Sunday, February 15, 2009

READ: Anthropologists gone wild


I studied anthropology in a department full of postmodern pusses. Identity, symbols, tropes and representation were our primary concerns... intervening in a culture was considered dubious, maybe even imperial. How could we justify violating its sacred percieved balance? Right or wrong (and I firmly believe contemporary theory is crippling), for me, and many of my friends, it was a dead discipline with no where to go except toward art and literature (where we become the best pretenders).

But there are other programs out there that apparently produce academic commandos who make a real difference in the world, like Paula Loyd from Wellesley. She spied on Afghan civilians for American military forces under the guise of ethnographic respectability. Not surprisingly, she was treated as a combatant and eventually set on fire by an Afghan rebel. Her "research assistant" then followed the fleeing attacker and shot him to death- while he was running away.

Can you say, "conquistadores?"

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Anthropologist's Death Highlights Questionable Role of Social Science in War
by Farah Stockman

In a hostile corner of southern Afghanistan, an American platoon fanned out around a market, forming a protective circle around a petite woman with a notebook. Paula Loyd, a Wellesley-educated researcher, began interviewing villagers about the price of cooking fuel - a key indicator of whether insurgents had hijacked supply lines.
Full article

5 comments:

BoneFarm said...

Fucoid,
Hmmmm... anthroconquistadores...
Great photo
Tell us more
Bonefarm

fucoid said...

hi bonefarm, i am currently devising some more anthropology posts :)

Dr Zibbs said...

They look like the Yanamamo from the Amazon.

fucoid said...

you're right dr. zibbs, the photo is of napoleon chagnon with the yanamamo... the original anthropologist of controversy, charged with inciting a battle between tribesman over machetes he selectively gave as gifts.

Brunhilda said...

The world is very cruel and only courage people a brave enough to become travelers! What you are doing is great!