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Thread: Art History and COIN

  1. #1
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    Default Art History and COIN

    Hi everyone,

    Thank you to everyone who replied to my last thread about groups like Code Pink and biases in the media. Yes, the media is out to make money, and much of that profession must rethink what it means to regain the people's trust. I think in the end, war is war, and violence takes on many crazy forms. Once again, I appreciate the thought provoking perserpectives everyone has shared. Now, onto this thread...

    I just started looking at an archive Jennifer has shared about the debate of social sciences and COIN operations. From my own academic background in art history, art history and anthropology are very interrelated as sister disiplines. Instead of observing the societal structure of people, art historians examine a culture's art, getting to know its context, reason for creation, and what it can tell about the society that made it. It's all about understanding culture like anthropolog. The approach art history takes in examining physical evidence of a culture seems to me almost the same as anthropology. In the end, its all about understanding a culture different than our own, right?

    Art history is a humanity, not a social science per say, but could it be useful in COIN operations when it comes to studying culture? Many art historians in their fieldwork live with the culture to study them and their art. I would like my academic experience to help the armed forces if I become an army civilian in my career.

    I understand that anthropologists would be angry that their disipline is being incorporated into COIN, but the world is becoming a global place and people, academics and service personnel alike have to work together to address the problems we face today. I was just at an event sponsored at my school by the Bruin Republicans that had a retired Army general, and two "former" terrorits talk about the dangers of religious fundamentalism a few days ago. I may write a paper on the possibilities of art history and COIN when I have the time this summer.

    Naomi

  2. #2
    Council Member Van's Avatar
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    Naomi,
    Art history and the cultural implications are essential to good visual products.

    For example: Have a German child draw a picture of a happy, successful farm. Then show it to a Hindu kid and a Muslim kid. It is an even money bet that the German kid will put pigs and cows in a "happy, successful farm", because that is what you see driving from Frankfurt to Munich or any other drive outside the cities in Germany. The pigs and cows won't sit well with good Hindus or Muslims.

    Another example: a unit's logo has a Crusader style, cruciform sword, and they are getting ready to go to the Middle East...

    These are obvious examples of what not to do. What graphic would work well to go on a flyer about cooperation? About hygiene? About financial responsibility? What icons would resonate and help inspire a positive feeling in the reader? What ones do we avoid? What colors should we use? White clothing on characters celebrating life for a Japanese audience?

    This is tangential to art history, but what historical works should a unit try to protect? There is a run-down, shabby little white building in the backstreets of Rijeka, Croatia. Easy to go past without realizing that it probably contains important cultural artifacts, as it is the oldest chapel in the city. This sort of awareness is something a commander needs when he rolls into a town.

    Re: "anthropologists ... angry that their disipline is being incorporated into COIN"
    Read "American Counterinsurgency: Human Science and the Human Terrain" by Roberto J. Gonzalez. It is crap, but it will make it clear that the ever-so-offended anthropologists are still whining about the Viet Nam War (or as the Vietnamese call it, the American War), and under the delusion that Communism is somehow better than Capitalism (and this is really ironic, given how brilliantly successful the Vietnamese have become at the capitalist game). And the hypocracy of their position becomes obvious when the subject of DoD employed anthropologists salaries comes up ("WAAAAH! How dare they get more pay going to Afghanistan than I do as an associate professor at San Jose State University?").

    Don't worry about those useful stooges. They are making old Joe Stalin and Vlad Lenin smile from beyond the grave.

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    Default Thank you for your reply

    Hi Van,

    Thank you for the link to that book. I was doing some more reading up on coin, and in the end it seems to come down to wounded egos on the parts of some anthropologists, or big egos and little me's

    I will do some research into cultural sites and landmarks in areas where operations are going on in Afghanistan when I get the time. I learned about sites when I was an undergraduate studying ancient Indian art history.

    Not only is it some anthropolagists, but a lot of professors I have had still complain about the Viet Nam war. There was the communist group tabling at my campus the other day. They honestly believe communism can "liberate" people and bring order to their lives. Just to learn about what their message was, I actually brought a copy of their paper "Revolutionary Worker" and 99.99% of it was complaints. Complaints about issues of torture, Obama speaking at Notre Dame, etc. I understand what you mean Van when you say "They are making old Joe Stalin and Vlad Lenin smile from beyond the grave," lol.

    I understand professors are entitled to their opinions but I wish the conservative points of view were given in classrooms as well. I've learned more by going onto this board and learning from everyone here I wish the scholarly debates and discussions that happen on this message board of SMJ would be what students gain from classrooms.

    The Bruin Republicans at UCLA are very small compared to the Bruin Democrats and often hide under the radar to avoid unwanted attention. From the people I have gotten to know at the ROTC department, they seem very honest and devoted to their profession, even if liberal professors disagree with them.

    I think coming onto the SMJ board is the best thing I have done during my time as a grad. It's given me a new perspective and opened me up to new ideas I would have never met had I not joined. Now that the quarter is ending, I will finally be able to read the articles that have been posted and can contribute more to discussions.

    Naomi

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    Default Naomi, Old Joe Stalin and Vlad Lenin ...

    would more likely be rolling in their graves re: the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, which has the "Revolutionary Worker" as its organ. I think the appropriate Leninist term is "adventurism".

    Say what one will about the old CPUSA, it was capable of working among the people - that is, the masses. These RCP-USA folks are well ...

    SPLITTERS

    PS: with thanks to Rex Brynen for the link.

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    Ma'am,

    I am currently training to become an HTS Team Lead, and I can see many uses for an academic with an Art History degree in COIN.

    One of the concerns for our current upcoming deployment, is determining what cultural sites, native art and historical artifacts are located in our future area. The reason for this, is to show concern for and the perception that we are focused on preserving the local area's historical past which will hopefully assist in producing good will with the locals and indicate that our intent is not to steal their heritage.

    A lot of times, the locals don't even know they have cultural artifacts in their area, but if you raise their awareness, they may be eager to claim the cultural history of their locale. Assisting them with this can lead to inroads into the folks who make decisions and wield power within the local polity.

    Also, some of the best Army Leaders I've met were Art History majors.

    Depending on how far you are from graduation, I would definitely consider studying the cultural artifacts from potential conflict areas. There is plenty of ground to be covered there up to the PhD level.

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    Default Art History minor

    I was an Art History Minor in college. I took the classes because I loved looking at art, and because they were the complete opposite of my political science Major courses. Very relaxing and rewarding to look at slides of art in a dark classroom.

    I don't think it help me doing convoy security, but it definately broadened my mind and made me notice subtle things like architecture, designs, etc... in everyday life. A critical exposure to art would definately help shape how people see the world and others. If you want to understand people, find out what they think is beautiful and special. It also helped me impress my girlfriend with lines like, "This looks like a Carravaggio" and it turned out to be a student of Carravaggio.
    "What do you think this is, some kind of encounter group?"
    - Harry Callahan, The Enforcer.

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    Quote Originally Posted by patmc View Post
    I was an Art History Minor in college. I took the classes because I loved looking at art, and because they were the complete opposite of my political science Major courses. Very relaxing and rewarding to look at slides of art in a dark classroom.

    I don't think it help me doing convoy security, but it definately broadened my mind and made me notice subtle things like architecture, designs, etc... in everyday life. A critical exposure to art would definately help shape how people see the world and others. If you want to understand people, find out what they think is beautiful and special. It also helped me impress my girlfriend with lines like, "This looks like a Carravaggio" and it turned out to be a student of Carravaggio.
    I agree with you about art granting the user the ability to sense subtlety in a greater fashion.

    I took a few filmmaking modules while in university and it also greatly helped me understand the first-hand power of influence of media in shifting the perception of others.

    When you tell a story, you approach it and project this tale in a way that possesses familiar cues for the target audience. These stories that are consumed by the audience through the latter spotting familiar cues in the tale that resonate, and this resonation amplifies the message you are sending out.

    The ability of an image to amplify ideas and messages is unparalleled, and I think in the arena of unconventional warfare, people who are skilled in dissecting the value of an image (or falsehood, or PR spin) that is being projected, or one that is projected to you, is valuable because it allows you to strip away the medium to see what the actual message is about, and how best to engage it.

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    "The ability of an image to amplify ideas and messages is unparalleled..."
    (tpjkevin)

    - ya' got that right. What would the reaction have been from Iraqis if early on many of our trucks and hummers and tanks had pictures drawn on them by Iraqi kids with color crayons, their names signed, etc etc ?? Talk about a dose of positive PR... I recall one time in a bush village in Africa a couple of PLO representative passed through and upon seeing me they approached and started haranguing me. They were mad and all of a sudden about 20-25 village kids came running up and surrounded me facing the PLO reps. It stopped them in their tracks. They stopped yelling and looked real confused then just walked away from me. Those kids got me out of the box. Box thinking says if kids colored their bright little pictures on the side of a Hummer, said Hummer then couldn't hide in the middle of a street and would be too visible to insurgents.

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