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Ruth Bjorkenwall


Ruth Björkenwall, a sociologist, grew up in the Swedish Arctic, in Kiruna. The city is the northernmost municipality and the location of the world’s first ice hotel. At home, she spoke three languages: Swedish and two minority languages, Meänkieli and Finnish. (Since then, she has dabbled in another five besides beginning English in fourth grade.) Ruth Björkenwall worked as a police officer in Stockholm (the capital), walking beats, working undercover, doing investigative work, and working as the rough equivalent of a U.S. highway patrol officer. She moved to the San Francisco Bay area and earned undergraduate degrees in journalism and peace-and-conflict studies and an M.A. in sociology in Berkeley. Her Ph.D. candidacy at the University of California at Berkeley is focused on social deviance, comparative police interrogations, and false confessions. Ruth Björkenwall studies extreme techniques of influence (“brainwashing”), global terrorism, and state emergency responses. She regularly teaches a course on terrorism but remains focused on power, social structures, and agency, also researching labor migration, state power, and the social safety net in the Nordic countries of Europe. 


Honors College Clay Fellow: Featured Course
Terrorism and Film  

Terrorism matters—and particularly now because we live in an age of globalized terrorism. But what is terrorism? Is it really a new phenomenon? Who commits acts of terrorism? In what parts of the world? Why? This is a course in which we get to ask and answer such questions. Through films as case studies and readings on (some of) the history of terrorism—including the rise of ISIS terrorism—we’ll explore terrorism as a strategy, a means to an end based on calculated decisions that individuals, groups, and state actors make. 

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