13 December 2010

Militarizing Anthropology at the University of Calgary

Anthropologists for Justice and Peace was very concerned to learn of an advertisement placed in the jobs database of the American Anthropological Association, calling for applicants to a post in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Calgary, sponsored by the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute (CDFAI). That job advertisement is no longer visible on the AAA site, but it read as follows:
The Department of Anthropology at the University of Calgary invites applications for the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute (CDFAI) Chair in Civil-Military Relations. The position is a full-time, tenure track position at the Assistant Professor rank, with a joint appointment in the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies (CMSS). The successful applicant will teach courses at all levels in the Social and Cultural Anthropology Baccalaureate Program, and supervise masters and doctoral students in the Department of Anthropology, as well as in the graduate program of the CMSS. In the CMSS, the successful applicant will supervise graduate students interested in the relations between militaries and democracies. Duties in the Department of Anthropology will include instruction of undergraduate and graduate courses in civil-military relations and in the anthropology of the military, war and conflict.
Applicants must have a completed PhD, have conducted ethnographic research and have publications (or show promise of publications) on topics related to the military or civil-military relations broadly defined, and must show promise of developing a long-term funded research plan. Theoretical and geographical research areas are open. A list of possible subject concentrations includes: armed groups; state/non-state conflict; post conflict reconstruction and/or development; veterans; effects of war on combatants and non-combatants; health, medicine, and the military; refugee studies; indigenous participation in military institutions; technology and war; military/media/government relations; anthropology of policy related to armed forces and defence.
The Department of Anthropology is a dual track program that offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in social-cultural anthropology and primatology. The CDFAI is a charitable, independent, non-partisan, research institute with an emphasis on Canadian Foreign Policy, Defence Policy, and International Aid. The CMSS is a research centre at the University of Calgary and part of the Security and Defence Forum, a network specializing in defence and security studies across Canada.
NOTES: International Candidates Will Be Considered
It has only recently been added to the job listings on the CASCA website.

Not wanting to judge this prematurely, members of AJP collectively sent the following letter, with questions, to the Chair of the Department, Mary Pavelka:

Subject: CDFAI Chair in Civil-Military Relations
Date: Wed, November 17, 2010 3:57 pm
To: pavelka@ucalgary.ca
Dear Dr. Pavelka,

Along with our fellow anthropologists (Martin H├ębert, Alex Khasnabish, Craig Proulx, Angela Robinson, and Robin Oakley), I am writing to you out of concern for a job advertisement recently posted with the American Anthropological Association (http://careercenter.aaanet.org/jobs#/detail/3694010). Given that the position has been publicly advertised in Canada and abroad, and that the University of Calgary is a publicly funded institution, and the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute (CDFAI) is a publicly registered tax-exempt charity, we appreciate your open and non-confidential responses.

To be clear, we are not writing to challenge the academic freedom of any candidate that your Department may choose to hire. We are also not questioning your prerogative in autonomously setting your own goals as a Department. What we are doing is more in the tradition of peer review out of concern for the public and international reputation of anthropology, at a time when an accumulation of dozens of international media reports of anthropologists working in counterinsurgency has reinforced or revived older ways of seeing anthropologists as agents of foreign states, and possible spies. Thus while we neither question nor challenge academic freedom or departmental autonomy (to the extent that the latter may exist), we do have questions about the decisions of larger entities (universities, defense institutes) in creating certain positions to begin with, and how this may impact the reputation of the discipline and those anthropologists working in politically sensitive and perilous areas.

In particular, as persons who may be asked to write letters of recommendation for potential candidates for that position, we do need to know more about the position, to better understand it and make the process more transparent.

Specifically, these are our questions:

1. What is the history behind how this position came to be created, and how did the CDFAI come to be involved?

2. Why is your department interested in having someone that covers the issue areas listed in the position description, which are not the usual sorts of topics one sees advertised in any other anthropology positions advertised in Canada? What was the impetus and rationale in creating this position?

3. What is the nature of the relationship between the Department and the CDFAI, and specifically, would the candidate be answerable to the CDFAI in any manner after being hired?

4. Will the search committee guarantee that it will seriously consider applicants with interests in the issue areas listed in the position description, but from an angle that is critical of the military and security uses of anthropology, and of the increased militarism in Canadian public discourse?

5. Why are ethics not listed as one of the key concerns associated with this position?

6. Why is there no mention of a Canadian anti-war movement, or an anti-war perspective, as a basis for understanding civil-military relations?

7. In which ways do you expect a successful candidate to contribute to Canadian anthropology as a whole?

8. Why was this position advertised with the AAA, but not with CASCA?

9. In opening the position to non-Canadian candidates, and advertising in the AAA, how do you propose to deal with the ethical problems posed by American applicants who may have worked with the military in the occupation of Iraq and/or Afghanistan, who may have been recipients of scholarships from the Pat Roberts Intelligence Scholars Program (PRISP), the National Security Education Program (NSEP), or the Intelligence Community Scholars Program (ICSP), and who possibly maintain continuing ties with American national security, military, and intelligence agencies?

10. From which sources do you expect a successful applicant to seek funding? Please name these.

11. In particular, which courses do you hope a successful candidate will teach? Can you please offer some sample titles?

12. Which research products or services is a successful candidate required to perform for the CDFAI?

13. Would a candidate be likely to conduct research on specific communities and groups in Canada, and would information derived from this research be provided to the CDFAI alone?

We appreciate your time and consideration in addressing these questions, and to be clear again, we do intend to circulate your responses to those interested, including any possible non-response.
We believed this to be a collegial letter free of premature accusations. The first response we received is that we would have to wait until Department members returned from the annual pilgrimage to the meetings of the American Anthropological Association. Soon after their supposed return, the following is the entirety of what we received as a response:
From: "M.S.M. Pavelka"
Sent: Monday, December 06, 2010 1:07 PM
Subject: Re: CDFAI Chair in Civil-Military Relations

Dear Max,

Sorry for the delay in responding, things have been very busy the past few weeks. Again, thank you for your interest in our position. The advertised position is the replacement of an existing chair that has been left empty by the retirement of Dr. Anne Irwin (PhD in Anthropology, U Manchester). We are looking to hire another excellent anthropologist who does research in the indicated areas. We are open to anthropologists of any analytical persuasion, including critical, and the evaluation of candidates will be on the basis of academic excellence, and fit with the areas and qualifications specified in the advertisement. The position is posted on the CASCA website.

Please encourage anyone you know who might be interested to apply. We are, of course, hoping to have a strong pool of qualified anthropologists to choose from.

Given the fact that most of our questions were ignored, members of AJP will of course not encourage anyone to apply for this position, and interested candidates will be well advised to note the lack of transparency about this position, the many troubling questions it raises (which are deliberately left unanswered), and the reason to thus maintain a high level of suspicion about the nature and purpose of the position. We encourage all faculty to refuse to write letters of reference for anyone interested in applying. Members of CASCA who are legitimately concerned about such a position being advertised, are encouraged to file their complaints with the CASCA Executive.
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