20 April 2011

Militarization, the Academy, and the Role of Public Intellectuals Against War

Adrienne Pine is an anthropologist at American University. The extract below comes from her longer article on her blog, and was republished by Monthly Review as "Obstruct Militarization and the Usurpation of Democracy."

It is now more important than ever to study militarization, not through a false academic neutrality, but rather with the express purpose of ending it. Randolph Bourne emphasized this in his 1917 essay "The War and the Intellectuals":
[T]he intellectuals whom the crisis has crystallized into an acceptance of war have put themselves into a terrifying strategic position. It is only on the craft, in the stream, they say, that one has any chance of controlling the current forces for liberal purposes. If we obstruct, we surrender all power for influence. If we responsibly approve, we then retain our power for guiding. We will be listened to as responsible thinkers, while those who obstructed the coming of war have committed intellectual suicide and shall be cast into outer darkness. Criticism by the ruling powers will only be accepted from those intellectuals who are in sympathy with the general tendency of the war. Well, it is true that they may guide, but if their stream leads to disaster and the frustration of national life, is their guiding any more than a preference whether they shall go over the right-hand or the left-hand side of the precipice? Meanwhile, however, there is comfort on board. Be with us, they call, or be negligible, irrelevant. Dissenters are already excommunicated. Irreconcilable radicals, wringing their hands among the debris, become the most despicable and impotent of men. There seems no choice for the intellectual but to join the mass of acceptance. But again the terrible dilemma arises -- either support what is going on, in which case you count for nothing because you are swallowed in the mass and great incalculable forces bear you on; or remain aloof, passively resistant, in which case you count for nothing because you are outside the machinery of reality.
To follow Sartre, a true intellectual is not one who makes apologies for the war machine -- he refers to such academics as technicians of practical knowledge. In today's parlance we might call them tools of empire. A true intellectual, according to Sartre, is a radicalized companion of the masses. We should be all using the academy not because of its inherent, removed or abstract value, but rather as a strategic tool that gives us symbolic legitimacy that can enable us to be more effective in this radicalized companionship. Randolph Bourne rightly noted in the above quote that obstruction often disqualifies academics as legitimate critics. And yet it is our duty as intellectuals -- and I consider all of us here in this room intellectuals in the best Gramscian sense of the term -- to accompany our compañeras y compañeros throughout the hemisphere by obstructing -- obstructing the State Department, obstructing the U.S. Military Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), obstructing the "civil society" groups funded and orchestrated by USAID and other shadowy governmental and non-governmental actors with the aim of usurping democracy throughout the Americas, and obstructing all the other actors who work constantly and diligently to prevent us all from having the choice to live without the war machine.

19 April 2011

Paths Out of Empire: Anthropologies of Resistance and Prefiguration -- AJP Symposium at CASCA 2011 in Fredericton

Anthropologists for Justice and Peace looks forward to meeting you at the annual conference of the Canadian Anthropology Society (CASCA), held this year in Fredericton, New Brunswick. For this event, AJP is presenting a symposium within the larger program, consisting of two panels, under the title of "Paths Out of Empire: Anthropologies of Resistance and Prefiguration." Here are the details and abstracts:

Wednesday, May 11 / mercredi, 11 mai
9:00 – 10:30 am

A.1.2 Symposium: Paths Out of Empire I: Anthropologies of Resistance and Prefiguration
Organizer(s) / Organisation: Alex Khasnabish (Mount Saint Vincent University)
Chair / Président: Alex Khasnabish (Mount Saint Vincent University)
Room / Salle: JDH G1

Anthropology's historical imbrication with colonialism and imperialism has been well documented and the discipline's current relationship to the 'National Security State' and a reinvigorated imperial project is also being critically illuminated. Beyond deconstructing this legacy and its contemporary incarnation - worthy as this project is - what about an anthropology that not merely seeks to critically explore complicity with Empire but to trace paths beyond it? Beyond well-worn calls for a "public", "engaged", or "applied" social science in the context of an evermore technocratic academy this panel takes up a critical and experimental exploration of what anthropology can and might offer to struggles for radical social transformation and liberation. What are the promises and possibilities of such a commitment and what are its pitfalls? How might anthropology contribute to critical struggles for resistance and how might it assist in prefiguring alternatives beyond them?

Toward an Anthropology of Prefiguration
Alex Khasnabish (Mount Saint Vincent University)
Prefiguration – living in ways that embody the kinds of transformations being struggled for – is a principle woven deeply through the fabric of radical social justice activism. From anarchism’s insistence that the means of social struggle be commensurate with the desired ends to feminism’s assertion of the personal being political, the traditions of radical movements remind us that social transformation is not something that simply happens, it must be called into being. Reflecting critically upon an ongoing research project in Halifax, NS about the radical imagination and social movements, this presentation takes up the possibilities and limitations of a research methodology that seeks to take part in a politics of prefiguration. Eschewing well-worn debates over “public” or “engaged” research, this presentation takes up the politics of knowledge production about social movements and discusses what radical research within the context of the academy can offer to struggles for social transformation.

The Heroic Poet and the Anthropologist
Robin Oakley (Dalhousie University)
Oral verse making during the Heroic age in South India offers a glimpse of work by cultural experts from the past. The wandering bards reminded leaders that the measure of good leadership was whether they manifested benevolence and exercised their duty to redistribute resources equitably. As the intellectual workers of the day, bards drew upon discursive rules of production to communicate that leaders were there to serve society and not the other way around. Anthropology can learn a lot from this historical memory even if only to ask the question: Who are we serving? What is our role in the arrangements being made by of the owners of capital on the new territorial division of the world in all its guises? The Heroic poets also remind us to deepen our disciplinary gaze beyond the Greeks to its South Indian origins, from whom the Greeks borrowed extensively.

Enduring Pasts and Denied Presence: Mi’kmaw challenges to continued marginality in Western Newfoundland
Angela Robinson (Memorial University of Newfoundland)
Historically, the Ktaqamkukeweq (Newfoundland) Mi’kmaq were subjected to imposed ideologies and
institutions that precipitated invasive systemic changes to their traditional belief systems and lifeways. More notable, however, is the fact that the Ktaqamkukeweq Mi’kmaq faced a complete extinguishment of their rights as Aboriginal peoples, a fact which resonates strongly among their descendants today. Here, I argue that, the Ktaqamkukeweq Mi’kmaq continue to be subjected to forms of marginalization that began with the repressive policies and procedures that accompanied the colonization/settlement process and were reinforced, perpetuated and sustained by subsequent state governments. This paper identifies the struggle of Ktaqamkukeweq Mi’kmaq as a process of decolonization which challenges the repressive institutions that have denied, and continue to deny, the history, heritage and culture of Ktaqamkukewwq Mi’kmaq.

Engaged Anthropology and Caste in India: Social Transformations in the Academy
Reddi Sekhara Yalamala (Dalhousie University)
The low caste, Dalit and Tribal social movements in India have reconfigured the fabric of Indian society in significant ways over the past decade. Likewise, the movement of these same groups into Anthropology, a discipline previously dominated by upper caste intellectuals, has created a dynamic force for change in the academy. At a time when India is vying with the global economic powers for supremacy, the people severely affected are Dalits, low caste and Tribal peoples who see their lands being lost and their lifestyles in rapid transformation. These same groups are also seeing some of their daughters and sons pursuing higher studies and entering into the social sciences. The entry of these young scholars not only challenges the status quo in the academy but also forces them to question their own position in relation to the social movements in relation to the wider society.

11:00 am – 12:30 pm

A.2.2 Symposium: Paths Out of Empire II: Anthropologies of Resistance and Prefiguration
Organizer(s) / Organisation: Alex Khasnabish (Mount Saint Vincent University)
Chair / Président: Alex Khasnabish (Mount Saint Vincent University)
Room / Salle: JDH G1

Patterns of Cultural Violence: Canadian Militarism and the Public Sphere in Quebec from 1969 to Today
Martin Hébert (Université Laval)
This paper presents a case study that aims to contribute to a broader anthropology of militarism, and to our empirical understanding of cultural violence. Combining social discourse and ethnographic approaches, we look at the changing ways in which Canadian military institutions have come to bear on civilian political processes, ethical debates, and attitude formation in Quebec. From the War Measures Act of 1970 to contemporary “connexion” operations aiming to create enthusiasm for, and familiarity with the military, we highlight the variety of ways in which the military has engaged Canadian civil society in general, and the public sphere of Quebec in particular. Special attention will be paid to contemporary forms of militaristic discourse, such as the playful engagement, and the construction of a scripted intimacy between the soldiers and the public.

Contesting “Full Spectrum Dominance”: Social scientists' role in the struggle against US counterinsurgency
Conor Brown (Dalhousie University)
Because anthropologists and sociologists often study people actively resisting the capitalist social order, we have been sought by militaries to aid in counterinsurgency. This puts anthropologists and sociologists in a unique position to either aid or obstruct states' efforts at social control. Counterinsurgency, that set of tools of control used by the US and other militaries against non-state actors, is at the core of states' strategies to thwart the attempts of people to create alternatives to capitalism. As such, “countering counterinsurgency” is an essential part of projects of radical social transformation. In this paper, I examine the current and historical relationship between anthropologists and sociologists and the struggle against the US government's counterinsurgency campaigns. I argue that this project is a crucial and necessary companion to the constitution of anticapitalist communities and the expansion of the autonomy of social movements here in North America and around the world.

The Anthropology of Militarism/The Militarization of Anthropology
Maximilian Forte (Concordia University)
Taking up the challenges posed by Hugh Gusterson, for anthropology to become more cognizant of how militarism often shapes research topics and field sites, and to make militarism a subject of theoretical and empirical inquiry as much as colonialism or post-colonialism have been, we examine what an anthropology of militarism would encompass, and what its methods and aims should be. However, we couple this with scrutiny of the militarization of anthropology as one of the current reincarnations of anthropological support for empire, rendering anthropology one of the front-lines in the confrontation with militarism. We examine the import of diffused, outsourced modes of enlisting support and service to empire by contracting service for military goals. If no one in the world is untouched by militarism, we need to understand the nature of that “touching” and its limits, and here anthropologists can speak as insiders.
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