A few days ago, the Executive Board of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) decided to oppose the embedding of anthropologists in military teams (HTS) in Iraq and Afghanistan. The use of anthropological knowledge in the U.S. military and the militarisation of anthropology has been the most discussed topic among anthropologists this year.
The Executive Board of the American Anthropological Association concludes (i) that the HTS program creates conditions which are likely to place anthropologists in positions in which their work will be in violation of the AAA Code of Ethics and (ii) that its use of anthropologists poses a danger to both other anthropologists and persons other anthropologists study.
Thus the Executive Board expresses its disapproval of the HTS program.
In the context of a war that is widely recognized as a denial of human rights and based on faulty intelligence and undemocratic principles, the Executive Board sees the HTS project as a problematic application of anthropological expertise, most specifically on ethical grounds. We have grave concerns about the involvement of anthropological knowledge and skill in the HTS project. The Executive Board views the HTS project as an unacceptable application of anthropological expertise.
To facilitate discussion on this subject, the AAA has created this blog as a forum for members to post comments regarding the Executive Board statement and related issues. Currently, their first and only blog post about the Board statement has 64 comments!
It was fascinating to see how quickly the anthropological blogosphere reacted. Short time after the publication of the statement, the first blog posts appeared:
L.L. Wynn at Culture Matters summarizes the statement and the first reactions.
Alex Golub, Savage Minds sounds enthusiastic:
The statement clearly (in my humble opinion) shows the influence of SM (Savage Minds) and the anthropological noosphere more generally on the AAA exec board and every reader, commenter and Mind should be proud to see that this is really a case of our community forming a ‘civil sphere’ that can inform AAA decision making.
I am blown away by the quality of the comments on the AAA blog, as well as the fact that they are published by professors writing in their own name. This is the first time I have seen the anthropology professoriate as a professoriate. I hope that the AAA blog become a major site in the anthropological noosphere.
One of the most detailed commentary can be found on the blog Open Anthropology by Maximilian Forte. After having read through over 60 comments on the AAA blog he wrote the post Empty Scholasticism at its Best on the AAA Blog. See also his comment Politics and Ethics: Anthropologists and Human Terrain Systems.
Futhermore, Forte noticed that the AAA still has job adverts for the HTS by the U.S. military on its website (see an example). “This should be a source of embarrassment for the Executive Board of the American Anthropological Association, although thus far there is little indication of any", Forte writes.
UPDATE (17.11.07):“The AAA disapproving of HTS is unfortunate, U.S. militrary anthropologist Marcus Griffin writes. “Anthropology will have failed to take advantage of an important opportunity to make a difference in the world". >> continue reading on his blog (link updated)