The Anthropology of Military and National Security Organizations

Short Seminar

February 26–27, 2007

Since the inception of the “war on terror,” US military and national security institutions have become increasingly interested in anthropology. As decision-makers struggle to make sense of the new array of “terrorist threats,” knowledge held by anthropologists is “perceived as a key source of expertise for understanding the cultural context and meaning of local manifestations of religious fundamentalism, political insurgency, and forms of terrorism,” wrote the co-chairs of this short seminar. “While many anthropologists argue that work with national security institutions is ethically fraught, others argue that current events have opened a channel through which anthropologists can affect policymaking.” In July 2008, the nine participants explored this issue in preparation for a plenary session at the annual meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology, held in Santa Fe in March 2009.

“A key question is how the character of our personal politics affects the theory and practice of anthropology. How we answer this question will affect what we consider appropriate research, how we set standards for intellectual quality, how we evaluate applied and academic forms of scholarly practice, and what kinds of funding sources are ethically acceptable or available. Moreover, all these questions are important not only in themselves but also for the professional training of the upcoming generation of anthropologists,” said the co-chairs.

This seminar was generously supported by the Dobkin Family Foundation.

Laura McNamara, Chair Sandia National Laboratories
Neil L. Whitehead, Chair Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin, Madison
R. Brian Ferguson Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Rutgers University
Eric J. Haanstad Weatherhead Resident Scholar, School for Advanced Research
Anne Irwin Department of Anthropology, University of Calgary
Paul Nuti International and Government Relations, American Anthropological Association
David Price Department of Anthropology, St. Martin’s University
Robert A. Rubinstein Department of Anthropology, Syracuse University

Sponsored by Dobkin Family Foundation

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