The War on Campus – David H. Price

Price, David H. (2008). Anthropological Intelligence: The Deployment and Neglect of American Anthropology in the Second World War. Durham, NC:Duke University Press.

The fourth chapter “The War on Campus,” studies the mechanisms of support existent within universities from anthropologists during the Second World War, a conflict that profoundly shaped campuses and the role of anthropologists. This chapter shows how greatly influenced was the field of anthropology by politics at the time, through their involvement in the war effort.

During the Second World War, anthropologists proved their relevance to the country – legitimizing the study of other cultures thus enhancing their possibilities to expand research. Their understanding of the relationship between culture and human interactions and reactions was recognized by the military and intelligence community, who also recognized the practical utility of this knowledge. Their extensive fieldwork experiences and interest for linguistics placed them in the position to learn and teach languages useful in the context of warfare. The Intensive Language Program (ILP) was important in preparing language course material by anthropologists and linguists to prepare the country for a totalitarian world-wide war. The language guides were prepared and handed to the soldiers with secrecy to avoid spies from getting information on the troops destinations. The study of unwritten languages of the Orient was also of crucial importance, which lead linguists and anthropologists to find speakers of these languages. Language courses were adapted to diverse milieu through university courses, hand-outs, and even teachers travelling in war boats. By 1942, the ILP was teaching sixteen languages on fourteen university campuses. Anthropologists were also important in Area Studies, as they possessed extensive knowledge of the culture, history and workings of a wide array of societies. The Area Study centers founded during these years were also useful later on during the Cold War. The Army Specialized Training Programs (ASTPs) were put in place for the study of language but also of the culture and history of regions of interest. Anthropologists and archaeologists acquainted with their region of expertise had valuable knowledge on the geography, the culture, and language of regions of interest. Margaret Mead, in 1943, proposed teaching soldiers to become regional ethnogeographic specialists because of the exhaustion of anthropologists, who were massively enrolled in war work.

The motivation of Mead and many other anthropologists show their genuine involvement in the war effort. On the one hand, Mead, Kluckhohn and many other anthropologists were giving their full effort to the cause of the war, which makes us see the depth of their involvement. However, some anthropologists lost their jobs or were greatly silenced because of their position vis à vis the war. Clyde Kluckhohn produced work for the ASTP and the Council of Intercultural Relations on intercultural contact and argued that it was important to understand cultural change. The understanding of the Other would help Americans and Allies avoid certain errors leading to events like Pearl Harbour. Kluckhohn makes clear that a better understanding of cultural practices and values is beneficial for controlling populations and understanding opponents. Mead encouraged instructors to invite cultural informants to better understand the alien culture in an experience of fieldwork and observation, this would serve the purpose of thinking like the Other.  The top anthropology departments, such as at Harvard and University of Chicago, assisted or developed such courses. This interest was not restricted to anthropologists but universities also had great motivation to participate. Was this related to the grants that they could attract or to their reputation increasing or to some governmental pressure? Universities tried to maintain contact with their students during the war and this correspondence was at times published in newspapers, such as Euphoria.  

Universities were shaped in unmeasurable ways, as the emphasis of certain areas of studies and ideological commitments remained in the post war period. The outcome of the war shows interesting developments related to gender and class relations within university campuses. In 1940, 61 percent of American colleges and universities had anthropology departments and as the war started student enrollment in the departments decreased as they were volunteering or drafted for military service. This changed the demographics of the campuses, as more female students were entering undergraduate and graduate degrees with great motivation. However the end of the war lead to the disappearing of this group of students, replaced by incoming male veterans. The after war transformation of campus life started with the GI Bill which funded college education for a generation of veterans. This opened the door of prestigious universities to working-class background veterans who would become influential anthropologists. Anthropology departments after the war were more valued and funded, and they were realign to serve state interests.

The work of anthropologists in the war effort during the Second World War raises ethical questions surrounding the use of information gathered for violent purposes, this concern is briefly raised in Price’s analysis of the war on campus. He argues that:

“[…] it is surprising that Mead, Kluckhohn, and others do not appear to have seriously pondered the implications of using participant-observation techniques as a tool of warfare; nor do they appear conflicted about teaching to military personnel. Mead’s and Kluckhohn’s correspondence does not show them as concerned that the military might be a hungry master with needs that stretched beyond the conflict at hand.” (90)

The author questions the involvement of these academics for the purpose of the conflict and their lack of awareness or preoccupation for the use, by the distinct agencies, of the data provided  for more imperial goals. However, he does not clarify what he might see as problematic in his action or what these implications are. Price argues that the institution profiting from anthropological work is the military, this “hungry master” who uses anthropologists to get overarching power. Indeed, the military is profiting extensively through the instruction of their soldiers on language, culture, and history of regions where they operate during this war. However, it is also arguable that the war and the participation of anthropologists was to profit the government and multiple institutions, including universities and private businesses.

This chapter raises important questions on the influence of politics in the work of anthropologists and universities, how these events influenced the interests of universities and academics, and the ethical issues that are raised by the commitment of anthropologists to the war effort. These are concerns that are of current relevance as today’s field has been shaped through the outcome of the decisions made by past anthropologists and universities. Although this chapter incites the reader to ask herself these questions, it does not provide many answers or opinions. Is it because of a lack of available data or to detach the author from a positionality unfavorable to the nation? Even today, academics are restricted by the interests of the institutions that distribute grants, by pressure of governments and academic institutions on what is acceptable, and by the market that will receive the published outcome.  


Thomas C. Patterson – Anthropology in the Liberal Age, 1879-1929 (chapter 2)

Patterson, Thomas C. (2001). A Social History of Anthropology in the United States. Oxford: Berg.

In this chapter, Patterson is looking at the professionalization of the field from the creation of the Bureau of Ethnology in 1879 to the Wall Street Crash in 1929. Key processes of this period were the imperial interest of businesses to control foreign markets, the colonialist expansion over dark-skinned people, and the immigration of southern and eastern European people. At that time, mass-media and new policies became important channels of transmission of classism, racism, sexism, and xenophobia.

During the 1870s, John Wesley Powell, Commissioner of Indian Affairs and Secretary of the Interior, proposed the replacement of military campaigns by reservations that would serve the acculturation purpose.  In 1879, Congress created the Bureau of Ethnology,  under Powell’s direction, to publish work related to the Indians of North America. Powell’s extensive work, a compilation and classification of North American Indian languages and their genetic relationship advanced the organization of past data and of tribal synonymy. However, his research was constricted by lobbying groups advocating for the study of mound-builders. During the 1920s, Boas and his students critiqued cultural evolutionism and racialist theories. During the same period, the American Anthropological Association (AAA) was founded and graduate programs were created in many universities. This professionalization was opposed by Edgar Lee Hewett, founder of the Archaeological Society of New Mexico, who attracted away support given to Boas and Putnam. At the end of the First World War, Boas discovered that four anthropologists were spies in Central America and Mexico. Moreover, views on what anthropology entails were divided between Boas’ cultural determinism of behavior, Aleš Hrdlička’s stress on physical anthropology, and Charles B. Davenport’s eugenics and social Darwinism. In 1916, the National Research Council (NRC) was created to organize science and research for the war effort and, in July 1919, the Division of Anthropology and Psychology was created.

In Homo Academicus, Pierre Bourdieu (1984) described situations when professors gained power and social position because of their charismatic personality or their writings for the mainstream population. Indeed, many of the precursors of today’s field were journalists themselves or engaged in popular writing. This is the case of Powell who “wrote popular accounts for the mass media, which publicized various aspects of Indian life in the West” (Patterson 2001:37). Moreover, people who collaborated with Powell for his research came from various fields, including newspaper reporting James Mooney. These researchers were said to conduct brilliant research, which lead to much of the development of anthropology. Most importantly, at a period when mass media was used to spread discrimination and popular beliefs, it could also be used by anthropologists, such as Franz Boas, to attack these beliefs but also the occurrences of the time. Today, the use of digital media to increase social capital is seen through social platforms such as twitter,, and TED talks, which have a direct impact in the careers of social scientists.

Another aspect of reflexion is the practice of ethnographic work by individuals having personal interests in colonial or imperialist objectives, which were still very present during this period. This was the case of the colonial administrators described in The Expansive Moment by Jack Goody (1995), who walked into the field with a notebook and a gun. Within Powell’s team, one must question the interests of the people involved, for instance, but not only, the army surgeon, army officer, and missionary. Moreover, Powell’s research was of interest for the Director of the 1880 Census who believed a better understanding of linguistic relationship would facilitate the administration of Indian tribes. Finally, anthropologists conducting research abroad and simultaneously spying during the Second World War were not necessarily seen as breaching ethics by the AAA. The AAA  still struggles to assert its position regarding current conflicts because its stands result in strong debate within the association.

During the period covered by this chapter we have seen countless examples of individuals and organizations trying to control the outcome of research through their political influence or their monetary power. Lobbying seemed to be particularly strong before the professionalization of the field, as the government controlled the funds allocated to the various research teams. Research seemed to rely on political games, where the most powerful or annoying got the result they wanted. Researchers were also trying to attract individuals with money to fund their institutions and their research. This also meant that outsiders of the academic field, such as Grant at the committee of Anthropology of the NRC, were allowed in the decision making processes. Today, government and private agencies offering scholarships and grants might prioritize certain research that is beneficial to them.


Bourdieu, Pierre. (1990). Homo Academicus. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Goody, Jack. (1995). The Expansive Moment: The Rise of Social Anthropology in Britain and Africa 1918-1970. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.


Goody, Jack. (1995). The Expansive Moment: The Rise of Social Anthropology in Britain and Africa, 1918-1970. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

The Expansive Moment is an ethnographic document that aims to counter the popular criticism of British anthropology in Africa as colonialist by looking into its more progressive aspects. Jack Goody attempts to describe the development of anthropological research in Britain in the 1930s through the discussion of the role of universities, foundations, governments, and anthropologists themselves in shaping the field. By praising them, he defends the different players and their research interests, using, among his sources, personal correspondence between the main characters and his own anecdotes. The present commentary engages with and challenges some of the arguments found in the book to argue that Goody’s assessment of the field is profoundly partial.

To look at The Expansive Moment critically, it is important to understand Jack Goody’s position within his analysis. In his introduction, the author reserves a short paragraph to allude to his close relation with anthropologists like Mayor Fortes and E. E. Evans-Pritchard, major figures in his descriptions. In the a later chapter, entitled “Personal Contributions,” he describes his own involvement in the field. Indeed, after finishing an English degree and participating in the Second World War in the Middle East, Goody engaged in field research in West Africa as part of his archeology and anthropology degree at Cambridge, where he was a student of Fortes.  However, his analysis of his participation in British anthropology in Africa as a successor of the main figures of the 1930s lacks a clear statement on what this entails for his overall argument. This is not the case in Homo Academicus  where, in his study of French academia, Pierre Bourdieu (1984, 1) writes: “In choosing to study the social world in which we are involved, we are obliged to confront […] a certain number of fundamental epistemological problems […].” Bourdieu’s attempt at a sociological study shows self-reflexivity, whereas Goody’s “notes towards” do not tackle with seriousness obvious biases (Goody 1995, 5).

The characters of the book are a group of scholars, headed by Bronislaw Malinowski at the London School of Economics (LSE) who mostly, with the exception of Malinowski himself, did field research in British colonies in Africa during the late 1920s and the 1930s supported by the International African Institute and largely funded by the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial. These scholars, according to Goody, had little relation to colonial ambitions and were freely following their own research interest. According to him, The personal background of British anthropologists in Africa was in direct contrast to the colonial spirit, as many came from overseas and many others were leftist. However, he later stresses the fact that they had to avoid any confrontation with colonial officers in their findings and that jews and communist had many difficulties of getting into the field. Indeed, while Goody makes the effort to dismiss anti-semitic comments, such as the ones made by Malinowski, he later details the difficulties encountered by Fortes to enter the field. Moreover, while he states that a wide range of scholars were leftist, he explains in detail the impossibility of doing fieldwork when having any communist background, as both the foundations, the university, and mostly the government made a constant effort to impede them to set foot in Africa. Not only were there impediments set to them, some of the anthropologists held personal views that lined with the very subject of colonialism. This is the case of Evans-Pritchard, who not only approved of the seclusion of leftists to research in Africa, but was also aligned with a pro-war ideology.

Goody challenges the proposition that foundations that supported British anthropologists reproduced capitalist systems and cultural ‘hegemony’, exercised power over researchers, and diminished their autonomy. He states that most of the funding came from the American foundation the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial, which was later integrated to the Rockefeller foundation. This foundation directly supported researchers for their work in Africa, but also the development of the International African Institute. For instance, the London School of Economics received $2 million between 1923 and 1939 to support more empirical research. There is no transparent discussion of the appeal that anthropologists in Africa had for the Rockefeller foundation, although it is mentioned that they encouraged research on social change. This particular interest could be genuine or it could be enhanced by the attraction of investing in the big continent. Let us not forget the expansive importance of the Standard Oil company at the time. This foundation supported the International African Institute, which was led by Dr J. H. Oldham, a missionary, educationalist, and administrator. Dr Oldham was driven by the interest of applying an educational system in Africa based on practical training, which was criticized for having as intent to control a more compliant African worker. Although Goody describes a disinterested Oldham preoccupied with the well-being of African workers, it is difficult to paint his portrait very far from the colonialist incentive. As a missionary and administrator, he is placed in an ambiguous position, between the academia and the government. Interestingly, Goody mentions Evans-Pritchard disagreement over government-funded or applied work financed by the Colonial Social Science Research Council, the Rhodes-Livingston Institute, and the International African Institute. This was seen to be unscientific and even, as Evans-Pritchard argues, but Goody rapidly dismisses the importance of this criticism by stating that it was fueled by his animosity with Malinowski.

In this short review, it would be important to consider the actual work produced by anthropologists in Africa and their implications for the colonial argument. According to Goody, research interests for lineage, kinship and marriage, law, religion, and economy, were genuine for the ethnographers setting foot in Africa. Goody makes the implicit effort to show the great amount of work produced on each topic. One example comes from Oxford’s Fortes, Evans Pritchard and others’ African Political Systems, published in 1940. The main critique of the topics covered by the British anthropologists is that they looked at aspects of the life of colonized societies that could easily serve the colonialists to better understand the populations and manage them. Not only does the restriction of the field from anthropologists with contrary ideologies from the state reduces chances of upheaval, but the government had interest to keep anthropologists who were getting so close to the populations they wanted to control on their side. It was in their favour to have ‘cultural interpreters’ to be able to better govern over foreigners and to develop appropriate tactics of war or cohesion. This could be done through the study of anthropological work or by direct contact and friendship between colonial officers and the anthropologist.

Finally, Goody merely points at Russian and American anthropologists to discuss how they also engaged in imperialistic research without taking the time to further support his claim. This very limited look precludes all comparison with the situation of anthropology elsewhere and their interconnectedness. Here is a brief look at the similarities of French and British anthropology through comparisons with Pierre Bourdieu’s Homo Academicus. This exemplifies how British anthropology did not evolve in a void but was part of the bigger development of the field. First, Goody argues that administration and politics within the academic life in Britain in the 1930s was more time-consuming than teaching and writing. This relates to Bourdieu’s comment on the relevance of political power within the academic hierarchy. Secondly, Goody argues that the change from a small group of scholars to a larger participation increased teaching responsibilities for the older generation, brought new perspectives and approaches, but also erased the earlier small group feeling. This relates to Bourdieu’s drawing of French academics losing the privileges and the distinction of the position. Thirdly, the importance of the supervisor in the life of the student is seen in both Bourdieu’s and Goody’s analysis. For instance, Malinowski had a strong control over his students but also helped them receive fellowships and secure jobs and Bourdieu argued similarly that the securing of an academic post depended on the supervisor.

Throughout these chapters, Goody is defensive about criticism that point out a relationship between colonialism and British anthropology. Some of this criticism is related to the funding, the scholars interests, their relationship with the government, and courses given to colonial civil servants. Goody even chooses to point to others’ colonialist and imperialistic past and present to protect his own territory. Adding to his overall attitude, his closeness to the group of anthropologists described and his own involvement in Africa leads us to believe that he is defending himself, his credibility, and his future approval. This is clear in the following remark: “[…] it is an impoverished field that sees itself as having to discard its predecessors at each generation instead of critically building on their achievements […]” (144-145). Sadly, this volume does not attempt a critical appraisal of British anthropology, but a very personal justification of negative aspects of the field.


Bourdieu Pierre. (1990). Homo Academicus. Stanford: Stanford University Press.