March 1, 2010

The Human Terrain Complex

Max Forte over at Zero Anthropology:
Any suggestion that HTS is not about supporting war, and separate from the military-industrial complex and corporate war-profiteering, is at the very least na├»ve or disingenuous. As soon as corporations become such a significant part of the picture, arguments about “saving lives,” “peace keeping,” and “cultural sensitivity” become, at the very best, secondary concerns. The main concern for any corporation is the accumulation of capital. The main concern for any war corporatist is the accumulation of capital derived from engagement in warfare – the main drive is to maintain the war that produces the contracts that generate revenue and growth.
So what exactly IS HTS all about? How is anthropology (and academia) being marshaled toward the war effort? What can (or should) be done about this? Where should anthropologists stand on this matter? What is the purpose of anthropology?

You see, this just makes me ask a lot of questions. I think I'm not asking ENOUGH.


Conor said...

HTS = Bad. Was it you that wrote that the US military is going to start training "anthropologists" to do this kind of stuff so that they dont have to reach out to actual anthropologists? Anywho, I think that is terrible too. And the fact that this type of "anthropology" (yes, in quotes) is what my mom thinks I should be doing repulses me even more.

Ryan Anderson said...

That was from a David Price article on Counterpunch. The military training its own anthropologists? Not good. But what can be done?

Wait, your mom thinks you should do HTS kind of work???

Anonymous said...

Many thanks Ryan, much appreciated. I am also working on a post right now that shows the diverse ways that "human terrain" thinking has permeated the defense establishment, to the extent that the actual elimination of HTS will not likely eliminate the problem.

Conor said...

In her head military + anthropology = good. I think she just assumes that because individuals have the title of anthropologist then they must be moral and upstanding people. And what a better situation to get involved in than war....right? haha

Ryan Anderson said...

Hey Max,

Ya, that's what the recent Price article had me wondering. I mean, all they have to do is stop calling it "anthropology"...and they can keep doing the same things that LOOK like anthropology (or some version of it). I'll be interested to see what you write about this.

Ryan Anderson said...


You should have your mom read some of David Price's books. Or maybe some history about Franz Boas: