Scholars, Security and Citizenship, Part I (SAR Plenary)


This is Part I or a 2 part session, Part II can be found here.

CHAIR: MCNAMARA, Laura (Sandia Nat’l Labs)

Scholars, Security and Citizenship, Parts I and II.

Military organizations have discovered that cultural knowledge is useful knowledge. The resulting interest in anthropology is worrisome to many anthropologists. In the United States, debates rage around initiatives such as HTS and Minerva, but anthropologists outside the US also grapple with the ethical, methodological, and political implications of emergent intersections among scholars and soldiers. This panel brings a range of international, intellectual and institutional perspectives, past and present, to bear on the engagement of anthropology with the military. In doing so, we explore what it means to fulfill one’s scholarly and civil commitments in a time of war. (TH-153, TH-183)

TOMFORDE, Maren (German Armed Forces & Command Coll-Hamburg)

Should, Must, or Must Not Anthropologists Cooperate with the Armed Forces?: Ethical Issues and the German Bundeswehr.

During the Third Reich, anthropological knowledge played a central role in reaching political goals and state “security.” Especially anthropologists supported Hitler’s ideologies to a large extent and helped to legitimise the Nazi ideology. A critical assessment of the role anthropology played for Nazi Germany will help us to examine ethical responsibilities of academics concerning current security issues. Is it a moral responsibility of anthropologists to offer their insights e.g. about Afghan culture to the State in order to prevent the further deaths of German soldiers? Where are the boundaries between active responsibility and passive observance of scholars? These are the central questions to be answered. (TH-153)

BEN-ARI, Eyal (Hebrew U)

Anthropology, Research and State Violence: Some Observations from an Israeli Anthropologist.

I utilize my observations as a scholar studying the military to do four things. First, I situate the controversy over relations between anthropologists and the military as a peculiarly American rendering of global academic processes. Second, I contend that while colored by American biases, this debate nevertheless carries implications for scholars around the world because of the structural centrality of American academia. Third, I maintain that as anthropologists we have a political duty to continue studying the military and processes of militarization including studies enabled by the armed forces because of what they reveal about the use of state-mandated force. Fourth, I explain how fieldwork such as I have been carrying out among Israeli troops and commanders implicates a number of issues necessitating a process of reflection and dialogue with the subjects of our study. (TH-153)

FUJIMURA, Clementine (US Naval Academy)

“Motivated” and Other Challenges for the Military Anthropologist.

This paper explores the complex cultural dynamics that surround one military anthropologist’s efforts to both teach to and conduct ethnographic research in a military community. As will become clear in this discussion, US military culture is by no means cohesive. Involvement in the institution by an anthropologist demands that she exercise all the skills an anthropologist might claim: participant-observation; adaptability; intuition, and; care in learning a new culture. Questions of the ethics of engagement are addressed as are the ethics of disengagement. (TH-153)

PRICE, David (St. Martin’s U)

Anthropology’s Third Rail: Counterinsurgency, Vietnam, Thailand, and the Political Uses of Militarized Anthropology.

I examine the context in which anthropologist Gerald Hickey’s Vietnam War era anthropological applied knowledge contributed to a series of Rand Corporation reports; Hickey’s work is contrasted with the decision of a contemporary anthropologist of Hickey’s, Delmos Jones, to withhold his research from those who might use it for militarized ends. These two examples provide a historical frame with which to consider not only some of the ways that anthropological research is inevitably linked to both ethical concerns and political contexts, but to examine the approaches and outcomes of two significantly different reactions to wartime efforts to draw upon applied anthropological knowledge. (TH-153)

FRY, Douglas P. (Åbo Akad U, U Arizona)

Anthropology in the Name of Security.

How can anthropology contribute to security? A prevalent paradigm sees security primarily in military terms, as nationally-focused, and relatively short-term (i.e., for a particular crisis or war). Anthropology’s “usefulness,” therefore, becomes one of providing specific cultural knowledge. However, “the study of humankind” is worth more than this. Anthropology can offer contributions to security that are systemic (not simply particular), that focus on the long-term, and that go beyond the militarily-focused. This broader role of anthropology–as a contributor to common, comprehensive security–is more in line with the ethics of the discipline than a militarily-focused paradigm. (TH-153)

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Session took place in Santa Fe, NM at the 69th Annual Meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology in March 2009.

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