Military spies invade
Written by Lorenz
The U.S. military is not only
interested in employing anthropologists. Now, they have started
attending anthropology conferences. Anthropologist
Caroline Osella from the University in London and one of the
Social Mobility In Kerala, is worried.
a post in the ASA Globalog (run by the Association of Social
Anthropologists of the UK and Commonwealth) she tells us about her
recent experience from a conference at the
Exeter Gulf Studies Centre where she met people from the U.S.
military both in the bar and in the conference:
Bad enough to have to check oneself
and what one says in conferences…but to have to be on your guard in
the bar afterwards in case you say something of interest about the
Gulf-connected Muslim Indians you work among is surely one step too
James Bond for an anthropologist?
A week before, she had attended a conference on south Asian studies
in Leiden and “also found some of these security types there,
listening in on the panels on south Asian Muslims – and even
presenting papers themselves!”
Do we have to tolerate this?, she wonders:
I still maintain that this is a worrying trend and that effectively,
academic freedom and decent research is jeopardised if all our
conferences are gatecrashed.
Conferences are places where we try out ideas and present first
drafts of our work; we may later decide to alter some things before
going to publication in order to protect the people we work with.
By letting security personnel or academics form the military into
conferences then effectively our work is going into the public realm
before we are ready for it to do so.
Washington and whoever else is welcome to read the published
versions of my and Filippo’s work, like any other members of the
interested public. But they can download it and read it in their
They can please keep away from academic conferences, where I want
the freedom to try out my ideas, decide which details I might want
to keep confidential for ethics’ sake, and feel free to engage in
discussions which are not monitored or where the information I may
pass on is not feeding into any policy agenda. And I want to be able
to go and drink and talk shop in the bar in the evening without
wondering who is listening.
We teach our undergrads about our shameful past with regard to
colonialism. Are we going to find the next generation of
anthropologists teaching about us and our pathetic accommodations to
state power and our polite refusals to speak out?
>> read the whole blog post on the ASA Globalog
>> more posts on counterinsurgency on the ASA Globalog (quite a lot
On the website of the
Network of concerned anthropologists (NCA), Hugh Gusterson tells
a related story. During a panel at the American Anthropological
Association annual meeting featuring three NCA members, witnesses
saw two U.S. Army personnel writing down the names and institutional
affiliations of anthropologists who had signed copies of the
NCA pledge of Non-participation in Counter-insurgency
circulating during the panel.
Protests against British research council: “Recruits anthropologists
for spying on muslims”
Final report launched: AAA no longer opposes collaboration with CIA
and the military
The dangerous militarisation of anthropology
“Arabs and Muslims should be wary of anthropologists”
Anthropology and CIA: “We need more awareness of the political
nature and uses of our work”