Anthropology in the Service of the State

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Date/Time: 12/05/2008 12:00 am

Alwan for the Arts Presents:
Anthropology in the Service of the State
A Panel Discussion with Rosalind Morris and Nadia Abu El-Haj
Moderated by Joseph Massad
Monday, May 12, 2008. 7 PM
Free and Open to the Public
Since its inception Anthropology has been at the forefront of the
colonial project. In today’s world, in spite of the self critical
assessment the discipline has engaged in and the refreshing new works
that have been published as a result, many anthropologists have
continued the discipline’s old colonial tradition: this has taken the
form of anthropologists as “heroic soldier thinker” embedded in army
units on the front lines of battle employing their cultural knowledge
for the pacification of occupied societies as well as coauthoring
counter-insurgency manuals with military generals. In the Human
Terrain Project, a program developed by the Pentagon, Human Terrain
Anthropologists marshall ethnographic knowledge in the field to
advise troops while being escorted by the military or, in fact, being
armed themselves. Other mercenary anthropologists are under contract
with the likes of Blackwater in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our panelists
will address this nexus of power-knowledge, its wider history beyond
the current active territory of the Middle East, looking analytically
at examples where the human sciences have been compromised in the
service of occupation and oppression of people.
Rosalind Morris is professor of Anthropology at Columbia University
and author of Place of Origins: Modernity and its Mediums in Northern
Thailand and New Worlds from Fragments: Film, Ethnography and the
Representation of Northwest Coast Cultures
Nadia Abu El-Haj is associate professor of Anthropology at Barnard
College and author of Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice
and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society.
Joseph Massad is associate professor of Middle Eastern studies at
Columbia University and author Desiring Arabs, The Persistence of the
Palestinian Question: Essays on Zionism and the Palestinians and
Colonial Effects: The Making of National Identity in Jordan.
Alwan for the Arts
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