Weaponizing Anthropology: Social Science in Service of the Militarized State (Counterpunch)
David H. Price
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The ongoing battle for hearts and minds in Iraq and Afghanistan is a military strategy inspired originally by efforts at domestic social control and counterinsurgency in the United States. Weaponizing Anthropology documents how anthropological knowledge and ethnographic methods are harnessed by military and intelligence agencies in post-9/11 America to placate hostile foreign populations. David H. Price outlines the ethical implications of appropriating this traditional academic discourse for use by embedded, militarized research teams. Price's inquiry into past relationships between anthropologists and the CIA, FBI, and Pentagon provides the historical base for this expose of the current abuses of anthropology by military and intelligence agencies. Weaponizing Anthropology explores the ways that recent shifts in funding sources for university students threaten academic freedom, as new secretive CIA-linked fellowship programs rapidly infiltrate American university campuses. Price examines the specific uses of anthropological knowledge in military doctrine that have appeared in a new generation of counterinsurgency manuals and paramilitary social science units like the Human Terrain Teams.
Shifts in anthropology’s political economy brought growing desires to produce proprietary reports for industry in the 1980s, which spawned successful efforts to loosen the AAA’s Code of Ethics to allow for more secrecy. This shift troubled many university-based anthropologists because it inverted appropriate relationships between professional ethics and desires to produce or control knowledge. The 1990 relaxation of the AAA’s Code of Ethics allowing the production of proprietary, secretive,
chain of connections. PRISP was largely the brainchild of University of Kansas anthropologist Felix Moos-a longtime advocate of anthropological contacts with military and intelligence agencies. During the Vietnam War Moos worked in Laos and Thailand on World Bank-financed projects and over the years he has worked in various military advisory positions. He worked on the Pentagon’s ARPA Project Themis, and has been an instructor at the Naval War College and at the U.S. Staff and Command College
tactic available. Anyone who wants specific information on contacts between university administrators and ICCAE officials or other members of intelligence agencies can use state public records laws and the federal Freedom of Information Act to request these records. Given university administrators’ claims that everything is above board, these records should not be blocked by national security exemptions, and if they are, this would be important information. In most states, public records laws
Services Committee finally put Human Terrain Systems on notice that it needs to produce evidence supporting its remarkable claims of reducing “kinetic engagements,” and the program must demonstrate that it is in compliance with normal ethical research guidelines used for human subjects. Over three years of criticism coming from numerous anthropologists, the Network of Concerned Anthropologists, a critical American Anthropological Association commission report (AAA 2009), and critical articles by
was the applied anthropologists’ professional society, and not the larger, highly academic AAA, that first developed an ethics code. The experiences and traumas of the Second World War forced these anthropologists to take a hard look at what had been and what could be done with their work. The war also left many anthropologists concluding that the military frequently did not listen to their analysis because it went against the institutional assumptions of the agencies which sought their advice.