“Anthropologists on the Front Lines”

More damage done to the reputation of American, and perhaps all other anthropology, as news of anthropological support for American “pacification” efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan continues to gain attention in now almost all of the main US and international media. The latest, from TIME Magazine:

Academic conferences tend to be fairly sedate affairs, at least to the uninitiated, and the American Anthropological Association’s (AAA) annual meetings are usually no exception. But this year’s, held recently in Washington, D.C., was a downright raucous gathering, certainly the liveliest and most intemperate since the divisive days of the Vietnam War, when some anthropologists were attacked for willingly or unwittingly abetting violent counter-insurgencies. There was some serious name-calling (“torture-deniers,” even “war criminals”) as well as threats to name names, censure or expel certain colleagues.

The reason for the furor was a small but growing number of colleagues who are collaborating with the U.S. government’s war on terror. Two years ago, the CIA quietly started recruiting social scientists, advertising in academic journals and offering princely salaries of up to $400,000. But in the past few months the Pentagon has taken its work with the ivory tower to a new level. In September, Washington turned a pilot project called Human Terrain Teams into a full-fledged, $40 million program to embed four- or five-person groups of scholars – including anthropologists, sociologists and social psychologists – with all 26 U.S. combat brigades in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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