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Weaponizing Anthropology: Social Science in Service of the Militarized State by David H. Price. AK Press, 2011. Pp. 208. $15.95 (Paperback). ISBN: 978-1849350631 Reviewer: Neema Caughran1 [Article copies available for a fee from The Transformative Studies Institute. E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://www.transformativestudies.org ©2012 by The Transformative Studies Institute. All rights reserved.]
Most of us are familiar with anthropology’s deadly origin and history as the research arm of the colonial empires and, knowingly or not, contributing to the genocide/ethnocide of first nations all over the world. To my field’s credit, we have begun to face our responsibility for the uses of our research. Many assume that we are freed from the stigma if we follow the guidelines for ethical research that have come out of the Nuremburg Trials, national and local academic institutional review boards, and our own professional organizations (like those of the American Anthropologist Association.) I was smug in my knowledge of the possible abuses of ethnographic research and my commitment to “do no harm”. I lost the smugness very quickly in the introduction to this book when Price points out that World War I was considered the Chemists’ War, World War II, the Physicists’ War, and the current wars – The Anthropologists’ War. The book is divided into three parts: 1.) “Politics, Ethics, and the Military Intelligence Complex’s Quiet Return to Campus,” 2.) “Manuals: Deconstructing the Texts of Cultural Warfare” (a view from inside), and 3.) “Counterinsurgency Theories, Fantasies, and Harsh Realities.” While the title of Part 1 may and should ring all of our alarm systems, I will start with the later Manuals and the Human Terrain System and move into the current invasion of college campuses by the CIA and their ilk.
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These are strange bedfellows indeed! Concepts of culture. published by the University of Chicago in olive drab combat-ready form as propaganda and a best seller on Amazon in 2007. But it gets worse. Radcliff Brown (early anthropologists hired by British colonialists). we were promised. Ethnographic knowledge would be put to use in humanitarian ways and save lives. North America. Antonio Gramsci (renowned for his concept of cultural hegemony). Firth. He analyses such texts as the Counterinsurgency Field Manual. HTS. and in sub-Saharan Africa it is “a mixture of good and evil with more evil than good. sense of time. Price describes in great detail how from inception to its current state the HTS can and does not do anything of the kind. definitions of key terms. This program embeds social scientists with combat units presumably to befriend local occupied people. These publications contain un-cited use and misunderstanding of the ideas of theorists as varied as Max Weber ( the late 1800’s sociological theorist).” Unfortunately Price did not 127 . gentler war”. would “win the hearts and minds” of local people. These manuals read like The Dummies' Guide to World Domination and expose fantasies of military and “intelligence” control of culture. inform military commanders about the local culture. are all blatantly plagiarized. They inform us that “human nature” (if indeed there even is such a thing) in Europe.” These maps include bulleted information. Evans –Pritchard. they claimed. ” in South America it is a “mixture of good and evil and unchangeable”. and from Wikileaks a classified Human Terrain Systems Handbook and Special Forces Advisor’s Guide. using it as a lever for manipulation. activity. Clifford Geertz (prominent contemporary anthropologist).’ taken from the “timely” work of Florence Kluchohn and Fred Strotbeck on the so-called Values Orientation Model. and social relationships. for whole continents. about human nature. Pierre Bourdieu (whose work reveals the dynamics of social power and symbolic violence) and others.Theory in Action You may remember all of the media hoopla in 2007 about how the Human Terrain System (HTS) was the answer in the media to “winning” the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. relationships of humans to nature. The model claims that all cultures have a “central core of meaning and basic values. taken out of context. and Australia is “basically good and changeable. For me the most egregious and ludicrous of these are The Guide’s use of “cultural analysis maps. and dumbed down for military use. published in 1961 but carrying ideas from the 1930’s and the late 1800’s mixed in with a little psycho-babble. and to figure out ways that they can reduce the violence (or “kinetic engagements” in militaryspeak) perhaps creating a “kinder. Malinowski. theory.
always changing in unforeseeable ways.” What is a racist spy to do? This “state of the art” social analysis/intelligence would be laughable if it were not so deadly. an abomination. so most will not know the difference.141) and applied to the needs of the empire. and by Price’s careful and detailed analysis of the misuse and abuse of anthropology and all social science. True social scientists know that cultures (if we believe in the concept to begin with) and societies are complex and probably will always remain a mystery. It is clear by this example. The intelligence agencies’ view of anthropology is indeed as Price states. do not inform participants of the purposes of the research (which are shady in any case). It presents cultures as nothing more than a measurable set of values that can be “not only navigated but engineered to one’s advantage” (p. But reality is not what they are interested in. They apparently want to re-create anthropology (and the world) into their own image. yet they are “brown skinned. I am assuming our national “intelligence” would have trouble categorizing these vast areas of what was once considered the orient based on the following implicit logic: “white people” of European origin are basically good. Presumably the Middle East will be seen as mostly evil. and the “black people” of sub-Saharan Africa are mostly evil. These would-be cultural engineers are in for even more rude awakenings than 9/11 if only they would pay attention to reality. They only want to hear what conforms to what they already think they know. Maybe worse is that HTS advocates and trains its personnel to break all of the accepted ethical standards for research and gives them very little training on human research methodologies. according to Price’s inside sources. that there is no real scholarship involved either in HTS or the larger world of military and intelligence agencies. This is a dangerous fantasy that speaks volumes about the world view and mindset of those who engage in it. last an average of seven minutes before a sniper fires at them. and do not require signed permissions from participants: all standard research ethics. There are apparently about four qualified social scientists in the total personnel of 400. The “ethnographic” research interviews. maybe as a category of sociopath: “CIA syndrome with severe paranoid tendencies. much to the peril of us all.” 128 . I propose a new diagnostic category in the psychiatrists’ diagnostic manual (DSM) just for this psychosis. as Price makes so clear. the “brown people” of South America are mixed good and evil (which to my mind at least makes them complex and human).Neema Caughran include what these maps say about the Middle East and Asia.
It can also be seen in the lessening of faculty voice and shared governance. even among some academics. certainly they were in the McCarthy and the Vietnam eras. and offers of intelligence agency funding are too good to pass up for many. There are three different academic entrenchments that Price describes. witnessed in the common use of corporate speak like “learning management”. They are designed to lead us into thinking 129 . But today it seems more extensive and more insidious for several reasons that Price elucidates. with new flagship programs with names like “Intelligence Community Centers of Academic Excellence” (ICCAE – pronounced icky. 2010). and funded me through graduate school and my research on folklore as veiled resistance in South Asia.Theory in Action All of this is even more disturbing when we consider Part 1 of this book. One: Undisclosed grants to individual students (especially minorities and women) that require recipients to sign a contract pledging to work for an intelligence agency or refund all money lent (some grants are ridiculously lavish) at exorbitant and changeable interest rates. There are government funded spies embedded among the academy. as those of us who lived through some of it are retiring. Academic freedom is surely at stake. No University is an Island. Even administrations do not know who or where these students are. which details how intelligence agencies have already moved into US college campuses in several ways. We can argue that no doubt they have always been there. Academic administrations and students are strapped for money. Colleges that have large minority demographics are targeted. Historic memory of the abuses of the intelligence agencies is disappearing. Funds are now allocated for research only in specific areas and topics. This research funding will be different than the Cold War grants like the National Defense Education Act which created scholarship that was not so controlled. There is already a kind of corportization occurring in the academy. This scenario will likely warp social science research for decades to come.” (p. Price warns. (see Nelson. and only for research which will reflect the ideological narrowness and the fantasies of national defense and intelligence.60). “assessment of measurable outcomes ” etc. no joke) and “Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity. The researchers who are funded under these grants will be required to debrief and to hand over their data to the defense department. Consider the context: It is a post 9/11 and Patriot Act world in the midst of severe recession. Two: The Minerva Consortium which is a defense department program “designed to further link universities to the Defense Department’s views and analysis.” These programs openly link scholars and institutions with intelligence agencies.
130 . This discussion is chilling in its implications. What are we to do to protect academic freedom and confront this madness? Both Price and Nelson recommend us to be informed and protest publicly.71) They have been accepted at major colleges and universities and they quietly bring a variety of intelligence agencies to a campus near you.” (p. Finally. it has already lost. feeling and reporting the cultural-emotional responses of occupied peoples so that the machines of war can more exactly manipulate and dominate them. In speaking of drones and other military robots Price states “… these war machines need our input … they need our spirits…something like human terrain teams are needed to function as nerves.198) But Price also reminds us once a nation relies on counterinsurgency for military success. Intelligence abuse thrives in secrecy and silence.” (p. Price discusses the contemporary uses of social science theory and how it is shaped to support counterinsurgency operations in the socalled war on terror.Neema Caughran intelligence agencies and their practices are a normal way of life and to get us “to internalize surveillance as a new element of American freedom.
2011.99 (Hardcover). 370. Price. 208. Nation Books. Rodriguez 122 Book Review: Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor by Rob Nixon. Critical Pedagogy. $15. ISBN: 978-1568586007 Blaine Pope Journal of the Transformative Studies Institute . 304.00 (Hardcover). $45. Pp. and the Sociological Imagination Ray Muller Critical Pedagogy and Dialectical Thought in the Secondary English Classroom Daniel Ian Rubin The disappearing immigrants: hunger strike as invisible struggle Ally Walsh and Myrto Tsilimpounidi 30 51 70 82 104 Marginalization and the Multiplicity of Rationalities: A Discourse Theory of Poverty Agustin Martin G. Ford 126 Book Review: Weaponizing Anthropology: Social Science in Service of the Militarized State by David H. 2011. ISBN: 978-1849350631 Neema Caughran 131 Book Review: Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence by Christian Parenti. Corey Dolgon Transforming Student Engagement through Documentary and Critical Media Literacy Jessie Daniels Designing Health Messages to Promote Social Change Susan Kahlenberg From Apathy to Activism: Civic-Mindedness. AK Press.95 (Paperback). Cambridge. $25. ISBN: 978-0674049307 Claudia J. Pp. 2011. MA: Harvard University Press. Pp.Volume 5 Number 2 April 2012 IN THIS ISSUE 1 5 Theory In Action Introduction: The Politics of Knowledge and History.
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Sociatecture Eva-Maria Swidler. University of Connecticut Book Review Editors Eric Buck. CUNY-Bronx Editorial Board Mihaela Albu William Armaline John Asimakopoulos Steve Best Marc Bousquet Eric Buck Graham Cassano Vanny Chang Jay Corwin Abraham DeLeon Corey Dolgon Luis Fernandez Victoria Fontan Ben Frymer Carol Gigliotti Richard Gilman-Opalsky Rodica Grigore Richard Van Heertum Dave Hill Joy James Patrrice Jones Paul Jonker Nathan Jun Caroline Kaltefleiter Ruth Kinna Michael Loadenthal Elsa Karen Márquez-Aponte Peter McLaren Mechthild Nagel Jesus Lopez Pelaez Michael Parenti Emma Pérez Clayton Pierce Christian A. Schlaerth Deric Shannon Jeffrey Shantz Stephen Sheehi Kyung Ja (Sindy) Shin Stevphen Shukaitis Eva-Maria Swidler Caroline Tauxe Bill Templer Sviatoslav Voloshin Ali Shehzad Zaidi . University of California. SUNY-Canton Associate Editors Corey Dolgon. Los Angeles Deric Shannon. London Peter McLaren. Villanova University Founding Editor John Asimakopoulos. Stonehill College Dave Hill.Editor-in-Chief John Asimakopoulos.I. CUNY-Bronx Editor Ali Shehzad Zaidi. Middlesex University.
2011. No. ISBN: 978-0674049307 Claudia J. Pp. 304. Price. Critical Pedagogy. 2011. $25. 2 1 5 April 2012 Introduction: The Politics of Knowledge and History.95 (Paperback). ISBN: 978-1568586007 Blaine Pope 30 51 70 82 104 122 126 131 . Corey Dolgon Transforming Student Engagement through Documentary and Critical Media Literacy Jessie Daniels Designing Health Messages to Promote Social Change Susan Kahlenberg From Apathy to Activism: Civic-Mindedness. $45.00 (Hardcover).99 (Hardcover).CONTENTS Vol. Pp. 208. MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN: 978-1849350631 Neema Caughran Book Review: Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence by Christian Parenti. AK Press. Ford Book Review: Weaponizing Anthropology: Social Science in Service of the Militarized State by David H. Pp. 370. 5. Rodriguez Book Review: Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor by Rob Nixon. 2011. Nation Books. $15. Cambridge. and the Sociological Imagination Ray Muller Critical Pedagogy and Dialectical Thought in the Secondary English Classroom Daniel Ian Rubin The disappearing immigrants: hunger strike as invisible struggle Ally Walsh and Myrto Tsilimpounidi Marginalization and the Multiplicity of Rationalities: A Discourse Theory of Poverty Agustin Martin G.
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