Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Second Department


Reader 1

Tamara Venit-Shelton

Reader 2

Katja Favretto

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Rights Information

2020 Kylie N. Harrison


From the oval office to town halls, from the television screen to the archive, Americans sought to define 9/11 and its role in American national identity and history. This thesis will focus on the ways collective memory regarding 9/11 was established, the role of elites in memory initiatives that ingrained 9/11 in American national identity, and how collective memory can be used as a political or cultural tool to create national unity. Throughout this thesis, I will rely on the theoretical frameworks of collective trauma and collective memory to inform and guide my examination. The framework of collective memory lays the foundation for understanding how national memory was built in the days, weeks, and months after 9/11, while the frame of collective trauma illustrates how a “founding trauma” can forge national identity. In the first two chapters of the thesis, I will look at how elites, particularly television news journalists and government officials, shaped popular understandings of 9/11 and repurposed older cultural discourses to give the attacks larger symbolic meaning. In the final chapter, I will examine the process of commemoration in New York’s 9/11 Memorial and Museum, and study how memorializing the dead provided an arena where individuals, the public, and elites negotiated and enshrined meaning.