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.
analysis of the dangers for post-invasion Iraq out-performed the CIA’s best estimates. As one who has lived in the Middle East and read Arabic news dailies online for years while watching the expansion of American policies that appear to misread the Arab world I suspect that a repeat of the Yale Report experiment focusing on the Middle East would find another 10% intelligence gap, but with the academy now winning due to the deleterious effects of generations of CIA intellectual inbreeding.
onto their campus; an insertion whose success can best described as a silent coup for the CIA. The faculty and students’ public silence at ICCAE universities in the face of these developments needs some comment. While some public attitudes towards the CIA changed after 9/11, the post-9/11 political climate casts a pall of orthodoxy over critical discussions of militarization and national security, and the rise of anti-intellectual rightwing media pundits attacking those who question increasing
students to collect intelligence for the CIA, they’ve debriefed graduate students upon return from foreign travel, we know the CIA has cultivated relationships with professors in order to recruit students (Mills 1991; Price 2007). When universities bring IACCE programs to their campus, they are bringing this history with them, and as students from IACCE universities travel abroad, suspicions of CIA activity will travel with them and undermine the safety and opportunities to work and study abroad
version of colonial projects that many anthropologists hoped had become part of a shameful disciplinary past. Plans to link HTS data to the Human Relations Area Files also links Human Terrain’s counterinsurgency operations with HRAF’s poorly understood Cold War counterinsurgency research projects. The most absurd of the HRAF-linked counterinsurgency programs from the 1960s involved the military’s Special Operations Research Office’s interest in expanding HRAF’s cross cultural indexing system to
personality types, while those raised in Dionysian cultures (e.g. Kwakiutl) merged with these cultural values. Benedict believed that “a culture, like an individual, is a more or less consistent pattern of thought and action” (1934:46). During the Second World War and throughout the Cold War, anthropologists conducted national character studies designed to reduce the complexities and rationales of other nations down to overly simplified and often pseudo-psychological profiles designed to help US