy in order to spark a new student and faculty movement. The conference included, besides panel members, other scholars such as Theodore Postol, a distinguished group of university presidents, and a special session with Kofi Annan. Speakers addressed nuclear ethics and citizen responsibility, and brought greater understanding to this set of issues.

The Center received funding from the Alton Jones Foundation to implement the central goal of the conference. The grant funded modest fellowships in the amount of $2,500 each, for younger faculty throughout the nation to develop new courses on all aspects of nuclear threat. The fellowship program was later extended by Jennifer Simons, from the Simons Foundation.

The population reached through the Clifton Fellowship Program includes university students throughout the nation. Courses on issues of nuclear threat have been taught in universities such as, Juniata College, Mount Holyoke College in Maryland, New Mexico Tech and Arizona State University.

Part of the idea of this fellowship program is to foster new courses but also create genuine community among the fellows. We thus searched far and wide to generate interest in our program and solicit applications from an outstanding group of young scholars.

Robert Jay Lifton Fellows

Charles Ferguson, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Georgetown University and Fellow of Science & Technology at the Council on Foreign Relations. He taught “Nuclear Technologies and Security”, a course that examines the impact of nuclear technologies on national and global security.

Dohra Ahmad, Assistant Professor of English, St. John’s University taught “Fundamentalism, Terrorism, State Violence and the Nuclear Threat”, a course that used literature to explore the connections among three related contemporary phenomena: fundamentalist movements; terrorist practices; and varied experiences of state violence.

Robert Jensen, Associate Professor, University of Texas taught “The Bomb”, a course that explored post-World War II U.S. political culture through the study of various issues surrounding nuclear weapons and the mass-mediated understandings of those weapons.

Thomas Reifer, Sociology Department, University of San Diego.

Sharon K. Weiner School of Service, American University.


James D. Borgardt taught a challenging course at Juniata College in the spring of 2003. The course consisted of a historical overview, US government policy, social impact, and the physical basis and biological/environmental effects of nuclear weapons. He ended the course with discussion of present concerns over possible terrorist use of nuclear weapons.

John Burroughs, Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy in New York, the U.S. affiliate of the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA), taught his nuclear threat course “Legal Controls on Weapons of Mass or Indiscriminate Destruction,” at Rutgers Law School, Newark, 2003.

Valerie Kuletz, Assistant Professor of American Studies at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand and author of the award winning book “The Tainted Desert.” Kuletz taught “The American Nuclear West: Space, Place, and Power in the American Nuclear West: Confronting a New Nature, Confronting a New Politics.” in 2003.This course focused on a variety of historical and contemporary narratives and images of the American West from the mid 19th Century to the 1980s.

Laura Reed, Visiting Assistant Professor, International Relations, Mount Holyoke College in MA, Assistant Director, Five College Program in Peace and World Security Studies, Hampshire College and Visiting Scholar, Security Studies Program, Center for International Studies, MIT, Cambridge. Oversaw production, wrote and edited text of a monthly journal “The Arms Control Reporter,” Institute for Defense and Disarmament Studies. Reed taught “The Significance of Weapons of Mass Destruction in World Politics” in 2003.

Scott Zeman from New Mexico Tech.’s Humanities Department, taught “Atomic America: The Cultural History of Nuclear Technology in the United States” which examined the history of nuclear technology in the United States, while exploring the cultural, social, political, and intellectual dimensions of atomic energy, with particular emphasis given to changing images in popular culture. The course included field trips to the Trinity Site and National Atomic and guest lecturers.


Joshua Cooper, peace activist and lecturer, Maui Community College/ University of Hawaii center at Maui. Cooper was elected to the national board of directors for Peace Action, the largest grass-roots peace and disarmament organization. Cooper taught the course: “International Law and Peace: Genocide, Racial Discrimination, Torture and Nuclear Instruments of Mass Destruction” in fall 2001.

Lane Fenrich, Professor, History Department, Northwestern University. He taught the course, “History, Memory and the Atomic Bomb” in 2002. The course examined the clash between “history and memory” as laid bare in the continuing controversy over the united States’ use of atomic bombs against Japan in 1945.

Michael Flynn, Associate Director, Center on Terrorism, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and Professor at York College and John Jay College, CUNY.

Randel Hanson, Assistant Professor, School of Justice Studies Arizona State University taught the course “Just Testing: Environmental and Health Legacies of Nuclear Weapons” in 2001. This course explored the history of nuclear weapons technologies from the point of view of their health and environmental dimensions.

Sohail Hashmi Mount Holyoke College, taught the course: “Just War and Jihad: The Comparative Ethics of War and Peace” in 2002.

Eric Markusen, Southwestern University, taught his course: “The Continuing Nuclear Threat” in 2001. This course explored the social, psychological, historical, political, and other dimensions of the continuing threat posed by nuclear weapons.

Joseph Masco, Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago, taught his course “Ethnographies of the Nuclear Age II: Big Science and the National Security State,” in 2001.