On December 5, 2009, the Network of Concern Anthropologists (NCA) held a session at the AAA Annual Meeting in Philadelphia to discuss some of the issues they raised in their recently released Counter-Counterinsurgency Manual. The session was chaired and recorded by David Vine, assistant professor of anthropology at American University and a founding member of the NCA.
Panelists/Discussants: Roberto Gonzalez; David Price; Andrew Bickford; Gregory Feldman; Dylan Kerrigan; Catherine Besteman; Catherine Lutz; Nancy Scheper-Hughes
Anthropology and “cultural knowledge” have become much trumpeted tools in the U.S. military’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition to the widely criticized Human Terrain Team program, the Pentagon drew on anthropology and anthropological concepts in the writing of its new Counterinsurgency Field Manual. Released to considerable media attention in 2007, the Pentagon portrayed the manual as a blueprint to correct the mistakes of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and plot a new and improved path for the “war on terror” and U.S. foreign policy. From the inception of the Human Terrain Teams, the Network of Concerned Anthropologists (NCA) has been deeply concerned about the misuse of anthropology in the exercise of deadly wars. In response to the Field Manual, the NCA steering committee recently released its own Counter-Counterinsurgency Manual to critique the Pentagon’s strategies and offer possibilities for resistance.
This panel presents and advances these arguments to expand public and anthropological debates about the military’s use of anthropology, the militarization of the United States, and the ongoing wars as a way to move toward better policies and practices and away from what C. Wright Mills called the “military definition of the situation.” Panelists will discuss the history and contemporary uses of counterinsurgency; identify flaws in the Counterinsurgency Manual ranging from the misunderstanding of anthropology to the promotion of failed colonial-era strategies of control and domination; examine the role of anthropology in increasingly robotic high-tech warfare; critique the militarization of U.S. foreign policy, development assistance, and relations with Africa; expose the militarization of everyday life in the United States; and suggest strategies for resisting the military’s misuse of anthropological knowledge and for building a new, human-centered foreign policy. The panel will encourage audience members to join in seeking ways, as anthropologists and as citizens, to undo the damage done by the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and to work together to struggle against the militarization of anthropology. As part of efforts to broaden the impact of anthropological scholarship, the panel will be audio recorded and made freely available on the internet as a podcast.
If you’re having trouble playing the mp3 file, try installing a free version of Apple Quicktime.