The “noble war” narrative and the problem with focusing on personal moral choices (review of ch. 11)

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

In chapter 11, David Price ends his quest to understand anthropology’s involvement with the war effort by looking at how war-related work affected the development of the discipline, and opened the way to the justification of Cold War-related anthropology. He also discusses, on ethical grounds, some of the questionable uses of anthropology that were dealt with in the previous chapters. Again, as mentioned during previous seminars, the vocabulary he uses gives credence to the narrative of a grand war against Nazi barbarism. On page 267, he states that “[u]sing anthropology to combat and defeat fascism seems, in retrospect, to have been not only a logical but also a noble undertaking under conditions of total warfare”. Two pages later, he describes the Nazis as “evil enemies” (p. 269). On page 280, he repeats that “[t]he war’s fight against fascism was a noble one”. In Price’s rhetoric, these statements usually appear right before he introduces a critique of anthropological practices. They probably serve as a way for Price to avoid alienating his more conservative readers, who could classify him as an anti-American radical. But isn’t he overdoing it, considering that he already mentioned his support for the fight against the Axis powers in the preface? Is the myth of the noble war against fascism still so prevalent that he feels obliged to re-state it before making any criticism?

In some cases, this reaffirmation of the myth might actually be historically problematic. For example, on page 274, Price says that “total warfare was the only way to combat the Nazis”. Was it really the case? I am no specialist of World War II, and even less of military strategy, but I have often heard it said that the Soviet contribution to the destruction of Hitler’s forces was greater than that of the United States. If it is so, it is possible to think that the Allied forces could have won even if the US had not been committed to total warfare, which means that the most unethical warfare methods could have been avoided. In any case, Price’s statement probably needs careful historical revaluation.

One of the important points discussed by Price in this chapter is anthropologists’ relative silence concerning their war experience. Very few published writings dealing in any depth with what they did during the war (p. 266). Moreover, much later, when some scholars tried to critically examine anthropology’s contribution to WWII, their efforts were met with hostility and with defensive rebuttals (p. 278). This probably explains in part why Price is so prudent in his own critiques. However, this silence is somewhat surprising. One would expect that such a major event would lead to a profusion of personal accounts. Unfortunately, Price does not try to provide an explanation for this discretion on the part of his war-involved colleagues. Maybe it is simply because many of them wanted to quickly turn the page and move on. Or maybe it is because some of them felt some form of guilt over what they did during the war, as seems to be the case with Gregory Bateson. But if it is so, it would somewhat contradict the idea, implied by Price, that most were moved by a strong commitment to combat the Nazis. If such a sentiment was dominant in the field, we could expect anthropologists to talk about their deeds with pride.

As to the questionable uses of anthropological knowledge and skills, it is a bit troubling to see that Price at times seems more concerned with their impact on the discipline than on the people affected. For example, he argues that “[u]sing anthropologists to train native peoples to fight as guerillas was also a logical and effective application of anthropologists’ skill sets” (p.  266) given the nature of the war. He later suggests that this sort of work damaged American anthropology’s credibility, but he does not ponder on the fact that it is extremely problematic to enroll people to fight in a foreign power’s war. In the case of populations conquered by the Japanese, if there is already a local desire to fight the occupying power, it might be justifiable to provide support. But there is a good chance that, for the natives, the victory of one side or the other will only mean the replacement of a colonial power by another, as implied in the previous chapter, when Coon mentions that it was hard to explain to the natives who supported the US side why their condition did not change for the better (p. 250).

Although he does admit that ethical codes are not always effective and can be distorted by various political interests, Price seems to put a lot of faith in them. In fact, adopting clearer and stronger ethical guidelines is the only practical measure he suggests to reduce the problems associated with anthropological engagement in war efforts. To me, this highlights one of the weaknesses in Price’s approach: his focus on the personal moral choices of individual anthropologists. With such a focus, direct criticism of what his colleagues of the past have done would appear judgmental and quite inappropriate, considering that he is writing from a distance, without ever having to experience the hardships and the intensity of war. By focusing instead on more structural factors, such as how having a specific position in the anthropological field brings you closer to state interests, or how organizational needs shape intellectual production, he could have criticized situations without putting all the blame on the shoulders of specific individuals. He might also have suggested measures that could hypothetically be more effective than ethical codes, such as advocating for more public funding by autonomous research councils, in the hopes of making CIA or private foundation funding less attractive. During seminar, it was also suggested that a systematic analysis of the career paths – before and after the war – of the anthropologists who contributed to the war effort and of those who didn’t would have provided major insights on the incentives to participate.

Putting aside criticism, I have to mention that Price’s book, although it has some flaws, makes for a very compelling read. It is also a well-researched, thoughtful and broad work which contributes uniquely to our understanding of anthropology’s dealings with power.

The ritual cleansing of anthropology using the Freedom of Information Act.

Discussion based on: Price, David H. (2008). Anthropological Intelligence: The Deployment and Neglect of American Anthropology in the Second World War. Durham: Duke University Press. (Ch.10, p.220-261)

In Anthropological Intelligence, David Price covers many aspects of American anthropologists’ implication in the Second World War. He devotes chapters to the legacy of the first world war and to the role of professional associations. He considers the situation on campus during the war and he surveys the use of anthropologists by the USA’s adversaries. But the bulk of the book (six whole chapters) is devoted to cataloguing the roles played by American Anthropologists within the various agencies through which the USA implemented its plans during the war. Having covered the War Relocation Authority, the Office of War Information and the Special Intelligence Service , amongst others, Price concludes this cataloguing effort in chapter 10, with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). In many ways, the pattern seen throughout the preceding chapters is seen once more within the context of the OSS.

There is, of course, a judgement involved in my use of the term “cataloguing”. I mean to suggest that there is a great deal of presentation but rather little discussion. Because the content he is dealing with is heavy in ethical and moral implications, this issue is constantly in mind. But Price is coy with respect to his intent. His introduction refers to the difficulties inherent in judging other historical and cultural contexts and hints that he will try to avoid making value judgements. In many instances, he appears to do exactly that. A plethora of wartime activities is catalogued, ranging from banal administrative work to daring missions in the field, without any discussion of potentially meaningful differences between these different kinds of involvement. He likewise introduces without comment the practice of “moral outsourcing”, where plans that are clearly ethically and morally debatable are made by individuals instructed to think amorally on the grounds that unidentified others will be making these ethical and moral determinations. Yet Price is quick to suggest that the fight against “fascism” (or “totalitarianism” or a few other slogans) is a “good” one. He regularly implies its necessity. He is also, at times, explicit in his condemnation, such as when discussing internment camps or biological warfare. This oscillation between bland cataloguing and condemnation makes the instances in which Price is unclear all the more disturbing. So: what is Price up to?

In practice, Price is merely paying lip service to the idea that one should not judge. It seems clear that the point of cataloguing the activities he has documented is to enable judgement. The topics he covers are transparently considered sensitive (he had to pry this information from the government’s hands using FOIA). As such, Price is presenting an effective moral spectrum, one which goes from “things we can mention with a modicum of neutrality” all the way to “things even the narrator gets to be judgemental about”. This spectrum is in fact made of anthropologists and their ideas. At one end there are anthropologists like Carleton Coon who thought kidnapping was a reasonable means of acquiring information and who boasted of having made plans to maintain clandestine operations in allied nations following the war. Somewhere in the middle there are people like Gregory Bateson, who was guilt-ridden in the years following the war. At the other end of the spectrum, there are unknown recalcitrants, who refused or resisted involvement in practices they could not support, but whose decisions left few traces.

What questions is Price seeking to raise and answer with this text? A neutral reader might wonder if Anthropology attracts a certain type? Whether adventurers with amoral worldviews are somehow more common in this field than in others. But Price is not concerned with this issue; he does not actively seek to compare anthropologists’ involvement to that of other academic fields. One might wonder if anthropologists needed to be bribed and cajoled into service. But Price does not try to compare volunteers to dissidents amongst anthropologists.  The judgements Price seems most intent to enable are those which concern anthropologists themselves, as people. It is the questions raised by Steward, in the article from which the quote which opens chapter 10 was taken, which Price is most directly addressing. In the face of questions such as these, where Steward seems to consider it impossible for American anthropology to be both scientific and moral, Price is standing up for the image of the “fair” and “good” anthropologist. In effect he is saying: ” you cannot harm anthropology, ye vile and amoral practitioners, because anthropology will record you, and thus heal itself of you.”. Perhaps he is right.



Steward, Julian H. (1948). Comments on the Statement on Human Rights. American Anthropologist 50: 351-352.

Situating David Price in the Analysis of the Power – Knowledge Production Nexus

Price, David H. (2008). Anthropological Intelligence: The Deployment and Neglect of American Anthropology in the Second World War. Durham, NC:Duke University Press. [Chapter 9, Archaeology and J. Edgar Hoover’s Special Intelligence Service, p. 200-219]

In this response I will focus on the central operative theme of this chapter (and arguably the book itself). This I identify to be the power – knowledge production nexus. Price attempts to address this dynamic through his study of the formative internal workings of US intelligence agencies (hence the particular use of the FOIA) as they sought to deploy US anthropologists in Latin America to assist in wartime needs. I take the position that Price cannot be expected to fundamentally challenge the basis of this operative nexus for he remains firmly confined within a US-centric framework that is invested in this same nexus through his identity and practice. I argue that unless one is making the difficult effort to challenge the entanglement of one’s ontology and epistemology in the dynamics of the power – knowledge production nexus, with the explicit goal of challenging and shifting these modes of being and knowing, there can be no real systematic challenge made to addressing the consequences of the status quo power relations embedded in the work produced.

This chapter provides an insightful description of the formative context in which the US intelligence architecture was constructed during WWII. The internal workings of hierarchy in the context of power struggles over intelligence control give an interesting insight into the workings of US national security (NS), as well as implicitly acknowledging the function of fear and the power of an order (understood either as a command or a mode of organization) that is the institutionalization of hierarchies in knowledge production. Intelligence in this case is aligned with knowledge production, as the accumulation of information becomes intelligence when organized and presented by the relevant ‘authority’ in the hierarchy, and is therefore knowledge as it serves to reinforce worldviews and present justification for the actions of power – in this case potential military deployment.

In 1939 the Military Intelligence Division, the Office of Naval Intelligence, and the FBI were all given the responsibility of overseeing US foreign intelligence. This joint task proved to result in serious internal power struggles (p. 201), tricks and collusion, as each organization sought to accumulate access to, and power over the management of information into the realm of intelligence. A clear example of this comes from chapter 7 (Internment Fieldwork) where FBI director Hoover was actively fearful of the surrendering of organizational power to the army as it related to the question of the mechanism of internment of US citizens of Japanese ancestry. In 1940 the Special Intelligence Service (SIS) was established under the FBI with the role of overseeing US intelligence in Latin America. Price notes that the SIS used ‘ American business firms for a constant study of Axis operations’ (p. 201), but does not provide any further questioning or emphasis on the role of the economic interests of US MNCs as they are directly related to the functioning of US NS internationally. This point brings a sharp questioning that is unexplored by Price, when considering the role of the MNC and US stated NS interests in what came to pass in Latin America throughout the decades of 1951-1981.

As these internal power struggles continued in the consolidation of the US intelligence architecture, William Donovan (a former Wall Street lawyer) was made Coordinator of Information (COI), to oversee all international intelligence operations and the functioning of a ‘centralized intelligence clearing house’ (p. 202). Donovan was supported by the British intelligence agencies who were directly involved in the formation of the COI position which led to the formation of the OSS, the forerunner of the CIA. I see it important here to note the existence of what I continue to call the unbroken pact of Anglo-American[1] hegemony that deploys Imperialism to continue the patterns of domination set by colonial conquest and rule (see my earlier response ‘THE IMPORTANCE OF CONTEXT IN GOODY’S EXPANSIVE MOMENT‘ in this blog for more of this context).

The FBI managed a program for SIS operatives to be trained in ‘spycraft’ in order to function as ‘on-the-ground human sources gathering vital information for intelligence analysis.’ (p.202). In this effort US anthropologists were ready for deployment due to the precedent set in WWI with the use of ‘archeologist spies’. Center stage in this chapter is Lothrop, a US anthropologist who served as one of these WWI ‘archeologist spies’ in the Caribbean (p. 203) and returned to duty in WWII for a tour in Peru. I do not see the need to relay this ambiguous story but to note key points. In his deployment Lothrop created a web of lies under the pretext of doing archeological study at a museum to cover for work organizing a network of informants (p. 205). His activity was suspicious to many (including himself) and he was caught in various struggles with the US embassy and later the FBI. He did provide various forms of information over a period of about three years until 1944 when he resigned and returned to his academic positions at Harvard and Carnegie (p. 216). It is important to mention that these two institutions, along with the FBI and the Rockefeller Foundation, funded Lothrop’s intelligence operations in this period (p. 206).

Price observes that the ‘recurrent mixing of intelligence with legitimate funding foundations’ (p. 217) essentially serves ‘to undermine the credibility of claims of foundations’ and research institutes’ independence’ (p. 217) with consequences for past, present, and future. In the presentation of the problem it is the ‘silences maintained’ and at times ‘enforced’ (p. 219) by actions within member associations that is the cause for concern, similarly as it is the lack of anthropologists’ ‘scholarly’ work to ‘investigate’ this troubling history. This problem presents ‘serious dangers for fieldworkers operating around the world’ (p. 219) resulting from the ‘damage’ ‘to anthropology’s reputation’ (p. 218).

It is here that I must abruptly interject due underlying concern that I have for Price’s positionality in presenting this work. I must now situate my concern by presenting a critical analysis of Price’s work as he inevitably locates himself within the presentation. It is clear to me that Price is an ‘American’ anthropologist, and in my opinion from reading this text he is insular in that worldview. The problem exists in the presuppositions of his language of reference, noting particularly his use of the term ‘American’. The Americas are a vast place, complex, multifaceted, and composed of a high degree of variety in ontology and epistemology. The US is not America. This needs to be the beginning of the shift if the difficult work started by Price is to be taken seriously. It is evident that Price has no real articulated conception of the complexity and pervasiveness of Imperialism. Even where it might be implicit that he is referencing imperialist relations, the absence of any real analysis of these dynamics speaks loudly of his lack when he chooses to instead detail his concern for the safety of (legitimate? innocent? or imperial?) US anthropologists operating in contexts of international fieldwork.

I see it important to state explicitly the three concerns that I identify to be central to Price in this chapter: i) The reputation of US anthropology, ii) the safety of US anthropologists conducting fieldwork internationally, and iii) the consequences of US anthropology’s uncomfortable and ambiguous history of working with US intelligence agencies as it affects the workings of institutionalized anthropology in the US today. I go from this to make an explicit parallel between the functioning of the US intelligence architecture and the operation of anthropologists working from an elevated position in the power asymmetry of the international arena (as every US anthropologist inevitably does when working in this context, even when not working under the direct contract of US intelligence agencies).

Imperialism is not solely about military, economic, and political power. Imperialism is also about a global and hegemonic threat to the diversity of ontologies and epistemologies that exists around the world. In Price’s analysis there is no apparent moment where he considers the function of anthropology itself as a force of power that accumulates information about other ways of being and knowing such that this information can be brought into self-defined theoretical frameworks in order to become recognizable knowledge. The power inherent in this system of knowledge production is that it ultimately serves in the process of complete domination of one social group (one way of being and knowing) over another. Furthermore it is arguable that the knowledge produced by anthropologists is accessible as intelligence to the military and intelligence agencies whether they are contracted or not. The reality is that science, and social science, have never been independent of the workings of power. That is true from the earliest times of formalized scientific practices and theories that were quickly entangled in the beginnings of the colonial expansionist projects right through to today where there is explicit collaboration of social scientists with the military, and biologists with corporations that seek to patent and police the genetic codes and building blocks of life.

It is arguable that there have always been traditions of resistance to and efforts toward subverting these relations of the power – knowledge production nexus. The important point is that there are no pure origins of science to go back to, or any independent state to go towards. The complex and uncomfortable reality is there is always struggle and confrontation inherent in knowledge and power. As I see it the question and work is then to bluntly and honestly confront and address the entanglement of these relations inherent to the power – knowledge production nexus such that we might be able to contribute to addressing the inherent power symmetries with the explicit goal of engaging a fundamental shift in ontology and epistemology such that the coexistence of the diverse modes of being and ways of knowing inherent in existence are not perpetually threatened by a structural hegemony, especially in facing the reality of increasingly endangered ecologies that were are embedded in as the basis of our means of survival on this planet.

[1] I use this reference knowing the contradiction inherent in the term ‘American’, a critique I do bring to bear on Price’s use of it. I use the reference Anglo-American deliberately as it provokes this contradiction while being a direct reference to a particular historical alignment of power that rested on a guarantee of a particular form of hegemonic centrism that is often labeled ‘western’; a term in itself fraught with contradictions as it presupposes a particular world view. The traps are endless, especially in the English language.

Who’s the Nazi? The Complicity of US Anthropologists in WWII Internment Camps

Price, David H. (2008). Anthropological Intelligence: The Deployment and Neglect of American Anthropology in the Second World War. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. [Chapter Seven, Internment Fieldwork, 143-170]

This chapter recounts the aftermath of US President Theodore Roosevelt’s February 1942 Executive Order 9066, and the involvement of anthropologists in the atrocities that followed. The order allowed the Secretary of War to declare certain areas of the US Territory as military zones, from which individuals of Japanese ancestry were evicted. About 110,000 Japanese-Americans (two thirds of whom were US Citizens) were removed to concentration camps euphemistically called “relocation centers”. Price himself uses the word “concentration camp” (153) (although internment camp is more common). This term is significant in that it is usually associated with Nazi Germany, but Price’s use of it blurs distinctions between the righteous Allied nations and the “evil” Axis. The co-occurrence of racism in allied as in axis nations during the Second World War is also indicated by Earnest Hooton’s genocidal plans for Japan in chapter eight (192), which led the class to conclude, tongue-in-cheek, that it is a challenge to discern “who is the Nazi” (class discussion). Furthermore, these events raise the question of the meaning of citizenship and who is a citizen, an issue that remains highly relevant in today’s political climate.

Price outlines the three different organizations that employed anthropologists to study Japanese-American internees. These included the Community Analysis Section (CAS) of the War Relocation Authority (WRA), where Robert Redfield instituted a “democratic” system whereby internees would be kept distracted from the main cause of their suffering; the Bureau of Sociological Research (BSR) run by the Office of Indian Affairs, where Alexander Leighton employed an illusion of “self-government” to facilitate control of internees until the camp was relinquished to the WRA, and the secretive Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement Study (JERS) run by Dorothy Swaine Thomas at the University of California, Berkeley, who was not interested in cooperating with the WRA and who directed fieldworkers who aimed to “publish a true picture of the evacuation and life within the centers” (Wax, quoted in Price, 160).

In February 1943, WRA staff developed and distributed a questionnaire to all WRA detainees, including the notorious question 28, which asked whether they would commit to unconditional loyalty to the US and renounce any allegiance to Japan. Morris Opler’s fieldwork among camp Manzanar internees showed that the responses of those who refused were often due to “disillusionment with the American system of due process” (155) or a response to racial hatred, rather than indicative of any pre-existing loyalties. Nevertheless, those who responded to question 28 in the negative were branded as disloyals and moved to Tule Lake Camp. Opler warned that the poor conditions in the camps would lead to deepening problems, and his brother Marvin K. Opler wrote sympathetic reports regarding Tule Lake Camp prisoners. Such reports were systematically ignored, as were attempts, such as those by Asael Hanson, to represent the needs of the interned to those in power. Anthropology was used in the camps for pragmatic purposes, such as Weston La Barre’s turning over of “troublemakers” to the FBI, and the study of social movements and their control employed by Leighton.

Class discussion of this chapter revolved around the concept of “harm reduction”. It was suggested that anthropologists working in the internment camps were there to “make [the operation] look good”, and that those who were genuinely interested in the condition of the interned Japanese-Americans were employing the harm-reduction concept. The idea of harm reduction in this context, where the harmful conditions were themselves created by the government that employed the anthropologists, was dismissed as naive and useless. It was argued that if these anthropologists really wanted to make a difference, working in the camps was not the way to go about it, as it forced them into the military hierarchy in which their views, when they did not conform with those of their superiors, were disregarded outright. Instead, these anthropologists might have critiqued the idea of the internment altogether, and perhaps enforced a boycott of the camps by refusing to work with them at all. However, given that, as Price suggests, due to the nature of internment fieldwork and the intentions regarding its use on the part of those in power, the camps didn’t necessarily require specialists in anthropology (Suzuki, quoted in Price, 169), the effectiveness of such a strategy is open to question. Of course, given the different personal and political interests of anthropologists, a boycott might have been difficult to achieve. Even assuming a unanimous boycott was possible, would it be heard? Given the deep-rooted connections of anthropologists to politically motivated funding sources linked to power, would such have been practically possible? Will anthropology ever be able to extricate itself from its dance with power? The farce that is the AAA’s current BDS campaign, which is nothing more than a symbolic statement (class discussion), suggests otherwise.

Keeping the Home Fires Burning: Anthropology Goes to the White House

Price, David H. (2008). Anthropological Intelligence: The Deployment and Neglect of American Anthropology in the Second World War. Durham and London: Duke University Press. [Chapter 6, Anthropology and the White House War Projects, 117-142]

David Price’s sixth chapter of Anthropological Intelligence approaches three ways in which anthropologists were involved with the White House during the Second World War. The first of these methods was through personal correspondence, the second was through involvement with the Migration, or M Project, and the third was through the preparation of reports for the White House as seen with the case of Philleo Nash. This chapter describes these various projects and involvements as well as provides some criticism of these actions. Despite this criticism, this chapter still lacks analysis of the power structures in these wartime projects, which are part of the ongoing issues with the involvement of anthropologists in the military.

Price begins by discussing the role of “public” anthropologists and makes use of the familiar figure of Margaret Mead to demonstrate how some public anthropologists corresponded directly with the White House during the war (117-118). Mead’s letter, according to Price, demonstrates the zeal with which anthropologists threw themselves into war work, which ties back to previous chapters where anthropologists were eager to engage in war work; however, in many cases they did not consider the broader implications of this applied anthropological knowledge. The role of Aleš Hrdlička is also discussed here in his letters advising President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on possible schemes for resettling refugees after the war concluded. Despite Hrdlička’s overt racism when describing the Japanese as “insular pirates” (118), he was generally pessimistic about resettlement schemes, feeling that the endeavour would be incredibly costly and logistically problematic (122). Despite this, Roosevelt continued to pursue the study of resettlement, which became the core focus of the M Project.

The M Project is the focus of discussion for the second section of this chapter. The Migration Project’s mission was “first, to investigate the complex problem [of migration] in its most minute details without regard for national or international prejudices, sensibilities and jealousies; and second, to suggest ways and means whereby the problem could be solved once and for all- even if it takes from 20 to 50 years to solve it” (125). A central figure in the project was Henry Field, an anthropologist and assistant curator of anthropology at the Field Museum in Chicago. Field was initially approached by John Franklin Carter, an advisor to the President, and was viewed by Carter as “an academic glory grabber” who overemphasized the direct role of the President in the project itself (125). Despite differing accounts of Roosevelt’s involvement, the M Project still produced 666 reports on migration schemes for refugees after the war. According to Price, many of these reports consisted of dry facts and naïve assumptions about cultures within the studied areas and their history (128).

Moreover, the project relied heavily on the notion that the lands where refugees were to be resettled were empty or under-used, and as such it was within the United States’ interests to bring efficient American management to these under-utilised or otherwise empty lands (127-128). This was coupled with a prioritization of white European refugees over the native populations living there, who were seen as more desirable, especially in the case of Australia who wished to integrate these refugees as new Australian citizens (131). There were clear political issues inherent within the project as it was carried out without regard for political borders. Aside from the case of settling refugees in Australia, the project was cloaked in secrecy. The project was kept secret from fellow anthropologists of allied nations, as seen with the example of the Canadian anthropologists Diamond Jeness and William Mackintosh who were kept in the dark about the purpose of the data they were analyzing (126). Of note is the lack of schemes involving the settling of refugees in the United States, some areas of which were roughly comparable to the areas being studied for resettlement. This was due to the racial biases and eugenicist views of the project’s director, Isaiah Bowman as well as his aspirations to revive areas that were under-performing in an economic sense to benefit the American economy (128).

When the end of the war came, further issues with the M Project continued to emerge. The project grossly underestimated the total number of refugees who would need to be resettled as well as the costs of resettling them. President Harry S. Truman did not continue Roosevelt’s patronage of the project. He described the project’s legacy as truckload of documents and 2,000 pages of unpublished reports (134). Indeed, the only idea to come out of the project that he followed was the resettlement of European Jews in Palestine, creating the state of Israel (142).

After discussing the M Project, Price then examines the work of Philleo Nash, an anthropologist studying racial dynamics at the Office of Facts and Figures (OFF) at the beginning of the war, and later with the Office of War Information (OWI). Nash’s goal was to keep an eye on racial tensions in war industries to ensure that the flow of war goods was maintained and to deliver reports on this to the White House. By keeping an eye on information flowing into the OWI from official and his own network of reporters it was possible to direct resources to local authorities to prevent race riots and ultimately work stoppages (136). Price underlines the fact that Nash did not look at the fundamental reasons for these racial tensions, rather he was interested in maintaining the status quo for the sake of a perceived greater good of keeping the factories running and the home fires burning.

Price also discusses why anthropologists were able to partake in these projects which had ramifications for the cultures that they had been studying. Price argues that war necessitates decisions that would not be normally made in peacetime and creates blind spots in the judgement of anthropologists . In this case the decision was made to fight fascism first, then to turn their attention to the civil rights issues at home because if the fascists won they would all be living in worse conditions (141). In class, this argument came up in discussion. Some questioned whether or not the two issues were mutually exclusive, and if it was really necessary to separate civil rights issues from the fight against fascism. One colleague -Appreciate_America_Stop_the_Fifth_Column-_-_NARA_-_513873wondered how the fear of native and oppressed populations within the United States potentially supporting Fascism or undermining the war effort as a fifth column fed into this notion that fascism had to be defeated first. I believe that this idea bears weight. In the case of “total war”, a term often invoked to describe the wars of the 20th century, widespread tactics of focusing public perception towards benefiting the war effort and ignoring civil rights issues are ubiquitous. This is clearly seen in propaganda posters, and the fear of a fifth column disturbing this status quo is present in the American poster as seen in the image on the right. 

Another issue found within this chapter that was met with agreement in class was the lack of analysis of power structures within these projects. It is briefly mentioned that Field was given a naval commission as a lieutenant when he entered the M Project, but little is made of this military power structure that Field is entering into. This analysis of the power structures the anthropologists of the Second World War were involving themselves in is a major facet of the story that is missed up to this point of the book, a facet of these projects that I would very much enjoy reading about. However, it is understandable if this is simply the result of editing to attempt to present a more coherent reading experience for the reader, or perhaps this is discussed later in the book.


‘Anthropology As A War Weapon’: The Instrumentalization of Anthropological Knowledge During WWII (Review of Chapter 5)

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

At first glance, David Price’s “Anthropological Intelligence” can appear exceedingly descriptive. This is particularly glaring in chapter 5: “American Anthropologists Join The Wartime Brain Trust”, where critical inquiry is seemingly lacking as Price outlines the relations between anthropologists and various academic institutes, government agencies and private interest during the Second World War. However, hidden within the politicking and workings of the wartime era, is insight into how the discipline of anthropology was instrumentalized during the Second World War, and it’s utility in the postwar growth of American imperialism. It’s also important to note that conversely, the war also proved to be instrumental to anthropology as well. Not only did it help ‘legitimize’ the discipline beyond the academic realm, it also brought forth discussions of how and when anthropological knowledge should be used, and for whom. In brief, if read between the lines, this chapter provides readers with enticing questions to the nature of the discipline, the boundaries of objectivity and the ways in which knowledge is, and can be, weaponized.

In July of 1945, reporter Charles R. Walker penned an article available to the general public, titled “Anthropology as a War Weapon”, disseminating the notion of the militarization of anthropological knowledge during the Second World War (p.95). It accredited regional U.S military successes to sources provided by the ‘Cultural Bank’, a resource stocked by anthropologists and their knowledge (ibid). Much of the military uses of anthropology came from anthropologist George Peter Murdock’s “Cross Cultural Survey” (CSS), a project aimed at systematically gathering and sorting data from various cultures in order to test various cultural theories. It came into effect after Yale University established the Institute of Human Relations (IHR) in 1929. The CSS became the IHR’s most notable contribution, particularly in its uses as a cultures resource both during the war, and after, by various military agencies and private groups, notably the Rockefeller Foundation, who provided millions of dollars in funding. While the events of Pearl Harbor called for the formation of anthropological research units to provide information on various Pacific islands for the Office of Naval Intelligence, the Rockefeller Foundation was funneling money to the IHR to create a “Strategic index of Latin America” (p. 92).

Both the U.S. government and the Rockefeller Foundation had tactical uses for the information collected by anthropologists: On the one hand, it provided the military with resources that would aid in facilitating the occupation of Japanese-held territories and in acclimating their soldiers to new cultures and aiding in traversing the human terrain. Interestingly, Price notes that even before the war ended, the US government was making preemptive efforts in establishing a postwar administration of Micronesia (ibid). On the other hand, Nelson Rockefeller merged his interests with the American government in scoping out the loyalty of different Latin American loyalty, and whether there were chances of them joining the Axis against the Allies. Rockefeller was appointed director of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs, and under his monitoring, the CIAA’s concerns were cultural and economic. They engaged in propaganda methods aimed at Central and South Americans to promote and foster goodwill and benevolence amongst the people towards the American government (p.107-109).

Rockefeller interest isn’t new. As we saw in Jack Goody’s (1995) “The Expansive Moment”, they’ve had a long history in funding specific forms of research in strategic locations, oftentimes in line with colonial and imperial efforts. Rockefeller’s wartime involvement in South America was twofold: to guard natural resources being sent to the States for the war efforts, and to secure personal investments in the postwar period. In fact, he told his staff that “their job was to use the war to take over Latin American markets… (and) to monopolize Latin America’s raw materials” (p.109). Cultural knowledge of people and places became an important commodity for him, and helped in gaining access to the cheap labor of Latin America’s native population (p.111).

For the anthropologists involved, there were many reasons as to why they would join the wartime braintrust, and quite literally weaponized anthropological knowledge. As the world went to war, feelings of nationalism and national duty rationalized their input into the CSS, which provided standardized classification systems of various cultures that were of interest to the government that could be used by intelligence agencies easily. While the ethnographic information provided an efficient means to cultural knowledge, it also erased cultural nuances and rehashed stereotypical and ethnocentric views of various peoples. The handbooks in which anthropologists had a hand in creating facilitated military occupation and domination, and aided in the American victory.

Some anthropologists also viewed their input as enacting the “good neighborhood policy” (p.110), especially in relation to Latin America. Through their eyes, the information they provided supposedly “help” these people, and overlooked power struggles that ensued fro personal political and economic purposes. The American involvement also gave certain anthropologists their first encounter with Latin America, building relationships which were capitalized upon during the postwar years, where many continued their own anthropological work. The spatial and temporal context in which these connections were made no doubt had an influence on the knowledge they produced and the methodology employed.

Price’s chapter is a great resource in materializing the various insidious relations between academics, government agencies and private interests, and the kinds of knowledges and discourses they produce. Science and scientific knowledge isn’t produced in a vacuum, but is embedded within the political and economic discourses of the societies who produce and consume it. This chapter provides a glimpse to the importance of being critical of the discipline’s history and the ways in which it has influenced contemporary knowledge production, and aided in proliferating American imperialism through Rockefeller’s economic interest. Furthermore, it demonstrates how anthropology itself was legitimized in the public as it provided utility for wartime efforts.

It also highlights that as anthropologists and scientists, we try and maintain objectivity, yet we are sites of conflict and biases that inform our research. This chapter also points to our complacency in following specific anthropological research trends that may or may not be guided by state or private interests. Price notes throughout the chapter that many anthropologists weren’t knowingly helping the government and Rockefeller in missions of domination and conquest; many different reasons and convictions coalesced that enabled their willingness. This makes us wonder how we, today, are influenced by similar means. The chapter also raises the question who should have access to anthropological knowledge and what are the ethical issues involved when institutes of power can potentially use it as tools of domination. Can consent by those studied even be given within that framework? As noted during the seminar, the act of publishing our work gives wide access for whomever to consume the knowledge it produced, including bodies of government. Do anthropologists limit access, or should we provide our perspective to counteract biased information produced by who have strategic interest in different cultures?

Our seminar also raised the question about the validity of directed research. Do specific intentions and directions always influence research? Who is laying out these research paths, and can it ever be independent? As such, can both the discipline and anthropologists truly be objective in the work they conduct? This all ties back to the notion of how knowledge can be weaponized. While we often think of knowledge as abstract, divorced by tangible consequences, this chapter has shown how anthropology was, and can be used, to inflict and aid in violence against the peoples and places studied. As someone during the seminar pointed out, Price’s term “weaponizing anthropology” presupposes that there’s an anthropology that isn’t weaponized. Considering its history, the conception of anthropology itself was a weapon in domination and subordination in colonial efforts. Nonetheless, this term reveals how knowledge can be mobilized to have concrete effects, as demonstrated in this chapter.

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


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.  

A varied and (almost) uncritical involvement in the war effort (review of Chapter 2)

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

At least once since you began your studies in anthropology, you probably found yourself in a Christmas party, where your uncle or some other family member you haven’t seen in a while asks you what you do for a living. When you answer that you study anthropology, he makes a confused face and grumbles something rude, implying that you should get a real job instead of doing pointless scholarly work. Well, fear no more, because the next time it happens, with the help of Price’s book, you will be able to convince your uncle that an anthropologist can be useful in many ways, especially if another large-scale war breaks out!

Throughout chapter 2, Price provides numerous examples of anthropologists’ involvement during WWII. Anthropologists familiar with a specific region used their knowledge to make sure that the army had the proper clothing, food and equipment (p. 26). They provided information about the terrain, as well as guidebooks on the habits and customs of the people, “indicating how occupying forces should behave to ensure a friendly reception” (p. 26). Some tried to influence Indians on the reservations to enlist them in the war effort. They found out that, with the necessary cultural adjustments, governmental administrators could make substantial savings by employing the Sioux workforce (p. 32). Others helped prevent labor disruptions to ensure a steady flow of natural resources, still others applied their knowledge of industrial relations to the coordination and management of war-oriented work (p. 26-27).

An anthropologist, Chapple, argued that his work on human interactions could be used to ““size up” applicants for jobs” (p. 30), while the well-known Margaret Mead suggested that anthropological knowledge could be used to refine and improve propaganda campaigns. She also studied American food preferences in the context of food rationing, and went overseas to investigate cross-cultural misunderstandings between British and American troops. Here, it ought to be remembered that, much later, in 1970, Margaret Mead chaired the committee to evaluate the controversy concerning anthropological activities in Thailand, which produced a report exonerating scholars who were involved in counterinsurgency efforts during the Cold War (Patterson, p. 126). Margaret Mead thus seems to have a long history of support for a discipline that serves the needs of those in power.

Anthropologists’ language skills were useful for the Armed Forces’ language training programs (p. 27). Closer to the heart of military efforts, some anthropologists decoded Japanese communications (p. 32), or served as spies and investigators for military intelligence (p. 38). Others again dealt with the war’s consequences, by studying efforts to rehabilitate soldiers suffering from neuro-psychiatric injuries (p.  32). Some applied their skills to prevent social unrest in the Japanese-American concentration camps, as we have seen in Patterson’s book and as mentioned in this one as well (p. 34). Several anthropologists trained soldiers for battle and expedition in foreign countries, teaching them how to survive in the jungle, for example, or how to get along with native peoples (p. 41). They were also involved in the production of pocket guides containing basic information on particular areas and cultures (p. 42-43). Forensic-anthropology skills were used to identify human remains of soldiers killed in battle and anthropometric measurements were used to improve uniforms and oxygen masks (p. 46). Anthropologists were also hired as part of the Strategic Bombing Survey, which analysed the impact of Allied bombings on enemy military and civilian populations. They were supposed to “isolate individual attitudes toward bombings in relation to socioeconomic and family positions” (p. 39). I imagine that they didn’t find many informants who had a cheerful attitude towards the bombings…

This list could go on, but it represents the wide range of actions undertaken by anthropologists during the war. Some of these actions are of course questionable, but according to Price, “few anthropologists had second thoughts about the ethics of applying anthropology to warfare; those few who did did not linger long over these concerns”. The general mood of the day seemed to have been that the Nazis were a major threat to humankind and so they needed to be stopped by any means available (p. 50). Many anthropologists felt that the Boasian critique of the concept of race was anthropology’s most significant contribution of the time. As such, they believed that the Nazis were attacking the core principles of anthropology (p. 49). Although a large proportion of anthropologists probably did feel that way, it would be interesting how many still defended the ideas of racial hierarchy which were common in the earlier days of the discipline and what were their stance towards the Nazis. Considering the controversy sparked by the publication, in 1950, of a UNESCO report stating the equality of all races (Patterson, p.  114), it seems clear that the race question was not settled during the war. Moreover, a note from chapter 3 of Price’s book mentions that “[s]ome American and Allied anthropologists held views of racial hierarchies and eugenics that were aligned with Nazi views” (p. 293). How were these anthropologists involved – or not – in the war effort? What were their relationship with their anti-Nazi colleagues?

A lot of anthropological interventions during the war were based on an optimistic faith in the possibilities of social engineering. Two founding members of the Society for Applied Anthropology, Chapple and Arensberg, especially, were confident that anthropologists could become “engineers of human relations”, advising governments on how to efficiently manage the population. In their minds, anthropological knowledge could be harnessed by leaders to alleviate social problems (p. 29). David Price rightly points out however that, in contrast with a more grassroots approach, this type of applied anthropology increases the management of people instead of increasing democracy (p. 30).

Of course, people like Arensberg and Chapple wholeheartedly supported the war effort. Yet others were a little more skeptical. Laura Thompson, for example, feared that applied anthropologists would lose their independence and become “technicians for hire to the highest bidder” (p. 35). Gregory Bateson underlined the fact that anthropologists working for the government or the military provided intelligence without having any say in what was done with their research. He and Thompson both feared that anthropological knowledge would be put in the hands of the few who are in power instead of being used to enlarge democracy. In spite of these concerns, they were both involved in the war effort. The few people who raised ethical concerns dealt mostly with anthropology’s role as a scientific discipline, but were not opposed to the war itself. Overall, there was a slight generational divide over support for the war, the older generations being more hesitant while younger anthropologists argued for active support.  Price mentions that older anthropologists had “tempered positions still guarded from the last war” (p. 20). Price doesn’t really delve more into this, but it appears paradoxical since, from what we learn in chapter 1, involvement in WWI was also supported by a number of anthropologists, although their contribution was more limited. In any case, the debate was closed when the American Anthropological Association voted a resolution stating that it placed “itself and its resources and the specialized skills of its members at the disposal of the country for the successful prosecution of the war” (p. 23). These were not empty words, for it seems that over half of American anthropologists were directly involved in war work while another quarter worked part time (p. 37).

During seminar, it was mentioned that ethical guidelines could hypothetically help prevent anthropology’s implication in questionable enterprises. However, some argued that no entity or institution has the authority and legitimacy to decide whether an activity is ethical or not. Moreover, those institutions that could be considered representative of the professorial body are often plagued by conflicts of interest. There’s also a risk that ethical guidelines could be used as tools to prevent involvement by anthropologists in movements that question the status quo.


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

Questioning Anthropology in WWI to Set the Stage for WWII and Beyond

Price, David H. (2008). Anthropological Intelligence: The Deployment and Neglect of American Anthropology in the Second World War. Durham, NC:Duke University Press. [Chapter 1, American Anthropology and the War to End All Wars, p. 1-17]

On the question of Anthropology in WWI the figure of Franz Boas takes center stage. Analysis of Anthropology in the WWI is important to understanding the contributions in WWII, and furthermore to understanding the nature of the problems faced by contemporary Anthropology in the face of increasing deployment in wars and more routine intelligence gathering. In this chapter Price sets out to contextualize the involvement of social scientists in WWI to set the stage for the rest of the book that focuses on Anthropology in WWII. I will further synthesize the context of these WWI contributions and move on to examine the problem presented by the case of Boas in this context. I will conclude by bringing the contradiction arising from this situation to bear on the problem of contemporary Anthropology.

The US population was divided on entry to what was considered a ‘foreign war’. In 1917 the US did enter the war, and the government set out a campaign to mold public opinion (p. 1). This broadly coincided with the first ‘Red Scare’, and the stated need to inform and limit the ideology of the US citizenry. This environment of restricted political dissent posed a problem to notions of academic freedom in their first forms of institutionalization in the US. The underlying contradiction was that this ‘freedom’ was indeed limited and was not to be used to oppose the war
(p. 2).

The contributions of social scientists to the war took a wide variety, with some institutions being more explicitly involved than others. Work undertaken was quite similar among the various nations involved, and was as follows:
i) The gathering of anthropometric data, and the creation & administration of intelligence tests in service of state requirements to order people for institutional purposes. ii) Various forms of topographical analysis for geostrategic concerns. iii) The production and dissemination of propaganda. iv) Spying under the cover of archeologists/anthropologists; British, German, and US involvement. In the US these spies were funded by their institutions and returned proudly to their academic positions after war (p. 10).

It is clear that all forms of analysis or belief were not equally welcomed as in the case of the firing of Veblen, Cattell, and Frachtenberg for various statements that were seen to undermine the government. In general the war limited speech and silenced many critics while giving opportunity for those who were ready to use their positions to work in support of the war. ‘These new interactions between anthropologists and military and intelligence agencies established some new social-science applications’ (p. 4) in effect providing templates to be expanded upon in the contributions to WWII. Anthropologists’ reactions and contributions to WWI influenced the generation of anthropologists in WWII. Perhaps the most significant outcome of US Anthropology in WWI came after the war with the silencing of Boas. His criticisms were remembered by anthropologists in WWII, however any hesitance was short lived (p. 15).

Firstly Boas openly opposed the war and was critical of the use of excessive patriotism in shaping the public’s attitude to align with the government’s war interests, with special critique of the US education system for its involvement in supporting the militarization of the society (p. 2). He further used and exposed President Wilsons’ contradiction with the conclusion that democracy in the US is a fiction as indeed ‘only autocracies maintain spies’ (p. 11). The second major concern Boas took up was the mal-use of science in the support of government’s wartime activities. He was angered at the abuse of his scientific reputation in the deceitful use of his recommendations to support ‘archeologist spies’. He labeled those actions as the ‘prostitution’ of science, and felt they were unpardonable as they disrupted the ‘truthfulness of science’ (p. 12). This deceit of the people and of science itself undermined the academic obligations to ‘humanity as a whole’ (p. 12) had grave consequences for future honest research efforts (p. 13) and any cohesiveness in the international order.

It was his second public denunciation that brought the consequence of censorship through vote in the AAA in 1919 (p. 13). This intersection has reverberations in Anthropology today as it clearly highlights the underlying contradiction between efforts to institutionalize moral-ethical codes of conduct as the responsibility of the individual, while there is explicit absence of any means of political accountability for anthropologists’ actions in research. To provoke a contradiction within the contradiction I do note that Boas’ analysis relied on moral and emotional (six mentions in the section on p.2-3) functions and did not have any explicit analysis of political-economic (zero mentions) hegemony, or any underlying contextualization of the origin and involvement of science itself in various projects of colonialism and imperialism. Also, his critique of patriotism utilized nationalistic language (citizen, nation) in his call for the service of the ‘common interests of humanity’ (p. 3). Besides the problem of using nationalist references to critique patriotism, I really do not have a tangible conception what the assumed common interests of humanity are, and what ‘equal rights’ he appeals to. His belief in a pure science, and scientists as separate from the rest of society to be upheld by unique moral considerations, is not sufficient for me to rest my concerns.

Nonetheless, in the relative context of the day one would have to consider Boas’ position in the public sphere as radical. From this juncture of Boas in the institutionalized academic setting, I conclude that not only until social-scientists thoroughly engage in critical reflection and analysis of the contributions to the world wars (p. 16), but furthermore until an ideological critique is made of the history of science and social-science itself and its relation to the systems of world domination engendered in the spread of European colonialism can the inherent contradictions between the individual’s ‘morals’ and any inherent political position taken be resolved. Price has set us on the way in the context of US anthropology with reference to its history, but there is a vast amount of work to be done to bring that to bear on an ontological shift that would enforce a fundamentally different understanding of the dynamic between morals and political accountability in the practices of knowledge production going forth.


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

The fourth and last book in our series for the Fall semester of 2015 is described by the publisher as follows:

price_anthro_intelligence_bkBy the time the United States officially entered World War II, more than half of American anthropologists were using their professional knowledge and skills to advance the war effort. The range of their war-related work was extraordinary. They helped gather military intelligence, pinpointed possible social weaknesses in enemy nations, and contributed to the army’s regional Pocket Guide booklets. They worked for dozens of government agencies, including the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and the Office of War Information. At a moment when social scientists are once again being asked to assist in military and intelligence work, David H. Price examines anthropologists’ little-known contributions to the Second World War. “Anthropological Intelligence” is based on interviews with anthropologists as well as extensive archival research involving many Freedom of Information Act requests. Price looks at the role played by the two primary U.S. anthropological organizations, the American Anthropological Association and the Society for Applied Anthropology (which was formed in 1941), in facilitating the application of anthropological methods to the problems of war. He chronicles specific projects undertaken on behalf of government agencies, including an analysis of the social effects of postwar migration, the design and implementation of OSS counterinsurgency campaigns, and the study of Japanese social structures to help tailor American propaganda efforts. Price discusses anthropologists’ work in internment camps, their collection of intelligence in Central and South America for the FBI’s Special Intelligence Service, and their help forming foreign language programs to assist soldiers and intelligence agents. Evaluating the ethical implications of anthropological contributions to World War II, Price suggests that by the time the Cold War began, the profession had set a dangerous precedent regarding what it would be willing to do on behalf of the U.S. government.