Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Re: Gusterson/Feaver debate, For. Policy, Aug 08

Expand Messages
  • George Thomas
    Brian, Lloyd: The underlying cynicism of terminology like human terrain, not to mention the cynicism of counterinsurgency research, Scientists as Spies,
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 22, 2008
    • 0 Attachment
      Brian, Lloyd:
      The underlying cynicism of terminology like "human terrain," not to mention the cynicism of "counterinsurgency research," "Scientists as Spies," etc. is depressing at best. I hope you didn't read my post as something from the notebooks of the "engaged" and "embedded" anthropologists out there. I'm hardly gloating; but trying to arrive at some kind of personal satisfaction that I'm grasping the situation in its complexity.
      Been working on this for two years, and have amassed far more notes than useful for any sort of essay. Organization? Not yet coherent.

      I fall somewhere around the "irrelevant" camp which Lloyd describes. Now if I could only focus on those NOTES, I might figure out some sort of explanation of the theoretical implications of untainted anthro research becoming "irrelevant."
      I'm becoming more settled again, and perhaps once I ditch Vista I might make some progress.
      Any thoughts on how students react to discussions on this?


      Re: Fwd: Gusterson/Feaver debate, For. Policy, Aug 08
      Posted by: "bdlqvcc" blynch@... bdlqvcc
      Date: Thu Aug 21, 2008 8:32 am ((PDT))

      As one who has actively questioned anthropologists' engagement
      in "research" (applied or otherwise) for efforts such as the so-
      called Human Terrain Project, I think it amazing how we can
      rationalize such engagement when the powers that be dangle funds in
      front of us. And how this then shapes any subsequent discourse, as
      if "purists" are the ones to be called into question. A recent death
      of a "social scientist" in the Human Terrain program was reported not
      long ago and became another facet of the "humanitarian contribution
      of social scientists" discourse, that continues to cloud the issues
      involved in this whole matter.

      Recently it was also reported that the supposedly "spectacular"
      rescue of hostages in Colombia, and a proposed "false flag" shoot
      down of a plane over Iran, each used or proposed the use of the
      identity of ostensibly neutral NGO's (the Red Cross and the UN) to
      carry out covert operations. These are clearly offenses (legal or
      otherwise) against the very nature of these organziations, and most
      people will see the potential for damage such actions could have
      toward the integrity of such organizations. Anthropologists as
      professionals, who present themselves as 'researchers,' looking for
      the trust and openness of those with whom they study, as the bedrock
      of their profession, can't affort to be any less circumspect than
      such NGO's about the integrity of what we do. And "following the
      money" abolutely has to be part of this.

      --- In SACC-L@yahoogroups.com, George Thomas <broruprecht@...> wrote:
      > Clearly the source-of-funding aspect has taken on massive
      influence, while the research design, intentions, scope of the study
      take a back seat. Any narrow research focus should now come as spin-
      off perks from massive Defense contract work.
      > I thought Gusterson's approach represented some sort of
      breakthrough, but only because SecDef Gates has proven to be a
      cabinet officer capable of paying attention. As far as "human
      terrain," shadowy funding via the CIA, and integrity of informed
      consent/trust, there seems to be some sort of growing awareness that
      these are issues at least as important as sending the marines
      wherever there's some crisis. It's crucial to remember that the
      political reaction has become institutionalized: one always questions
      source of funding regardless of the research intentions. Old 1963
      mistakes (and Pres. Kennedy killed Project Camelot) served as one
      stimulus, assuring that anthro research would be suspect.
      > And hey, the meth lab option is out there. I haven't heard about
      that kind of loot becoming available through some government
      contract.... (Some suppressed info from Halliburton and KBR
      notwithstanding..... we're talking about us LITTLE peeps). It's just
      that other sources of funding have been far more exclusive and harder
      to get.
      > And as the "purist" argument becomes more irrelevant (cheers,
      Lloyd), we also move away from that most anthropological of areas:
      culture & personality and its descendants. If we forget about the
      irrationality within movements and the variations in motivation,
      we'll ignore that knee-jerk assumption that our funding source
      necessarily means disaster for the subjects of anthro study.
      > And keep an eye out for American Psych Ass'n pronoucements. They
      are also the source of that ban on "polygraph" evidence in court. As
      anthros inch closer to irrelevant political side-issues, we might do
      well to remember that the magic "lie detector" is but an
      interrogation tool.
      > G
      > SACC-L@yahoogroups.com wrote:
      > Date: 21 Aug 2008 11:08:53 -0000
      > From: SACC-L@yahoogroups.com
      > To: SACC-L@yahoogroups.com
      > Subject: [SACC-L] Digest Number 1642
      > There is 1 message in this issue.
      > Topics in this digest:
      > 1a. Re: Fwd: Gusterson/Feaver debate, For. Policy, Aug 08
      > From: Kip Waldo
      > Message
      > 1a. Re: Fwd: Gusterson/Feaver debate, For. Policy, Aug 08
      > Posted by: "Kip Waldo" kwaldo@... kipandfei
      > Date: Wed Aug 20, 2008 7:04 am ((PDT))
      > So it is just the source of the funding, not the purpose of the
      study? Operation Phoenix, centered at MSU, was a problem
      of "misreading" the situation? The U.S. is doing what in Iraq and
      > We have learned nothing from the past? I guess if following the
      money is the guide I don't have much to say to my students who could
      make much more than I do by slinging crack on the corner or cooking
      up some meth in the kitchen.
      > kip
      > >>> Lloyd Miller 08/19/08 11:09 PM >>>
      > Hey George,
      > The exchanges between Gusterson and Feaver on Pentagon funding are
      > interesting. I noticed that the American Psychological Ass'n is
      > voting on a resolution that its members should refuse to work in
      > interrogation settings where torture is present (e.g., Guantanamo,
      > etc.).
      > I think that Gusterson's point that the source of funding
      > influences the study irrespective of intentions is persuasive. I
      > wonder if Gates would actually consider his suggestion of placing
      > money with NSF instead. It would be interesting to hear his reasons
      > for not doing so. On the other hand, Feaver does make a point that
      > many scholars would simply follow the money (it's their livelihood,
      > they must put their kids through college, etc.), thus the
      > Minerva project would be successful and the so-called leftist
      > anthropologist dissenters would be seen as largely irrelevant.
      > In the final analysis, though, I side with the irrelevant ones.
      > Lloyd

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.