Anthropology and Militarism

David Price

in Anthropology

ISBN: 9780199766567
Published online July 2013 | | DOI:
Anthropology and Militarism

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  • Human Evolution
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Anthropology has a long and ambivalent relationship with military organizations. Whether it was anthropology’s development in the shadow of colonialism, settler colonialism, the expansion of empires, a range of military conquests, or the soft influx of military-linked funding for area studies or language acquisition, anthropology developed in situations involving military forces in ways that have not always been considered by the discipline. As citizens, anthropologists periodically serve in militaries of their nations, and these militaries have recurrently attempted to draw on anthropological knowledge or practice for use in military conquest or to gather regional knowledge that has intelligence uses. In an episode made famous by Franz Boas’ post–World War I condemnation of archaeologist-spies, anthropologists used archaeological fieldwork as a pretense for spying for the Office of Naval Intelligence. The Second World War elevated the status of anthropology in military and intelligence circles, and the war raised awareness that anthropology could be applied to the war effort. During the 1960s, revelations of Project Camelot and America’s wars in Southeast Asia pushed many younger anthropologists to oppose military and intelligence agencies’ uses of anthropological information for warfare and counterinsurgency operations. In the United States, the controversy generated by anthropological contributions to operations during the late Vietnam War led the American Anthropological Association in 1971 to adopt its first Code of Ethics, the Principles of Professional Responsibility. Soon, analyses linking the historical development of the discipline to colonialism extended these critiques from the present wars to the roots of the discipline itself. Anthropological engagements with the military raise ethical and political questions about the roles and responsibilities of anthropologists. The ethical issues involve questions of whether the use of anthropological data or methodologies violates basic anthropological ethical principles of obtaining voluntary informed consent, causing harm, or not issuing secret reports that studied populations cannot access.

Article.  9932 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology ; Human Evolution ; Medical Anthropology ; Physical Anthropology ; Social and Cultural Anthropology

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