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RE: [SACC-L] More on Mercenary Anthropology

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  • Lynch, Brian M
    George, I need to go back to Boas and read more about his statement on this. It seems very much in the order of what I have been trying to get at on the AAA
    Message 1 of 2 , Nov 15 4:37 PM
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      I need to go back to Boas and read more about his statement on this. It
      seems very much in the order of what I have been trying to get at on the
      AAA blog and in discussions here. It strikes me that our challenge is
      much like that of journalists and/or the Red Cross: how do we continue
      to do what we do professionally in a way that "protects our sources,"
      establishes our clear intention of attempting to be objective in our
      practical standing (that is, when we stand in someone's midst it is
      clear we are there to observe and understand, not to spy and
      counter-insurge-pardon my grammar)?

      McFate et al, on the other hand, are very clear that they are not simply
      doing what they are doing as some kind of internal anthropological
      subversion-attempting to change the military into a nonviolent peace
      force (as some kind of anthropological double-agents, really meaning to
      change the military from within into something other than a military
      force). They are working as agents of a military, for that military's
      success. This blatantly perverts anthropological principles and
      practices of developing trust among those we study with, and calls into
      question the trust-worthiness of any anthropologist, if our professional
      discipline doesn't make it clear that this is unacceptable.

      It is not simply a matter of "keeping our hands clean" like privileged
      elites, while everyone else has to do the dirty work. This is gross
      fallacy that has been tossed around as a rhetorical device to discredit
      those who challenge the rationalization of anthropologists becoming
      "intelligence operatives" for a side in a war. It is not a matter of
      keeping our consciences clean while we live the part of the "guilty
      bystander" (to use Thos. Merton's phrase). Journalists "get their hands
      dirty" all the time-and even die for it, and constantly risk their
      security, as do, again, the people who work for/with NGO's like the Red
      Cross. But because they defend journalistic integrity, or neutrality in
      war, doesn't mean they are radical pacifists or purist elites. Their
      operating principles (reminding me of that Boas quote:"this is not
      moralizing. It is a practical matter.") help to keep their commitments
      and professions, basically transparent to those they are attempting to
      learn from and to assist. They can be trusted in what they do. We
      will not be... it might be that practically yet profoundly simple.



      From: SACC-L@yahoogroups.com [mailto:SACC-L@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf
      Of George Thomas
      Sent: Thursday, November 15, 2007 6:41 PM
      To: SACC-L@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: [SACC-L] More on Mercenary Anthropology

      Mark, Brian, Lloyd, etc: I've been following this odd little corner of
      anthropology for some time, and notice how it features "good days and
      bad days," as with an individual with some terminal disease. Excuse the
      biological analogy, but I though better of it too late. The website
      "SavageMinds" has running commentary on this also. In 2005 a commentator
      wrote (and I paraphrase from memory here) "there cannot be any such
      thing as an anthropology associated with 'US Forces.' This is not
      moralizing, but a practical matter. It simply cannot be done."
      The issue goes back at least to Boas' 1919 letter to The Nation. One
      Anna Simons writes somewhere (and again I apologize for foisting yet
      another faulty memory paraphrase on you), "if anthropologists don't
      inform the military, the military will turn to the kinds of advisors who
      make us want to tear our hair out." This quote has been cited in more
      than one place, but I have yet to find it. If any of you can provide me
      with an I.D. of this citation, feel free.
      And finally, I first found ref to Montgomery McFate amid those 2005
      SavageMinds blog entries, and it seems her work is even more "embedded"
      within the military than is Anna Simons'. As one session in particular
      at the 2002 meetings of the AAA in New Orleans made clear, whether one
      "embeds" with "evil" (wink-wink) or stays clear on "moral high ground,"
      there will always be differing perspectives and motivations, and there
      will always be acrimony on this subject. As some discussions of values,
      ethnocentrism, the lack of fit between the "anthro perspective" and that
      of, say, an FBI operative make clear to us anthros, this difference of
      opinion and approach will always be with us, and will always be
      Trouble is, from today's perspective we have this illusion that the
      politics du jour really MATTER this time.
      Perhaps they do.
      I tend to agree with Mark L., re. the ongoing process of anthropology,
      anthropologists, and our changing community. From the Anna Simons
      perspective, someone's got to provide some input of an anthropological
      nature and try to convince the powers-that-be to consider the input as a
      whole, and not simply as a source of info on ethnic groups, the better
      to "neutralize" them. From the purist perspective, yes, it's true. Much
      valuable pure research opportunities have been lost. So what on earth do
      we DO about it?

      Get easy, one-click access to your favorites. Make Yahoo! your homepage.

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