Anthropology, War, and Security

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Course Title

Anthropology, War, and Security

Institution Where Taught

University of Maryland

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Course Description

This course will examine interactions between anthropologists and military and intelligence agencies, with attention to three particular periods in U.S. history. The course will look first at World War II, when more than half of the nation’s anthropologists were utilizing their professional skills in some capacity to advance the war effort—gathering military intelligence, writing training documents, and working for government agencies. The course will then look at the Cold War, during which time, American anthropologists again worked closely with the U.S. government, sometimes resulting in troubled relationships, including incidences of FBI monitoring of U.S. anthropologists, CIA funding of anthropological research (sometimes without the scholars’ knowledge), and realignment of the discipline’s research agenda to serve U.S. national security objectives. Finally, the course will look at global events of the early twenty-first century and the manners in which they have created new relationships between anthropologists and national security personnel. In the face of prolonged insurgencies, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan, segments of the U.S. military have taken renewed interest in anthropology, evidenced in part by the Pentagon’s Counterinsurgency Field Manual which called for the mobilization of anthropologists to conduct field research that would serve the needs of military strategy. In addition to these historical moments, the course will examine the ongoing and evolving ethical debates surrounding anthropologists’ collaborations with the U.S. national security apparatus.

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