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2022 Abstracts

NCIS, The War on Terror, Anxiety, and Cowboys: A Pop Culture Analysis in Ontological Security

Presenter: KC Ellen Cushman
Authors: KC Ellen Cushman
Faculty Advisor: Brent Steele
Institution: University of Utah

This paper examines the popular crime drama NCIS (2003-2013) as it relates to ontological security in three parts. First, I give an overview of the increasing utility of pop culture analysis in International Relations and political science. This section also includes an overview of NCIS itself. Second I articulate how the show reflects and reproduces post-9/11 anxiety by overexaggerating American vulnerability to jihadist terrorism. Third, I reflect on the show’s use of the narrative of the mythic American cowboy to reestablish American identity and validate the government’s response to 9/11. These analyses will expand the literature on post-9/11 culture in the United States and offer a new perspective on how pop culture influences public understanding of terrorism and, more broadly, global political events.