Sunday, August 03, 2008

Gates Seeking "Eggheads"

This is an extension of the human terraine mapping teams, which hires anthropologists and other social scientists to work with the military to better understand the folks in Afghanistan and Iraq. I was asked to apply for one of the positions. But given that one of my anthropology professors had already referred to me joining the Foreign Service as "going to work for the government's war machine," and given that the anthropologists working on these teams and getting these grants have trouble ever working in anthropology again, I opted against it. Anthropology got a bad rep for working with governments to the detriment of the people they were studying at the inception of the discipline. So this raises alarm bells in the anthropological community. And I'd like to be able to go back there someday. But as one of those "eggheads," I found the article interesting.

Military's Social Science Grants Raise Alarm

By Maria Glod
Washington Post Staff Writer

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is calling on "eggheads" to help the military unravel questions about the recruitment of terrorists, the resurgence of the Taliban and messages delivered in militant Muslim religious schools.

Many eggheads are wary.

The Pentagon's $50 million Minerva Research Initiative, named after the Roman goddess of wisdom and warriors, will fund social science research deemed crucial to national security. Initial proposals were due July 25, and the first grants are expected to be awarded by year's end.

But the Network of Concerned Anthropologists, which includes professors from American and George Mason universities, said dependence on Pentagon funding could make universities an "instrument rather than a critic of war-making."

In a May 28 letter to federal officials, the American Anthropological Association said that it was of "paramount importance . . . to study the roots of terrorism and other forms of violence" but that its members are "deeply concerned that funding such research through the Pentagon may pose a potential conflict of interest."


You can read the entire article here.


Maximilian C. Forte said...

I was curious to find out how HTS asked you to apply for a position. Did they approach you in person, on campus? Or was it online because of your blog?

Anonymous said...

This really should be funded through State. Why does DOD need all these social scientists?

T. Greer said...

Here is a good blog post that answers that question: