Anthropology and Counterinsurgency: The Strange Story of Their Curious Relations
Call you call it prostitution if anthropologists work for the military? Opinions are divided on this issue. As a pacifist, my answer is obvious. Others will stress that they've done their job as an anthropologist if they have succeeded in teaching soldiers cultural awareness and respect to other customs (as stated on a conference in Norway last year).
In a long article in Red Nova, cultural anthropologist Montgomery McFate discusses anthropologists' possible role in the U.S. military. She criticizes anthropologists' "retreat to the Ivory Tower" after the Vietnam War. Does she want anthropologists to take up their questionable role they played role during the colonial era? It seems so. She writes:
"From the foregoing discussion, it might be tempting to conclude that anthropology is absent from the policy arena because it really is "exotic and useless." However, this was not always the case. Anthropology actually evolved as an intellectual tool to consolidate imperial power at the margins of empire."
On CENSA's website we read that McFate "has spent the past few years trying to convince the Department of Defense that cultural knowledge should be a national security priority".
UPDATE (20.5.05): I've only quickly scanned the article. Shortly after, Savage Minds' author Dustin M. Wax has written a detailed review (!) of the McFate's article:
"Her long article is a backhanded compliment to stubborn anthropologists whose knowledge and expertise is “urgently needed in time of war” but who, “bound by their own ethical code and sunk in a mire of postmodernism”, “entirely neglect U.S. forces”. I'll cut straight to the chase: a functioning anthropology can never be on the side of “U.S. forces”. This is a practical as well as an ethical argument—it simply is not possible, even were there enough anthropologists who shared McFate’s priorities.