That's very interesting. It's always nice to see one's field of interest recognized as important. Anthropology has an unfortunate reputation as a fuzzy, easy major for empty-headed slackers, so I'm thrilled that the CIA understands the great benefit to be had from researching and comparing human societies. I'm less than thrilled that their purpose in doing so is to gather information without the knowledge and permission of the people it concerns, and less than less than thrilled that the purpose of that information-gathering is to gain political and military advantages over said people. That's not exactly in keeping with the spirit of political neutrality and sharing of information which anthropology (and every other academic discipline) is supposed to value.
It doesn't stop at a faint sense of ethical ickiness, though; there are two more problems. One is pointed out midway through the article: when people start associating anthropology with international espionage, their response to actual anthropologists is going to range from uncooperative to really fucking hostile. It's not exactly a secret now; this program is announced on the CIA website and is being reported by major international news media. A bad time to be an anthropologist abroad could begin really whenever people feel like it.
The last issue, which you'll find at the very end of the BBC article, is that the field of anthropology has been visited (in the plague-of-locusts sense) with people like Felix Moos of the University of Kansas. He says: "The United States is at war. Thus, to put it simply, the existing divide between academe and the intelligence community has become a dangerous and very real detriment to our national security at home and abroad."
That's right. If you're interesting in learning and you're not putting that to work in the service of war, you're a threat to all of us. I'd better see you putting down that potsherd and picking up a gun pronto or there's going to be trouble.Posted by dianna at June 2, 2005 04:25 PM