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Old 05-29-2007   #1
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Default The Dangerous Militarisation of Anthropology

Well damn, Dr. Marc heads off to Europe and those guys / girls at antropologi.info go and post this:

The Dangerous Militarisation of Anthropology

Quote:
On 15 December 2006 the US Army released a new counterinsurgency manual, FM 3-24. At least one anthropologist played a role in preparing the 282-page document: Montgomery McFate. Anthropological knowledge is even considered as more important than bombs: Military generals call for for "culturally informed occupation" and ‘culture-centric warfare’. But this development undermines and endangers the work of anthropologists and will end up harming the entire discipline, Roberto J. González and David Price write in the June issue of Anthropology Today (not yet published)...

What are the consequences of anthropologists engaging in counterinsurgency work? It's obvious that it both undermines and endangers the work of anthropologists and the life of their families and informants: It is plausible, Gonzales argues, that ‘once Thai peasants or Somali clansmen learn that some anthropologists are secretly working for the US government, they begin to suspect all other anthropologists. Fieldwork will be a lot more dangerous...
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Old 05-29-2007   #2
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What else can I say but....

If they're using "informants" it's obvious that they're up to something shady to begin with. With all that cultural subversion going on maybe someone should write a counterpiece called "The Dangerous Anthropologization of the Military" and how we're all going to "go native" and live in strange vine-covered compounds at the end of rivers with Dennis Hopper taking pictures of us while we write bad poetry and mutter "the horror" over and over again....

Sorry...seemed like the only immediate response to this piece. Maybe Marc will have something to say once he gets back in-theater.
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Old 05-29-2007   #3
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Anthropologists have been used in the first world war and the vietnam war by the Americans. Not to mention in South America. As well Ruth Benedict was contracted to research Japan during ww2.

It does undermine anthropologists everywhere. As well I have read about programs in place in the US where you get your anthropology degree paid for if you work for the government after (this was a few years ago so the details escape me).
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Old 05-29-2007   #4
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Default See MarcT's article in Vol 7 of the mag

Hi FL--

You need to look at MarcT's article in Vol 7 of the mag and the reply to it in Vol 8. Then go to the 2 threads generated for a more complete picture. Your comment is correct but it is amplified in those locations.

Cheers

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Old 05-29-2007   #5
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Cool Ain't academics wonderful?

Academics are so much fun, especially social scientists, and among them, anthropologists. Some of them really are paranoid. They just know the military, government, CIA, industrial complex is out to get them. Not too bright though: don't they realize that the real power is now in the hands of the DNI? And he's just waiting to pounce on any naive and unsuspecting anthro grad student with MONEY while he gets his PhD in exchange for going to work for one of the DNI's community members as an analyst where he will be paid better than in academia and have as many or more opportunities for research. Oh, he won't be discouraged from doing a little adjunct work at the universities in the DC area, either.

Sounds just like a real raw deal to me!
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Old 05-29-2007   #6
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Default Related SWJ and SWC Links

SWJ Magazine - Why Dr. Johnny Won't Go to War by Marc W.D. Tyrrell

SWJ Magazine - Reconsidering "Why Dr. Johnny Won't Go to War" by Hugh Gusterson and David H. Price.

SWJ Comment via e-mail - The Response to the Response by Marc W.D. Tyrrell

SWC Thread - Comments on Marc T's article in Vol 7

SWC Thread - SWJ Mag vol 8 - Reconsidering "Why Dr. Johnny Won't Go to War"
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Old 05-29-2007   #7
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Default We're supposed to be surprised?

"Scientific" researchers travelling abroad have been in the employ of governments as long as there have been "scientific" researchers, and even before they were "scientific". Didn't Lewis and Clark have intelligence collection tasks from the government? Early surveyors were also scientists, but today we're open about it and admit that the mapping agency of the government, the National Geospacial Intelligence Agency is part of the intelligence community.

This sort of thing is how the British Empire got by with such a ridiculously small formal intelligence office.

The idea that "scientific" researchers work only for an academic institution, or private corporation is relatively new.

Now, while it is fashionable in academia to voice off against anything the U.S. government does, were the anthropologists in question directed/employed to do these things, did they volunteer, or did the U.S.G. make use of research that had been done already for academic reasons?

The cynic in me has to ask: is there really a problem, or is there a bunch of Anthropology grad students who just realized that to do field work, they'd be seperated from comprehensive medical care, the internet, flush toilets, health inspected restaurants, etc, and were looking for an excuse to stay at their nice comfy university? (I know I'm going to get flamed for saying this, but how many of y'all were thinking it?)

Last edited by Van; 05-29-2007 at 01:09 PM. Reason: typo
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Old 05-29-2007   #8
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Default Bone Diggers

- all I know is for years there wasn't a problem for many Anthros to dig up Native burial sites in the name of Science and despite the throes of conscience during the time of Project Camelot in the 1960s, the practice of violating burial sites continued for some time. Anthros still retain the right to possess Native bones that are unearthed. I know of a case of Native grave robbery in Kentucky and when a local Native organization requested the bones be returned so a ceremony could be done and the ancestor be returned to earth, they were denied access because the ancestor's tribe could not be identified, hence no member of the organization could claim rights of heritage and cultural affiliation. It took the landowners and their attorney asserting the rights of property to get him back and given to the Natives for a return to earth ceremony. Anthros are far from being pristine and their professional ethics are as perforated as the next. Issues of site interpretation, plagarism, slanted questionaires, informed consent, data manipulation via direct intervention rear their ugly heads on a regular basis. Social advocacy is fine and dandy as long as it is PC and working with indigenous forces visa-via the US military is not at all PC.
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Old 05-29-2007   #9
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Cool The Horror

Quote:
If they're using "informants" it's obvious that they're up to something shady to begin with. With all that cultural subversion going on maybe someone should write a counterpiece called "The Dangerous Anthropologization of the Military" and how we're all going to "go native" and live in strange vine-covered compounds at the end of rivers with Dennis Hopper taking pictures of us while we write bad poetry and mutter "the horror" over and over again....
Steve,

Stan and I already did that. My poetry was good; Stan's singing was another matter.

Best

Tom
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Old 05-29-2007   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FascistLibertarian View Post
Anthropologists have been used in the first world war and the vietnam war by the Americans. Not to mention in South America. As well Ruth Benedict was contracted to research Japan during ww2.

It does undermine anthropologists everywhere. As well I have read about programs in place in the US where you get your anthropology degree paid for if you work for the government after (this was a few years ago so the details escape me).
Yet no one forces them to do that work, or to accept government financial aid (especially since the part about working for the government once one graduates from college is NOT hidden in the fine print or anything else). It seems to me that this policy is intended more to restrict the professional and research opportunities available to interested anthropologists.

Restricting who people can work for based on ideology? Isn't that rather against the concept of academic freedom?

(just had to toss that one out there...)

And Goesh makes some good points about the fluidity of ethical accountability within the safety of the ivory tower. And no flames coming from me, Van. I think some of 'em might have gotten ticked off when they found out that they might actually have to DO something for that government money...
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Old 05-29-2007   #11
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SWJED - thanks
goesh - I agree anthropology and anthropologists have done some horrible things. However I disagree that this is relevant to the current issue under discussion.
Van-
Quote:
The cynic in me has to ask: is there really a problem, or is there a bunch of Anthropology grad students who just realized that to do field work, they'd be separated from comprehensive medical care, the internet, flush toilets, health inspected restaurants, etc, and were looking for an excuse to stay at their nice comfy university? (I know I'm going to get flamed for saying this, but how many of y'all were thinking it?)
To become an Anthro. Prof. you would need to do some serious fieldwork. Where you do it is your choice (one of my fav. anthropologists did his fieldwork with the Vice Lords in 1960's Chicago, another did his with crack dealers in Harlem).

Steve Blair
Oh I have nothing against people getting anthropology degrees and going to work for the US government or getting funding from the government.
What I do have a problem with is how certain Anthropologists acted during Vietnam. My understanding of this is limited so I could be wrong but what I think happened is:
They worked for the US gov't but told no one (neither the uni's nor their informants). In their fieldwork they figured out specifically and generally who should be high priority anti-communist targets and then the US Military went in and killed those specific people and general people who fit the profile. If they want to do this fine, but they should do it as private citizens not by using their unis and the AAA as a shield.
I believe it is still a matter of controversy as to which anthrologists in S.E. Asia during Vietnam did what and many people still have clouds over their heads.

As for the program to send students through school, regardless of if I am for or against it I think the US Gov't did a horrible job on PR and selling it in an intelligent manner. They could also have made a statement about how the students would not spy on the profs.
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Old 05-29-2007   #12
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Most American academics work for the federal agencies at some level. Whether they admit it or not. All state schools are well "state" schools. Their autonomy is regulated usually by the legislature of the state and a board or regents/governors.

Even more importantly in the United States the principle and primary funding agency is the National Science Foundation (NSF). NSF is a competitive federally funded program. With major notable exceptions like Lilly, Macarthur, Carnegie, etc. few if any private agencies fund academics who aren't working for them directly.

Almost all of my external funding is from NSF, NSA, DOD, DOJ, NIJ and really few of my funding dollars are from NSF directly. I do have a tidy no strings attached grand from CISCO for $120K but they were just being nice to me when I started my laboratory.

Personally I've been on a grant seeking/funding hiatus (not a good choice professionally but rewarding personally) as getting the PhD (75% funded by my University, 24% funded by NSA/DOD, 1% by me) is more important for my goals as University faculty.

It is interesting that a doctorate is not required for tenure but funding is required. My choice (knowingly putting myself at risk for continued employment) was to get the doctorate. The drive in academia for funding is something called salary savings. You buy back your salary and are given "release" time to do "research" and they fill the "release" time up with committee assignments and grunt work.

I really enjoy research and as I learn more about my field of study my research questions get more and more interesting. I don't really know what those social science, history, anthropologists do for research. All I need is a bunch of computers and some victims (I mean students) to get my research done.
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Old 05-29-2007   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FascistLibertarian View Post
As for the program to send students through school, regardless of if I am for or against it I think the US Gov't did a horrible job on PR and selling it in an intelligent manner. They could also have made a statement about how the students would not spy on the profs.
Now would the statement really have mattered? There's a strong segment in academia that wouldn't believe it anyhow. No matter how it was presented (and there are certainly always aspects that could have been handled differently), some would still claim that it was "government-funded spying on free intellectuals."

With your Vietnam story, please name the timeframe and location if at all possible. That might help us narrow down the validity of the story.
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Old 05-29-2007   #14
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The locations I believe were the countries outside of Vietnam where the US was fighting (ie cambodia and laos). The timeframe I am not sure of. I have looked for my old course packs from uni but I think they may be in storage.
Anyways my understand of anthropologists in vietnam comes from left wing canadian anthro profs so the version I got was not overly sympathic to the us military.
Bascially I think the best counter offensive would be if there was an educated, well spoken, well funded conservative group dedicated to getting more conservatives as profs. Besides maybe economics the liberals basically control most of the higher education. :P
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Old 06-03-2007   #15
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Hi FL,

Quote:
Originally Posted by FascistLibertarian View Post
The locations I believe were the countries outside of Vietnam where the US was fighting (ie cambodia and laos). The timeframe I am not sure of. I have looked for my old course packs from uni but I think they may be in storage.
You are probably thinking about Operation Camelot, or about the behind the lines strikes into Cambodia and Laos in the late 1960's (I believe it was '68 or '69). OC itself was designed to create predictive social system models that could be used to test out COIN theories and theories of mass psycho-cultural manipulation. Take a look at some of David Price's work in the area, he has accessed most of the documents (his researh is fantastic even if I think his politics is execrable!).

Quote:
Originally Posted by FascistLibertarian View Post
Anyways my understand of anthropologists in vietnam comes from left wing canadian anthro profs so the version I got was not overly sympathic to the us military.
No ! LOLOL. I'll bet half of them were originally from the US and came up during the 1960's.

Quote:
Originally Posted by FascistLibertarian View Post
Bascially I think the best counter offensive would be if there was an educated, well spoken, well funded conservative group dedicated to getting more conservatives as profs. Besides maybe economics the liberals basically control most of the higher education. :P
Honestly, I really dislike the idea of hiring academics based on their secular politics - left or right. The "Academy", it its broad and idealistic sense, should be a place of competing views with a guiding spirit of inquiry - not a PC or right wing ideology farm designed to produce mental clones.

Marc
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Old 06-03-2007   #16
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Hi Guys,

Quote:
Originally Posted by SWJED View Post
Well damn, Dr. Marc heads off to Europe and those guys / girls at antropologi.info go and post this:

The Dangerous Militarisation of Anthropology
Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
What else can I say but....

.... Sorry...seemed like the only immediate response to this piece. Maybe Marc will have something to say once he gets back in-theater.
Well, I'm still "out of the theatre", but I finally got a couple of hours of connectivity and I don't have another concert until Wednesday....

I just tried accessing AT to see if the actual article was up - okay, I wanted to see how badly David flamed me . It's still not up yet, so I guess I'll have to wait.

There are a few points in the anthropologi.info blog that should, however, be addressed.

Quote:
What are the consequences of anthropologists engaging in counterinsurgency work? It's obvious that it both undermines and endangers the work of anthropologists and the life of their families and informants: It is plausible, Gonzales argues, that ‘once Thai peasants or Somali clansmen learn that some anthropologists are secretly working for the US government, they begin to suspect all other anthropologists. Fieldwork will be a lot more dangerous.
<sigh>I wonder if anyone has every to this,..., no, I won't say it, "person", that life is dangerous? Is Gonzalez so simplistic that he thinks that anything he writes won't be looked at by other people and, despite his best intentions, some of it might be useful for either insurgents or counter-insurgents?

Quote:
It's obvious that it both undermines and endangers the work of anthropologists and the life of their families and informants.
Let's look at this claim a little more closely. First off, if he truly believes this he should logically never publish a thing since anything he writes may be used by someone he doesn't approve of. Second, he is insulting all anthropologists with this statement by implying that any COIN work must be done in secret which, by definition, implies that some anthropologists will break the research code established by the AAA and conduct covert research. My final comment on this, which I will admit is a bit of a reductio ad absurdam, is more of a visual image that appeared in my head. Does he believe that hordes of vengeful "natives" will show up on his doorstep and slaughter his family? Crucify his dog?? Leave tire tracks on his lawn??? Maybe <shudder> imply that he isn't 110% "native friendly" by uncovering his secret stash of twinkies that aren't a "Fair Trade" product????

On a more serious note, what in the name of all that is unholy and indecent does this idiot take "Thai peasants and Somali tribesmen" as? The only way I can read this is that he assumes that they are credulous automatons who are incapable of rational thought and action.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
If they're using "informants" it's obvious that they're up to something shady to begin with. With all that cultural subversion going on maybe someone should write a counterpiece called "The Dangerous Anthropologization of the Military" and how we're all going to "go native" and live in strange vine-covered compounds at the end of rivers with Dennis Hopper taking pictures of us while we write bad poetry and mutter "the horror" over and over again....
Hey, Steve, at least 100 years down the road, we can all have Bollywood actors playing us in a "Last of the Westerners" movie or, if we really luck out, in a TV show .

Marc
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Old 06-03-2007   #17
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Default The fightin' anthropologists

It appears that they don't mind fighting on paper anyway. Thankfully we have Marc to cover our back.

I hope to get my review of Richard Shultz and Andrea Dew's Insurgents Terrorist and Militias up this week. It looks at warfare in Somalia, Chechnya, Afghanistan and Iraq using an anthropologist approach. It is an interesting study and provides some insights into these wars and particularly the associated intelligence failures in fighting them.

I also look forward to seeing Marc's review of this book.
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Old 06-03-2007   #18
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Hey Marct

Quote:
Honestly, I really dislike the idea of hiring academics based on their secular politics - left or right. The "Academy", it its broad and idealistic sense, should be a place of competing views with a guiding spirit of inquiry - not a PC or right wing ideology farm designed to produce mental clones.
I agree with you. I just feel that anthropology could use more small c conservatives in general. I am of course against making a % of profs that have to be liberal or conservative etc. As someone who has at least right of centre views you must understand what I mean about the majority of anthro profs being hard or soft left.

I think the answer is to have more conservatives apply for jobs as profs. I think if there were more conservative anthro and soc people the debate would be a lot better and more intellegent. Anthro is always going to be a left wing subject but a little balance is always nice.

As to their response to your article I have to agree with the idea of informed consent, disclourse, and following the code of ethics if you wish to be an anthropologist (last page).

If you wish to get anthropological training and follow these rules and work for the US Govt I am fine with that. If you wish to get anthro training and work for the govt and not follow those rules I am fine with that as well, I just dont think that those people are anthropologists (this is not automatically a bad thing, most people who get anthro undergrads probabaly dont become anthropolgists and many people who get masters in anthro didnt get undergrads in it).

Overall I found your article very intresting, the subject is not something I know that much about.

On another note, have you ever read or looked through The Chrysanthemum and The Sword? If so what do you think of it? I have read the start of it and flipped through it but am really torn about what I think about it, on the whole it teaches us a lot about the Japanese but to me it kinda of comes off as unhelp racist sterotyping. The Japanese couldnt live without their emperor and were different that anyone else etc.
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Old 06-03-2007   #19
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Hi FL,

Quote:
Originally Posted by FascistLibertarian View Post
I agree with you. I just feel that anthropology could use more small c conservatives in general. I am of course against making a % of profs that have to be liberal or conservative etc. As someone who has at least right of centre views you must understand what I mean about the majority of anthro profs being hard or soft left.
I agree with you that many are either hard or soft "left", no question. I'm just worried about a greater degree of politicization in the academy. Most of the profs I had were sort of "leftish" and it made no difference - they were more interested in ideas than in ideology, which is a position I really like.

Quote:
Originally Posted by FascistLibertarian View Post
I think the answer is to have more conservatives apply for jobs as profs. I think if there were more conservative anthro and soc people the debate would be a lot better and more intellegent. Anthro is always going to be a left wing subject but a little balance is always nice.
Why do you say anthro will always be a left wing subject? The majority of the idealist values that the discipline has had over the past century are about the status of humans rather than about politics per se in any left or right wing sense.

Quote:
Originally Posted by FascistLibertarian View Post
As to their response to your article I have to agree with the idea of informed consent, disclourse, and following the code of ethics if you wish to be an anthropologist (last page).

If you wish get anthropological training and follow these rules and work for the US Govt I am fine with that. If you wish to get anthro training and work for the govt and not follow those rules I am fine with that as well, I just dont think that those people are anthropologists (this is not automatically a bad thing, most people who get anthro undergrads probabaly dont become anthropolgists and many people who get masters in anthro didnt get undergrads in it).
There is a very old debate in the profession's literature over whether or not an individual can be a professional within a discipline if they are not a member of the association which claims to represent that discipline. It's an interesting debate, and both sides can be argued until the cows come home without changing anyones minds . Personally, I am enough of an individualist to believe that if you have the training and the mindset, you are a member of the profession even if you choose not to join a particular association.

Quote:
Originally Posted by FascistLibertarian View Post
Overall I found your article very intresting, the subject is not something I know that much about.

On another note, have you ever read or looked through The Chrysanthemum and The Sword? If so what do you think of it? I have read the start of it and flipped through it but am really torn about what I think about it, on the whole it teaches us a lot about the Japanese but to me it kinda of comes off as unhelp racist sterotyping. The Japanese couldnt live without their emperor and were different that anyone else etc.
Thanks . The Chrysanthemum and The Sword is, in my opinion, one of the best books of its type. As with all ethnographies, it has to be contextualized, so you may want to read the preface carefully to see exactly who it was aimed at - the military and political crowd in late 1944. It was really designed as a manual for running an occupation, and all the fieldwork was conducted in the US. Worth reading over very carefully, as are all of Benedict's books.

Anyway, I'm down to 40 minutes connectivity left and I'm not sure when I'll get to login next. Sayonara!

Marc
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Old 06-04-2007   #20
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Quote:
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Why do you say anthro will always be a left wing subject? The majority of the idealist values that the discipline has had over the past century are about the status of humans rather than about politics per se in any left or right wing sense.

The reason is that any academic discipline involving education, intelligence, and structured scholarly activity that is not considered a physical or chemical science is under attack by rabid conservatives. Many people get snookered into believing the lie rather than looking at the evidence, and it the lazy thinker who lets other people do the heavy lifting of cognition for them rather than doing their own thinking.

Our western culture for some time has been vilifying thinking and though I don't know the roots of it I can see the evidence of the behaviors.
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