(post in progress) The American Anthropological Association (AAA) sounds quite diplomatic in its final report on the growing ties between the military and anthropology. The report was released yesterday at the annual AAA meeting and says:
There is nothing inherently unethical in the decision to apply one’s skills in these areas. Instead, the challenge for all anthropologists is finding ways to work in or with these institutions, seeking ways to study, document, and write transparently and honestly to an anthropological audience about them, in a way that honors the discipline’s ethical commitments.
We do not recommend non-engagement, but instead emphasize differences in kinds of engagement and accompanying ethical considerations. We advise careful analysis of specific roles, activities, and institutional contexts of engagement in order to ascertain ethical consequences. These ethical considerations begin with the admonition to do no harm to those one studies (or with whom one works, in an applied setting) and to be honest and transparent in communicating what one is doing.
The AAA has set up another blog to discuss these issues
(but it seems that they haven’t enabled the comment feature yet?).
Inside Higher Education: Secrecy and Anthropology (another summary) and Wired: Academics Turn On “Human Terrain” Whistleblower (incl excerpts of a speech)
The report was discussed at the AAA meeting. Inside Higher Ed reports: Questions, Anger and Dissent on Ethics Study:
Can an association urge its members to apply the principle of “do no harm” in research when there isn’t much agreement on what “harm” is? (…)
The discussion was sufficiently heated that a graduate student who spoke to the group to defend the concept of scholarly engagement with the military was crying at one point, and at another point, the audience applauded the suggestion that any anthropologists who work with the military should be kicked out of the organization.
A few weeks ago, the Executive Board of the AAA decided to oppose the embedding of anthropologists in military teams (HTS) in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was, I suppose, a preliminary statement as the final word would be said in the final report.
For more news on the AAA meeting see Circumcision: “Harmful practice claim has been exaggerated” - AAA meeting part IV, New media and anthropology - AAA meeting part III, and “The insecure American needs help by anthropologists” - AAA-meeting part II