“Anthropologists should not engage in research and other activities that contribute to counterinsurgency operations in Iraq or in related theaters in the ‘war on terror.’” That is one of the central declarations of a Pledge of Non-Participation in Counterinsurgency that was circulated today by a loosely defined group that refers to itself as the Network of Concerned Anthropologists.
The network is asking scholars to sign the statement and to send their signatures to the anthropology department at George Mason University. (Two of the network’s organizers, Andrew V. Bickford and Hugh Gusterson, teach there.)
The petition arrives two months before an ad hoc committee of the American Anthropological Association is expected to propose ethical guidelines for anthropologists’ cooperation with military and intelligence agencies.
A few anthropologists, including Montgomery McFate, a senior fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace, have recently argued that social scientists should make their “cultural knowledge” available to the military. (One anthropologist who is doing so is Marcus B. Griffin, a professor of anthropology at Christopher Newport University. Mr. Griffin is in Iraq supporting a military “Human Terrain System” project, and he is chronicling the experience on his blog.)
But many anthropologists are highly skeptical of Ms. McFate and Mr. Griffin’s approach. The petition argues that the U.S. military presence in Iraq is illegitimate and that any support is therefore unethical. More broadly, the petition asserts that anthropologists who work with military and intelligence agencies damage the “relations of openness and trust with the people anthropologists work with around the world.” —David Glenn