Gil and Frank Mustin Professor of Sociology
Robin Wagner-Pacifici's work analyzes society's response to violent events, including events identified as terrorist in nature — the language with which these events are described by the media, the government, and everyday people and what that reveals about their changing conceptions of terrorism. Her latest book, The Art of Surrender: Decomposing Sovereignty at Conflict's End (University of Chicago, 2005), analyzes military surrenders as transfers of power in warfare. Her book, Theorizing the Standoff: Contingency in Action (Cambridge University Press, 2000), examines Waco, Ruby Ridge, the Republic of Texas and other clashes between anti-system groups and authorities.
Two earlier books, Discourse and Destruction: The City of Philadelphia vs. MOVE and The Moro Morality Play: Terrorism as Social Drama, have focused on two such events: the 1985 MOVE disaster in Philadelphia, in which police invoked the threat of "terrorism" to justify mobilizing military explosives and anti-tank weapons against the local group calling itself MOVE, and the kidnapping of former Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro by the Red Brigades in 1978, in which the Italian government refused to negotiate for Moro's release. In addition, she has examined how society remembers traumatic experiences in its past by erecting memorials to such incidents. Wagner-Pacifici, who received her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983, is broadly concerned with the relationship between language and violence.