ACCUMULATING PERIPHERALS


Whose idea was it to let the anthropologists run the war, again? by mattsteinglass
November 30, 2009, 6:16 am
Filed under: Afghanistan

I remember back about two years ago I started seeing white-hot discussions on a scholarly email group I belong to about the ethics of academic anthropologists working with US military in Afghanistan to provide expertise on social structure and culture for counterinsurgency purposes.

What nobody took up was the question of what the hell the US military thought was going to happen when it started letting anthropologists advise on strategy. I think the current argument about whether a potential turn towards reliance on a “tribal” strategy in Afghanistan reflects a hopelessly culturally essentialist pre-Levi-Straussian ethnographic privileging of what any post-structuralist account would recognize as fluid, hybrid and technologically-economically constructed relationships of social power, or whether that account in itself fails to recognize the self-empowering capacity for agency of oppressed social categories, or to take a sufficiently gender-inflected view, or should assimilate a more Agent Network Theory perspective that admits multiple types of affiliations…my point is made.

But check out this fascinating paper from the US Army’s Human Terrain System. I think it’s a research organization composed of humans, rather than some kind of analytical AI with a data-feed from droids and nanobots scouring the Afghan countryside, but I’m not entirely sure.

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