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RE: [SACC-L] NYT on embedded anthropology

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  • Lynch, Brian M
    Mark, It sounds like: Ah! We re all sullied by the threads that tie us to the system, so what difference does it make if we plant ourselves in one spot or
    Message 1 of 16 , Oct 31, 2007
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      It sounds like: "Ah! We're all sullied by the threads that tie us to the
      system, so what difference does it make if we plant ourselves in one
      spot or another?" The ultimate in postmodern relativity. I hear
      Blackwater might be looking for cultural sensitivity training. Who's to
      say it wouldn't be an effective place for anthropologists? Then there
      is "Plan Colombia" where we use a mercenary army to "eradicate" coca
      fields in Colombia (along with food crops, and health-challenged people
      who can't tolerate a dose of RoundUP). I am sure that the CIA could
      use a few good anthropological minds to help psych out (or anthro-out)
      the "detainees" in Guantanamo, to keep them from committing suicide;
      that might be a good way to offer some help, to make their stay a little
      less unpleasant. We all have dirty hands, so its all relative, right?

      It is amazing to me that in the 21st century we as a discipline could
      have reached the point of such an accommodation with state sponsored war

      And to think that some of my SACC colleagues got a bit unsettled that as
      an anthropologist I have been engaged in professional Learning Outcomes



      From: SACC-L@yahoogroups.com [mailto:SACC-L@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf
      Of Mark Lewine
      Sent: Wednesday, October 31, 2007 7:11 AM
      To: SACC-L@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: Re: [SACC-L] NYT on embedded anthropology

      What I am suggesting is that when I do use the "anthropological
      perspective" now, I see false dichotomies and superficial dualities in
      'good vs. evil' doctrines by either the Muslim Taliban or the American
      Taliban leading to Crusader-invasions (these are not wars) true. But I
      also see dangerous dichotomies and dualities in our thinking when we see
      "good" academics pretending that we are separating ourselves from the
      corporate context that drives our government and globalism and military
      contracts when we are in fact part of the enterprise just in more hidden
      subtle ways. We are 'embedded' in our political economy and are turning
      a blind eye to corporate colleges that we work for every day that are
      party to the system as are we. So, not wearing a uniform does not make
      us "good" and abstracted from involvement. What we do need is more
      engagement in these discussions and transparency encouraged by our
      profession. Then we can help each other make! better case by case
      ethical decisions.
      ----- Original Message -----
      From: Lynch, Brian M
      To: SACC-L@yahoogroups.com <mailto:SACC-L%40yahoogroups.com>
      Sent: Tuesday, October 30, 2007 12:01 PM
      Subject: RE: [SACC-L] NYT on embedded anthropology

      So we either support anthropological participation with state sponsored
      warmaking, or we are abstracted professionals maintaining a false sense
      of aloof objectivity while the world turns. This is how 21st century
      anthropology rationalizes its contemporary co-opting by dominant
      political forces, under the banner of postmodern "action" ?

      "The emporer has no clothes." This is warmaking. It is a warmaking
      agenda in which anthropologists have rationalized their participation
      (desert fatigues, guns and all). It turns the values of "cultural
      sensitivity" into a suite of weapons of war. It is "warfare lite,
      brought to you through the wonders of anthropology."



      From: SACC-L@yahoogroups.com <mailto:SACC-L%40yahoogroups.com> on
      behalf of Lewine, Mark
      Sent: Tue 10/30/2007 11:30 AM
      To: SACC-L@yahoogroups.com <mailto:SACC-L%40yahoogroups.com>
      Subject: RE: [SACC-L] NYT on embedded anthropology

      As Ann Popplestone shared her experiential context of her husband having
      served and being injured requiring serious surgery, I also have altered
      my views having dealt with a close friend returning from combat, wounded
      and sharing his experiences. We all have perspectives that are
      constructed by our social experience and we are not just some kind of
      abstracted professional maintaining a false sense of aloof objectivity
      while the world turns. I thought that we were indeed in a postmodern
      world with a profession, anthropology, that realizes that engaging in
      embedded fieldwork requires a complex strategic plan of ACTION that
      limits our impact but never pretends that we are not involved in a
      living, changing community. Do you really think that an anthropologist
      embedded in fieldwork within a Nazi or Khmer Rouge dominated community
      could avoid making choices to help save lives and limbs?? Do we simply
      ignore doing fieldwork in areas under conflict because we would "get our
      ethical hands dirty"? (which is obviously what Ann meant) I quit a
      consultant firm during Viet Nam because we were asked to set up a Race
      Relations program for the Defense Department, which my partners
      eventually did. Instead, I took a job at a community college. Believe
      me, the state of Ohio contract that I work under does more ethical harm
      to my professional soul than Admiral Zumwalt's excellent Race Relations
      program. Was I right to not work to make soldiers less racist and thus
      more efficient killers? (my reasoning at the time) I now do not think


      From: SACC-L@yahoogroups.com <mailto:SACC-L%40yahoogroups.com>
      <mailto:SACC-L%40yahoogroups.com> [mailto:SACC-L@yahoogroups.com
      <mailto:SACC-L%40yahoogroups.com> <mailto:SACC-L%40yahoogroups.com> ]
      On Behalf
      Of Lynch, Brian M
      Sent: Tuesday, October 30, 2007 4:26 AM
      To: SACC-L@yahoogroups.com <mailto:SACC-L%40yahoogroups.com>
      Subject: RE: [SACC-L] NYT on embedded anthropology

      Such anthropologists are engaged not simply in "dirtying their hands"
      while doing good things in a culturally informed way; they are serving
      the strategies, tactics and ultimate goals of a side in a war. They are
      helping to fight a war. They aren't with a group of blue-helmeted
      peacekeepers, but with "our side" that is ultimately aiming to win over
      "their side." This is the fundamental issue that makes them partisan and
      mercenary; their cultural sensitivity and subsequent ability to "lighten
      things up" (to make the war campaigns a little more culturally
      sensitive?) makes them no less so. In fact it makes the discipline
      itself sound fundamentally naive, at best, and duplicitous at worst, if
      we suggest that we are simply just "getting our hands a little dirty"
      while making peace somehow. Instead we are abandoning our integrity as a
      discipline, while making war.



      From: SACC-L@yahoogroups.com <mailto:SACC-L%40yahoogroups.com>
      <mailto:SACC-L%40yahoogroups.com> <mailto:SACC-L%40yahoogroups.com> on
      behalf of Popplestone, Ann
      Sent: Mon 10/29/2007 7:09 PM
      To: SACC-L@yahoogroups.com <mailto:SACC-L%40yahoogroups.com>
      <mailto:SACC-L%40yahoogroups.com> <mailto:SACC-L%40yahoogroups.com>
      Subject: RE: [SACC-L] NYT on embedded anthropology

      In an ideal world, I would certainly agree that this adventure/disaster
      should not have started and nobody should be there.

      I do have to ask: A professional anthropologist in the AO (area of
      operations) might be able to keep soldiers (with a wide range of
      educational backgrounds and not much time to peruse the literature
      before going out on patrol) from pissing off people even more. They
      might do a better job of introducing things like vaccinations and
      pre-natal care. They might even keep some candidates from the
      Revitalization Movement Run Amok that motivates suicide
      bombers......Isn't protecting lives and enhancing quality of life with
      our skills worth risking dirtying our hands ?

      Ann Popplestone AAB, BA, MA

      CCC Metro TLC




      From: SACC-L@yahoogroups.com <mailto:SACC-L%40yahoogroups.com>
      <mailto:SACC-L%40yahoogroups.com> <mailto:SACC-L%40yahoogroups.com>

      On Behalf
      Of Lynch, Brian M
      Sent: Monday, October 29, 2007 6:54 PM
      To: SACC-L@yahoogroups.com <mailto:SACC-L%40yahoogroups.com>
      <mailto:SACC-L%40yahoogroups.com> <mailto:SACC-L%40yahoogroups.com>

      Subject: RE: [SACC-L] NYT on embedded anthropology


      The anthropologists in this "human terrain project" (...even the very
      title should grate on our professional nerves!) not only wear desert
      combat uniforms, but also carry guns. And they are working on a side in
      a war. That is the bottom line. If you sign up to be a soldier, there is
      no question what your intentions are or whose "side you are on." Many of
      our community college students themselves are in this situation, in and
      out of service over decades, from on war situation to another. None of
      them pretends they are neutral and none of them is without an opinion
      about what they do. But also, none of them are part of a profession that
      has at its foundation a set of principles on which they need to build
      the trust and respect of any people with whom they work.

      As you will note in all of my own comments on this situation, I am not
      personally or professionally arguing for or against the merits of this
      and other wars as the basis for which anthropologists should or should
      not participate in any given project. I am making the point that taking
      the side in any such state-run military agenda is itself a formula for
      undermining the principles on which our discipline relies for its
      integrity and meaning. And it is amazing in the process to see how
      easily we can be drawn into the rationalization of such participation.

      I don't really think it is an apt argument that anthropologists help
      "our soldiers" become more "culturally sensitive," or that
      anthropologists might somehow make what you call "this mess" in Iraq (or
      anywhere else) "a little better." It is, as I have suggested before,
      "warfare lite, brought to you through the wonders of anthropology!" And
      I hardly think that we in the discipline should settle for such
      accomodation or rationalization.



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