Friday, October 05, 2007

Handmaiden of Colonialism?

R sent me this link today. Basically, it is about anthropologists or other social scientists who are embedded with US army units in Afghanistan. The social scientists help the soldiers understand what is going on with the people, which can help diffuse situations without resorting to combat. The Army maintains that this program has reduced combat engagements.

I really don't know how I feel about this. On one hand, it seems reducing combat is a good thing. On the other hand, I agree with critics who are concerned it will make anthropologists seem like informers for the Army. Should we be using anthropology to help further the US government's goals in Afghanistan? Is it ok to do so in the cases when the US's goals are the same as those of the local people? What happens in cases when they collide? I find it hard to believe that in these cases it would be accepted/ok for the anthropologist to advocate on behalf of the local people.

That is what I am thinking about this morning.

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