[URBANTH-L]New Network of Concerned Anthropologists

Lindwyer5 at aol.com Lindwyer5 at aol.com
Mon Oct 1 08:39:27 EDT 2007

The point that the situation would likely be much worse if anthropologists  
chose to abstain from counterinsurgency activities is an interesting  one. 
There are several other aspects of this that might be of value to  discuss in 
contemplation of a final drafting and signing of an ethical stance  regarding the 
role of an anthropologist in war, nontraditional warfare, or  espionage 
related to national security.
First, what would be the effect on the welcome of anthropologists doing  
research in nations/societies/or minority groups experiencing serious  conflict 
should some of our profession be active participants in national  security 
activities?  My expectation is that it would have a very chilling  effect on the 
profession should some to be immersed "in the field" in such  activities. I 
imagine that anthropologists might not be welcomed to do  research in areas in 
which we now work both internationally and at home  because of the suspicions 
against us.
In contrast, analytical work not in the field may be more neutral--such as  
the efforts pioneered by Ruth Benedict in her efforts to gain insight into  
Japanese culture.  Is such an activity ethical?  Why or why not?
If it is determined that the profession would not suffer, or that the  
inability of other anthropologists to conduct research due to animosity toward  the 
profession's active involvement in conflict is worth the price, other  
questions obtain if one is to justify the activity based upon the singular  ability 
of the anthropologist to affect missions in an insightful and positive  manner.
The effect of  having an anthropologist working in  counterinsurgency efforts 
would relate directly to that person's power and role  in the chain of 
command.  What sort of efforts would an anthropologist take  part in and with what 
authority to effect the group's actions, to set policy, to  determine 
objectives?  This would have to be explored and understood before  one could determine 
whether the mere presence of an anthropologist would make  operations more 
humane, more accurate, more effective.  If a unit may  merely carry out an 
operation more effectively due to anthropological insights,  but if that operation 
violates ethical norms of the field, what is an  anthropologist to do?
I ask these questions above and the enduring ones that follow in order  to 
more fully understand the nature of the problem the profession faces in order  
to ascertain the ethics involved.  What is our ethical obligation to our  
research subjects in areas of conflict or in which illegal or harmful activities  
take place?  What is our ethical obligation to our research and to the  
individuals in a study who may be harmed by the activities of others in the  field?
Linda Dwyer

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