[URBANTH-L]New Network of Concerned Anthropologists

FromYosee at aol.com FromYosee at aol.com
Mon Oct 1 22:53:05 EDT 2007

The below post is a good example of why anthropologists should get  involved. 
 What other social science discipline promotes such a self  critical analysis 
as this one does?  I know of no anthropology graduate  student who did not 
study the folly of our discipline and the harm we caused in  being steeped in 
ethnocentrism.  I know of no economist, political  scientist or psychologist who 
has had similar training (lip service,  perhaps).  Yet, those are the 
"experts" to whom our government consults  with.  Even if we do not have direct 
control over how the  bureaucrats use the knowledge we provide.  Our training gives 
us a  perspective and our participation gives us a voice.  A voice that would 
 remain relatively silent if we turned our backs.  I do agree we need  
further discussion and perhaps written guidelines as to the boundaries of such  
involvement.  As far as hurting our chances of gaining access to various  
communities:  I do not think most of us were allowed access because we are  
anthropologists.  When I conducted my fieldwork people opened their  doors to me because 
I gained their trust by establishing a rapport with  them.
Joe Ellman  
In a message dated 10/1/2007 3:18:01 P.M. Central Daylight Time,  
Lindwyer5 at aol.com writes:

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 
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  
should some of our profession  be active participants in national  security 
activities?  My  expectation is that it would have a very chilling  effect on 
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 
which we now work both internationally and  at home  because of the 
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  
of the anthropologist to  affect missions in an insightful and positive  

The effect  of  having an anthropologist working in  counterinsurgency 
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 
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 
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 
to ascertain the ethics  involved.  What is our ethical obligation to our  
research  subjects in areas of conflict or in which illegal or harmful 
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  

Linda  Dwyer

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