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Asia Anthropology: Science or Spying?
, -.7 cephen By Stephen Isaacs
Washinstan Post Stettf Writer
and through various agencies of the Department of Defense • One faction of the Anthropological Association believes fellow members in Thialand provided information to help put down revolution. Another faction believes the anthropologists fought government attempts to subdue revolution there. Activities of the anthropologists in Thailand surfaced in March, 1970, when research assistant copied', documents from the files of Dr. Michael Moetman of the University of California at Los Angeles. The-. information made its WayTfirst to the Student Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam (and into its publication) and to Dr, Eric Wolf, who is chairman of the Anthropological Association's ethics corhmission. Dr. Wolf, the students and many other members of the association contend that the documents pro$e the anthropologists in Thailand- were spies. When Wolf wrote to the four anthropologists identified in the document to obtain explanations, and then told his board that he had done so, the dike opened. The association's hoard of directors accused Wolf of exceeding his authority and of acting precipitously, imputing guilt to the four men in his letter without first . having talked to theni. Wolf and another ethics committee member, Dr. Joseph G. Jorgensen, both then angrily quit the ethics committee, accusing the organization's leadership of ducking the ethical issue of whether an anthropologist should properly be studying man or, instead, influencing government's hold •_ - over men. "The board." said the two in resigning, "averts its eyes from the real source of a danger which threatens not only the Integrity of the association, but the fate and welfare of the people among,; whom we work." The issue has since been raised among the membership in furious statements published in the association's monthly news letter. The board finally appointed a committee to investigate all aspects of the 4 situation, naming its most famous member, Dr. Mar• he garet Mead,
NEW YORK, Nov. 21— east Asia has been more poOne of America's foremost ' laical than scientific. The association . went intellectual societies, the American Anthropological through two explosive sessions on the issue, finally Association, ended its 70th adopting a position on it annual meeting here today- late Saturday, a position deBut it did not end the vela- crying new dangers in antile, distinctly unint ellectual thropology. uproar within its memberFor the last 20 months, the ship over whether some organization has feuded members' research in Southover the implication that • some anthropologists worklug among hill tribes in northern Thailand, supposedly studying ways of life as anthropologists do, were in fact spies for the U.S. Department on Defense and the royal Thai government. Underlying the thousands of words and multiple subissues raised by the various factions is the worry that , anthropologists' detailing of the life style of a group of people—including such seemingly mundane details as forest trails, working times, gathering places and so forth—end up In diagrams for a low-level bombing run. If nothing else, the debate underscores the U.S. government's extensive funding of social scientists' research in Southeast Asia through the Agency for International Development, through the Central Intelligence Agency See RESEARCH, MO, Col. 1
a car.corporating the sense of the ties which might expose 'Mead committee's important them to wholesale. the obligation approved a resolution into protect data on communi. or at the younger." Moerman. making $7. other anthropologists present told a reporter. ered most important: ."this is not acceptable bebody to vote-up or dawn on.young Princeton social scirious.000 grant.400 a year." This means disguising self seconded the resolution. their own self-determination.' government.paragraph. dent of the association a What became clear in the decade ago. reflected among the intellectuals. Dr. Mead hertion. "A new ethical imperative the association unanimously has emerged. however. • to relatively powerless peo*community development' at ple. One veteran anthtopologist. been tricked by the fioard. partment of Defense. Americans there were doing not voted on. chided members meeting was that the asso. regional developCarthyism of the left" by ment. Later Saturday. issue back to the board. even let her make a state. eating at the best places in some country. with board members. punctuated by occasional participation in an international meeting. after an acrimonious port's initial portion on an. Mend.." Uncle Tom.plied anthropologists. Olmsted emphasized that tended to be a resolution." ship. and said. The first is a growing feeling in American society. All these guys who were sounding off about how awful it is to take government money will walk out of here Monday and go write another grant application. Further.pecting funding for research which include absolving any regardless of how it was lamembers of ethical bled was "well within the wrongdoing in Thailand— traditional canons of acceptwere emotionally rejected able behavior for the apby the association's member. and suddenly they have the prospect of a $30." the vote. that this wasn't in-.they "hoped to change ment about the report be. counter4nsurgency." are "much the same: . including a provision that Mead and her committee Dr. Dr.havior for anyone except an this thing. paPer." she said glumly." said She indicated. that anthropology as such is not a particularly marketable commodity. Two other facets left unstated are also Important. Steve A. fie pointed to the fact . ial of bringing serious harm activities that were called ' . The committee's lengthy an earlier time raised parreport was presented at ticular hostility. classifi. that anything involving government is tainted. the man whose files were copied 20 months ago." Furthermore. nor is studying American cultures as romantic as studying those In New Guinea. no one at the meeting dared to bring up the inherent paternalism of Americans' making their livings and their reputations off of alien and underdeveloped cultures. who declined to be identified. others receive the right to play with his data. It' they have read all the eviWas for background infer. members had -least their students have. and they can't resist.a dry martini at the airport bar in Bangkok or Dar es Salaam.bers. who was areal-. I just wanted it in Thailand and feel the 'presented at the meeting. but other. and its conclusions-. And it became she said.their efforts in behalf of hill people were thwarted by the ing .". But the board • . The second is that it is possible anthropologists and scientists have no place trying to influence government in any way. • . she had Olmsted. "You take these guys. In exchange.scientists "in such areas as brought hisSes and laughs.for talking against taking reciation's younger members search money from the Desee the 69-year-old Dr. they would hot. • •... a $100 a day per diem." •reporter after a meet.destruc. . conclusion. disagreed. as a kind of anthropological "Almost everyone in this. whelmingly to reject the report made conclusions on all port in fun and refer the sides of a number of issues. Barnett. the issue. he said. contention in the report anthropologists be alerted to that studies "under the the dangers of activities heading of couriter-insur. Mead. "The researcher would get the chance to carry on field work with a 'heavy sense of engagement in a global warfare operation. They voted overThe Mead committee's re. "Their affection wouldn't let me do it that for the country as a whole seemed to shine through Way. This resolution orders the she explained.• things for the better. " "At the time. only good. a Dr. .Its allusions 'to "Mc-' cation.• Dr: Mead and fellow comPtou *make it clear in your mittee member Dr." they asked me to do it and Dr. Dr. Mead said she consid. told a reporter: "This whole thing is hypocritical." he said. David L. was to get rid of Thailand over the years. as McCarthyism.voted with the majority. population control members who questioned and resettlement and the activities in Thailand spread this information to were in themselves heckled -all anthropologists. unless the results are economically or politically valuable to some interests. names. "has benefited by obvioua very quickly that funds labeled Defense. the association's meeting The report said that' exhere. that fund and utilize social sections of the. now. insisted In a letter to the association's newsletter that his role in each of the projects in which he was involved was solely to help the Thais of the north in."_ very s tr ongly .four hours that ended early thropological activities in Saturday." But what was left unsaid at the meeting may have been more important than what was said.. report .•. Another thing that did not come up was a point that Wolf and Jorgensen made in an article they wrote for the intellectuals' Playboy. he said." They fore it was presented unless became disillusioned when she first cleared the word. that. the resolution asks that all A. followed by. which have the potentgenes. places and identities. and "The makeup of the board changed between the time "one by one they dropped out. dence available on activities mation. board to set up a continuing No one disagreed with body to study organizations that. entist.. The New York Review of Books. saying that "I never intended for any. The first vote was The mood of the 700 mem38 to 74 to reject the re." she told a imperialist. Mead herself was fu.