[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
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?
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