16 December 2011

First, a World Revolution of Decolonization

The article that follows, written by anthropologist Jason Hickel, is a welcome critique of the shadows of Eurocentrism and the desire for middle-class privilege in the West as found in the "Occupy" movement. Hickel links these to the failure of the Occupy "movement" to exist as a phenomenon outside of North America and Europe, where it is predominantly located, and the neglect of critically important realities of the role of imperialism in developing and enforcing the middle-class lifestyles of the West. This is a constructive critique that adds to some of the previous articles reproduced on this site, such as "Decolonize Wall Street," and "Decolonizing the Occupations".

How to Occupy the World: A Call for True Internationalism

Dr. Jason Hickel

The leading tagline of the Occupy Wall Street movement reads: “Protest for World Revolution.” This is an ambitious claim, to be sure. And in most respects it seems to ring quite true: the movement has successfully taken root not only in cities and towns throughout the United States but also in major urban centers around the world. On October 15, Occupy Wall Street’s success inspired a broad wave of coordinated occupations across Europe. I was a founding participant in the one that began in London.

But the Occupy movement has been notably absent outside of North America and Europe. Not for want of trying, of course: in southern Africa, where I am originally from, small groups of committed activists tried to instigate occupations in a few key regional cities, but without much success. In South Africa, a society pided by violent inequalities that proceed directly from neoliberal policy, Occupy managed to attract only a few dozen souls – a poor showing for a country known for one of the highest protest rates in the world.

What accounts for the failure of Occupy to capture the imagination of the global South, which comprises precisely the people whose lives have been most brutally affected by the recent global financial crisis? And in what sense can Occupy claim to be a world revolution if it leaves out – and in some cases even alienates – the vast, non-white majority of humanity?

Occupy is “international” at the moment only inasmuch as it exists in many different countries at the same time. But each of the occupations is primarily concerned with particular local or national issues. For instance, Occupy Wall Street is focused on corporate personhood, the Glass-Steagall Act, and collateralized debt obligations, while Occupy London is worried about tuition hikes, preserving the National Health Service, and reversing Thatcher’s 1986 financial deregulation bonanza.

Yes, the occupations communicate, and yes, they stand in solidarity with one another. But they are not united around concerns that are recognizably global in scope.

True, Occupy protestors and their sympathizers have helped sound the alarm on issues of international concern like fossil fuels and climate change, as we saw recently at the COP17 meetings in Durban. But as it presently stands the Occupy agenda is rather provincial – even Eurocentric. Aside from its radical elements, most of the movement’s American and European supporters simply want to reclaim their rights to live decent, dignified, middle-class lives.

Western Affluence and the Global System
There’s nothing wrong with this aspiration, in and of itself. But middle-class affluence in the West depends on a system of extraction that produces and perpetuates tremendous poverty in the global South. This was true under European colonialism, when the gap between the richest and poorest countries increased from 3:1 to 35:1, and it obtains even more so in this era of neoliberal capitalism, during which – according to the Human Development Report – that gap has reached an unprecedented 74:1.

According to World Development Indicators, in 2005 the wealthiest 20 percent of the world’s population – a proportion that includes almost all of the Occupy protestors – accounted for 76.6 percent of total private consumption. The wealthy nations of Europe and North America have an inordinate degree of control over the world’s resources, which they command through international financial institutions like the World Bank, the IMF, and the World Trade Organization.

Occupy Wall Street correctly criticizes the fact that an increasing proportion of these spoils has gone to the top 1 percent of U.S. society since the mid-1970s. But it is not enough to want to redistribute that wealth back to middle-class Americans. Even if the Occupy movement does manage to fix the financial sector, stabilize the economy, and redress social inequality in the West, the violent, imperialist modes of accumulation will still remain in place.

The process of extraction from global “periphery” to global “core” is what sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein has called “the world-system.” Since the 1980s, one way of facilitating extraction within the world-system has been through “structural adjustment” loans from Western governments to post-colonial countries. Debts from these loans are leveraged to forcibly liberalize markets, privatize resources, cut social services, and curb labor and environmental regulations to create business opportunities for multinational companies and facilitate the flow of wealth to the West.

Western corporations realize huge profits by taking advantage of these policies. They, externalize the costs of production to the global South where they can get away without paying for the labor they exploit, the resources they extract, and the pollution they leave behind.

Forced liberalization has plunged poor countries into economic collapse, slashing average per capita income growth in half after 1980 and leading in some cases to negative rates. Economists estimate that poor countries have lost $480 billion per year as a result of structural adjustment, while multinational corporations have stolen as much as $1.17 trillion (from Africa alone!) through loopholes created by market deregulation since 1970. The upshot of this has been rising inequality, deepening poverty, and worsening health, mortality, and literacy rates in much of the global South.

Finding the Right Targets
Western affluence and the consumer lifestyles of the “99 percent” in the United States and Europe depend on the plunder of other places and other peoples. This is one of the reasons that people in the global South tend to feel alienated by Occupy. First of all, they don’t see why they should support a movement of Westerners who want to regain levels of affluence that depend at least in part on the extraction of their countries’ labor and resources. What’s more, the locus of the economic decisions that affect them is not ultimately their national governments, but the institutions in Washington, DC and Geneva that determine economic policy from afar; it doesn’t make much sense to occupy locally when the power lies elsewhere.

Occupy’s vision for world revolution will only catch on in the global South once the movement extends its purview to encompass these concerns and begins to challenge inequality between nations as much as within them.

We cannot rely on “development” to accomplish this. Not only does development serve as a façade for the global extension of neoliberalism, it also rests on a purely absurd premise. The notion that everyone in the world should enjoy the equivalent of Western middle-class living standards ignores the fact that the planet simply does not contain enough resources for each person to consume as much as, say, the average American. Instead of “developing” the global South, we need to un-develop the West; we need to subvert and dismantle the flows of tribute that underpin Western affluence.

Occupy must realize that even huge wins at home will not necessarily translate into changes in the world-system or even changes in the U.S. role in it. Given that neoliberal capitalism is organized on a global scale, any real change will require a movement that is global in scope. Never has there been a better time to challenge the WTO, the World Bank, and the IMF’s policies on trade, debt, austerity, structural adjustment, resource extraction, and sweatshops.

Targeting these institutions is crucial because they determine Western access to labor and resources in the global South. The United States controls the levers of this system, since voting power in the World Bank and the IMF is apportioned according to each nation’s level of financial ownership. With about 17 percent of the shares, the United States has enough to single-handedly block major decisions, which require 85 percent of the vote.

At the WTO, market size determines bargaining power – so rich countries almost always get their way. On top of this, rich countries control key decisions by using exclusive “green room” meetings to circumvent the consensus process. If poor countries choose to disobey trade rules that hurt them, rich countries can retaliate by using the WTO’s courts to impose crushing sanctions.

Change in the world-system can only happen once these institutions are democratized and de-corporatized. This will require building alliances with the global justice movement and anti-globalization campaigns in postcolonial countries that have been working on these issues for decades (such as La Via Campesina, an organization of 200 million peasants worldwide). Neoliberalism was crushing people there long before it hit white, Euro-American youth.

Alliances with the Global South
Another reason that Occupy has not caught on outside the West is that the leaderless, consensus-based horizontalism that has made the movement so popular in North America and Europe doesn’t work as well where most people can’t network through the Internet. Instead of fetishizing this tactic for its own sake, we need to be pragmatic about reaching out to established parties, unions, and other institutions – even if hierarchical – that actually have the ability to organize the rallies that an international movement needs. We reject traditional tactics at our own peril.

It’s easy enough to explain why the global South hasn’t joined Occupy. But why should we care? First, because the extractive processes that underpin Euro-American affluence cannot be fully understood from within the “core.” Our goals need to be informed by conversations and alliances with activists in the global South. Second, because challenging these powerful and deeply entrenched interests will require serious pressure from all corners of the world-system. If we want to bring about “World Revolution,” we have to be able to mobilize the world.

Occupy might do well to glean a few lessons from the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. Like the world-system in microcosm, apartheid capitalism allowed a white minority to accumulate massive wealth by extracting cheap labor and resources from a non-white majority. A number of white people rejected this system and became key activists in the anti-apartheid movement. But their efforts would have come to naught without their African counterparts, who mobilized mass resistance by going door-to-door in the townships, building the capacity for the strikes and boycotts that brought the apartheid state to its knees.

A truly global movement is not out of reach. Indeed, it has never been more possible than it is today. This is our opportunity to occupy the world. We dare not miss it.

Dr. Jason Hickel teaches at the London School of EconomicsDepartment of Anthropology.

08 December 2011

In the News: Militarized Academia, Human Terrain System

"Mapping the Human Terrain"
The following is a list of articles and key extracts that deal specifically with the U.S. Army's Human Terrain System, and more broadly with "human terrain" applications of social sciences to military missions. The larger phenomenon of interest to AJP has to do with the militarization of academia. Emphases in bold have been added.

The reports cover areas that include news that a social scientist in Human Terrain Analysis assisted in interrogations, as may have one belonging to the Human Terrain System, even while the program officially insisted it was not involved with "intelligence" gathering; related to the last point, we also learn about Eric Rotzoll, former CIA, also involved with HTS; we learn about the further development of human terrain mapping technologies; in addition we read about the use of HTS data that is uploaded to databases which are then used to create extensive, detailed simulations of actual Afghan villages; we have more notes on military funding for university research aligned with national security goals, and counterinsurgency; we catch glimpses of retired military professionals joining the private sector, and boasting in part about their "human terrain" expertise; we see more discussion on anthropology as a "useful" and "practical" discipline to the powerful; and, lastly, a few funny and even bizarre videos about the Human Terrain System.


Counterinsurgency Adviser to Speak at VMI
Dec. 5, 2011
Dr. Martin Scott Catino, a counterinsurgency adviser and specialist in U.S. foreign and security policy, will speak at Virginia Military Institute Wednesday, Dec. 7. The talk, “Counterinsurgency and Culture: A Report from Afghanistan,”....Currently a counterinsurgency adviser for DevelopMental Labs Inc., Catino has served in the United States, Iraq, and Afghanistan in intelligence, supervisory, and advising posts for the U.S. government. In 2009-2010, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, he served as the deputy team leader and lead social scientist of the Human Terrain Analysis Team at Multi-National Division-South, Basra, Iraq. This past year, in Operation Enduring Freedom, he worked as the acting senior intelligence officer for a Defense Intelligence Agency unit at Camp Julien, Kabul, Afghanistan. This past spring he was embedded with a platoon of the 34th Infantry Division conducting operations in Kabul province.
CSTs face combat to ‘give Afghan women a voice’: Danger often lurks for female Cultural Support Teams
Army Times, Friday Dec 2, 2011
By John Ryan
...a new program that selects and trains female soldiers to embed with special operations teams across Afghanistan to cultivate relationships with local women and children, who make up about 70 percent of the population....The program is designed to assist counterinsurgency operations by tapping into a reservoir of female voices that have largely gone unheard because of local customs that frown upon American men and Afghan women interacting....Baldwin assessed schools and health clinics, facilitated meetings between village elders and nongovernmental organizations and participated in three women’s shuras From those meetings, she discovered many women wanted to learn how to read and write or sew. She was able to map “the human terrain,” like piecing together family trees, from her interactions with the Afghan women.
Defunct War Strategy Program May Still Overshadow University of Wisconsin-Madison's History of Dissent
Truthout, November 29, 2011
By Steve Horn and Allen Ruff
...Eric Rotzoll, a military man with intelligence community connections. As a deputy commander of a "provincial reconstruction team" (PRT) in Zabul Province, Afghanistan in 2004 and 2005, he planned and led civil affairs operations in support of counterinsurgency in the region. From 2006 to 2010, he worked as an "all source analyst" for Defense Department intelligence subcontractor Northrop Grumman. Still with the military at that time, he also served from July 2008 to July 2009 as a Human Terrain Team (HTT) leader in Afghanistan. The HTTs, ostensibly comprising privately contracted civilian anthropologists and other social scientists, have been assigned to each Army brigade in Iraq and Afghanistan since late 2005. Armed on patrol, such "academic embeds" have worked to provide cultural and social "human intelligence," or "Humint," on various "locals" as part of the counterinsurgency effort in both countries. In January, 2009, an embedded journalist moving with an HTT unit on the ground in Afghanistan identified Rotzoll as "the man in charge" and "a former analyst for the CIA...." No mere enlisted man, but an academically trained intelligence warrior, Rotzoll apparently brought a particular added expertise to the "Grand Strategy Workshop." His name also subsequently appeared on the UW JASONs roster for 2009-2010, his affiliation listed simply as "US Army."
Afghanistan: What the Anthropologists Say
The New York Times, November 18, 2011
By Alexander Star
As in Iraq, the United States military has responded to bad news with counterinsurgency: eliminate troublemakers in the dark of night, with the most lethal arts, and befriend tribal elders by day, with cultural sensitivity and expertise. The Army has gone so far as to embed credentialed social scientists with front-line troops in “Human Terrain Teams” that engage in “rapid ethnographic assessment” — conducting interviews and administering surveys, learning about land disputes, social networks and how to “operationalize” the Pashtun tribal code. The military, in short, demands local knowledge. But what kind of local knowledge is in supply, and what does it indicate? Though the chief purveyors of such insight, academic ethnographers, have balked at working with the military — the American Anthropological Association issued a report condemning the Human Terrain program as a violation of professional ethics — they have not ignored the country.
Morgan State wins $1.8M grant to start national security program
Monday, November 14, 2011
Alexander Jackson - Baltimore Business Journal
Morgan State University has been selected to receive a five-year, $1.8 million federal grant to begin a degree program in national security. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence's Intelligence Community Centers of Academic Excellence Program chose Morgan and the University of South Florida to be awarded with grants to establish programs in National Security Studies. The National Security Studies program will be aimed at honing skills needed in the intelligence community such as international relations, foreign language and cultural immersion, scientific and technical programs of study, including cyber security....Under its five-year grant deal, Morgan will establish a consortium of historically black schools in Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina to do research in human terrain systems and bio-systems with specific applications to South Asian countries such as Afghanistan, India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan. The National Security Studies Program was established during 2005 in response to the nation's increasing need for professionals in the intelligence community who are educated and trained with the unique knowledge, skills and capabilities to carry out America's national security objectives.
Tuesday, November 08, 2011 
By Mike Kelley
For decades, the Army's Aviation and Missile Command, Space and Missile Defense Command, NASA, and other institutions have turned to UAH [University of Alabama, Hunstville] in the search for solutions to complex technical issues. But Horack [Dr. John Horack, UAH Vice President for Research] thinks there is an element they're missing. The Department of Defense, he says, is "transforming in ways that aren't fully predictable," facing new threats in a highly-charged political environment and constrained budget situation. And while the military has always looked to America's universities for help in solving complex technical issues, Horack thinks they should also look for help with what he terms "the human terrain." University faculty, he says, can take a fresh look at problems and issues, and bring insights and perspectives to problems facing America's military planners. "There is a need for improved socio-economic awareness. But there is no place to go on the GSA schedule to get this type of information." The military, he says, have underutilized America's universities, failing to get from them vital information that could aid strategy and operations in missions around the globe. "We're not using university muscle as well as we could," he says. 
Interrogation is not a social science 
Financial Times, November 4, 2011
By Gillian Tett
....when the anthropology “tribe” assembles this year, it will have a new topic to discuss: its links with “power” – or, at least, the US military. Last month, the AAA posted an article from Nature on its website that claimed that the US military has been employing the services of anthropologists in Afghanistan to improve its data-gathering techniques. In particular, during the past five years, it has apparently run so-called “human terrain analysis” programmes, to make its Afghan operations more culturally sensitive....But what has made this latest revelation so controversial is that Julia Bowers, the anthropologist named by Nature, was not just writing tomes about Afghan marriage rituals, she was aiding interrogations too. Or as Nature reported her telling a conference: “Typically human-terrain analysis is more of a human data-gathering and mapping approach…” but cultural expertise was “key in the support I was providing to the interrogator to develop a relationship with the detainee”. While, crucially, it is unclear how widespread this practice might be, the revelation has reawakened the debate about just how far social scientists should allow themselves to aid the elite....“Advising people on how to extract information from people who don’t want information extracted, that is the antithesis of what the anthropological encounter is supposed to look like,” Hugh Gusterson, a network leader, has observed. But the pressures will not die away soon; not when budgets are being cut, jobs are scarce and governments (and corporations) are desperate to get better information about culture. To put it another way, precisely because anthropologists are good at analysing cultures and power structures, their research is of interest to people in… er… power. It is a bitter irony; even – or especially – in Afghanistan.
Neah Appoints Colonel Lamont Woody as Defense Advisor to the Board of Directors
Market Watch, October 26, 2011
NEAH Power Systems, Inc. announced today it has appointed Col. Lamont Woody, US Army (Retired), most recently a principal of the Laconia Group, as its defense advisor to its Board of Directors. In this role, Col. Woody will advise the company in international defense and government relations and various potential collaboration, partnership and business development opportunities....Col. Woody [in his military career] also implemented human terrain, social networking systems, and law enforcement systems and programs.
Strategic Paradigms » Blog Archive Perspectives on the C4ISR Conference – October 2011
October 28, 2011
By Ehsan Arari
Even the panel on the Human Terrain System (HTS) – a topic of great interest and personal involvement for me – was too tactical in its focus....My own take as an outsider (i.e., a person who does not tow any party line) is that our Achilles heel related to intelligence is the ever-growing complexity of our Intel bureaucracy and the mountainous nature of Intel data. We collect a lot, but have no clue as to what to do with it. I heard the evidence of that during the panel on HTS.
GEOINT 2011 summary | Open Geography
October 24, 2011
The panel (video link) speculated on socio-cultural intelligence as a new facet of intelligence, ie SOCINT. Sharon Hamilton provided a lot of information about the HTS (now over 40 in total, with 31 teams in Afghanistan). It has now been given permanent funding (rather than through Supplementals). She said they use the NGA 12 human geography standards of data to make a baseline dataset (video 1:49’50″), and that 55% of their products are unclassified at the moment. Hamilton claimed that HTS does not have to “convince” the social science community (of the value of HTS) because they (the Army) fill their HTS classes (video at 1:34’00″). You can take that statement with a pinch of salt, no doubt.
New Mission for Military’s ‘Human Terrain’ Experts: Interrogation
Wired, October 19, 2011
By Sharon Weinberger
Cultural expertise was “key in the support I was providing to the interrogator to develop a relationship with the detainee”, said Julia Bowers, principal senior analyst for human terrain at SCIA, a company based in Tampa, Florida, that provides socio-cultural services for the military and intelligence community....Bowers worked with the U.S. Central Command’s human terrain analysis branch, which is separate from the Army’s Human Terrain System (HTS), a better known program that embeds social scientists in combat units. Both, however, are designed to provide the military with better cultural understanding and expertise....The interesting question is whether anyone associated with the HTS, which has been dogged with controversy over its five year existence, has been involved with interrogations. An internal memo — dated March 16, 2009 and signed by then-HTS program manager retired Col. Steve Fondacaro — notes that “HTS does not have DoD [Department of Defense] approval to conduct interrogation operations.” “HTS personnel are not trained and certified in interrogation methodology and as a result will not conduct interrogations,” the memo continues. Nevertheless, one former employee me that this is precisely what appears to have happened in 2009; but when the employee complained to the program’s senior leadership, they did nothing. When asked about this, Fondacaro replied in an email that “all the units we supported ran interrogations, just like they ran mess halls, vehicle maintenance, medical support ops, civil affairs etc. and HTS supported the unit.”....“Our team members may have been asked to help or advise in any or all of these areas where it related to greater insight and understanding of the population,” he told Nature. “But it did not result in any of these operation becoming core mission capabilities HTS focused upon.”
Pentagon Cultural Analyst Helped Interrogate Detainees in Afghanistan: 'Experiment' raises alarm among social scientists.
Scientific American, October 18, 2011
By Sharon Weinberger of Nature magazine
So far, the HTS has been involved in interrogations in just one experiment. A former employee of the HTS, who asked not to be identified, says that they learned in 2009 that HTS personnel were involved at one point in interrogations in Afghanistan. "I sent it up the chain at Fort Leavenworth; they knew about it," the employee says. "It struck me as blatantly unethical. I didn't want anything to with it." The employee, who describes the work as "the exact opposite of what the program says it is", left the HTS shortly after voicing their concerns. Retired Army Col. Steve Fondacaro, who headed HTS until he was ousted in a management shakeup last year notes that all the units that HTS teams support are involved in interrogations.
First They Came for the Anthropologists
The Atlantic, October 12, 2011
By Edward Tenner
The real irony of Governor Scott's remarks [about anthropology being an impractical degree area that is not useful for finding employment] is that anthropology can be so practical that it even makes many anthropologists uneasy, as in the Defense Department's Human Terrain Program, condemned as unethical by a commission of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) in 2009. 
ISEBOX Fuses Geospatial Data: New Methods of Human Terrain Analysis
Imaging Notes Magazine, Fall 2011, Volume 26 Number 4
By By Abe Usher, CTO and Altaf Bahora, Vice President The HumanGeo Group
To enable the military to fuse together the data at its disposal and make better decisions, faster, the HumanGeo Group developed ISEBOX (Integrated Socio-Cultural Environment for Behavior Observation Exploitation), a geospatial threat-forecasting application that allows data with different spatial resolutions to be intermixed while preserving the original data. ISEBOX identifies friendly forces, trends, geo-political activity, and threat indicators to provide operations planners with critical access to data required to perform Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB). ISEBOX uses variable precision data encodings of location to facilitate non-obvious pattern detection and predictive analysis in the geospatial domain....ISEBOX ingests the widest range of open sources of geospatial data (such as social media, civilian government sources, NGO data, and community-driven data collections) and provides a means of combining the sources to enable analysts to detect non-obvious patterns in the data in order to “tip and cue” planners, collectors, and analysts to points on the ground defined by geography, time, function, and analytic discipline.
Knowing the enemy, one avatar at a time: As military crafts virtual Afghan villages, some scientists raise ethical concerns
The Boston Globe, May 30, 2010
By Farah Stockman
The villagers are bits of software code, and the Americans who “visit’’ are players in a videogame-like program designed not only for training purposes but for intelligence analysis. The program, which loosely resembles the game SimCity, is part of a US government effort to develop sophisticated computer models of real Afghan villages — complete with virtual people based on actual inhabitants — in an attempt to predict their reaction to US raids and humanitarian aid. The project, spearheaded by a University of Pennsylvania engineer at the behest of an undisclosed US government agency, straddles the line between research and intelligence as part of a wider US effort to design software capable of forecasting human behavior in war zones. This type of research, often referred to as “human terrain mapping,’’ has attracted increased funding in recent years from US military planners who believe it will become a crucial tool for combating terrorism and insurgencies....“Are we going to detain someone if a computer predicts that he will become an insurgent?’’ asked Hugh Gusterson, an anthropologist at George Mason University. “The real danger of models is their seductiveness. They can be so realistic and powerful that it is easy to forget they are just a model, and they start to rely on them more and more.’’ The concerns were so great that the US Department of Energy, which controls the national laboratories that own some of the most sophisticated computers in the country, has pushed back against recent efforts to enlist its scientists in the work. Citing uncertainty about how the military will use this research, Energy Secretary Steven Chu issued a memo late last year barring employees from working with data about individuals, citing fears that it could violate a federal law mandating that human research subjects never be harmed. “The lack of full disclosure of the purpose and the potential repercussions to subjects recruited for participation . . . undermines any . . . ability to review such work against federal requirements for the protection of human research volunteers,’’ Chu wrote in December. The project also adds fuel to an ongoing debate over whether social scientists should ply their trade for the military, since some virtual villages are created using surveys taken by embedded social scientists known as human terrain teams....Silverman believes that one day, the whole of southern Afghanistan will be recreated in a vast computer model....Shortly after the human terrain teams were launched in 2005, the Marines paid Silverman to study what could be done with data they had collected. He published a paper arguing that it should be fed into simulators to help forecast events. Since then, the human terrain teams have shifted their data collection methods from open-ended reports toward more rigid questionnaires that can easily be uploaded into a database, according to former terrain team members. John Allison, an anthropologist who began training as a team member last November but has since resigned, said the teams were taught to upload the data into a classified Pentagon database known as SIPRNet, where is it distributed to a host of US agencies, some of whom pass it on to analysts like Silverman. Steve Fondacaro, the project manager for the Army’s human terrain system that oversees the data-collection teams, said the information is primarily used by commanders on the ground to design effective development projects. He said the data are not used to harm anyone. But he also acknowledged that he does not know what other agencies do with the information. “I don’t spend a lot of time tracking down what the government people are doing with the data that we access on the ground,’’ he said, adding that he did not know about Silverman’s project.

The University of Hawaii at Manoa and its Department of Anthropology plays host to the U.S. Army's Human Terrain System, and in particlar its own graduate, Dr. Christopher A. King, social science director for HTS (as King's presentation slides show [see slide 6], that Department produced five of HTS' anthropologists). Apparently, Dr. King is happier with this version of his presentation, as it has not been censored or deleted, as happened recently. Dr. King makes less than credible assertions in taking questions from the audience, toward the end, that HTS staff have total control over their information--please review the article extracts above for contrary evidence. He has also fails to address how a current HTS trainer, former intelligence analyst and former team member in Afghanistan, pilfered confidential fieldnotes and passed them on to military intelligence, as evidenced in the WikiLeaks releases.

And finally, on an utterly bizarre note, what appears to be an insider's video of a HTS graduation ceremony:

04 December 2011

Decolonizing the Occupations

In line with our previous report on "Decolonize Wall Street," from an American Indian perspective, we present the following commentary, from an African-American perspective:

White privilege, the legacy of 500 years of European military and economic suppression of the rest of the planet, is manifest even in movements that purport to be transformational, like Occupy Wall Street. Beneath the politics of economic reordering lie notions that the “new” and overwhelmingly white movement somehow supersedes the centuries-old aspirations of Europe’s primary victims.
Decolonizing Our Occupations A Black Agenda Radio commentary by editor and columnist Jared Ball 
“Radical voices from the world’s majority are simply not welcomed even in spaces that each previously occupied.” 
In two different settings and for two different reasons both the All Peoples Revolutionary Front and The Cornel West Theory made similar statements in response to this international moment of occupations. The APRF, from their perspective in San Diego and CWT from theirs, this week in Amsterdam, both spoke to still powerful blind spots which often prevent real coalition building. In each instance Black and Brown voices pierced a few White bubbles to at least momentarily address an important reality – the experiences and history of the world’s majority is often suppressed beneath the organized whims of a much smaller and Whiter minority. 

As their show this week in Amsterdam was wrapping up Cornel West Theory front man Tim Hicks took a minute to vibe directly with the crowd. He wanted an audience new to his band’s music to know just how hard it is for such an unorthodox hip-hop group to be heard. Their beats are dope concoctions of traditional Black-laced samples and bass lines with White drumming and guitar riffs. Their fiercesome foursome of Black female and male lead vocalists deliver powerfully out-of-the-ordinary political lyrics whose content speaks as often and more easily to Frantz Fanon or Assata Shakur than the band’s actual namesake. And all of this creates a delightfully complicated problem for genre-based thinkers and corporate playlist arrangers. So Hicks took to the mic and thanked the crowd at the Live On The Low weekly hip-hop spotlight at the Winston Hotel and then let them know that despite endorsements from leading intellectuals like Cornel West, rap legends like Chuck D, and world renown soul sisters like Erykah Badu, groups like his still have to struggle to reach an audience. 
“They speak to longer struggles still incomplete that cannot be forgotten or marginalized by these more recent and mostly White uprisings.” 
And from San Diego All Peoples Revolutionary Front representatives had taken to the mic more than a week ago to remind the current and mostly White occupiers that theirs is late and not necessarily conscious of its own complicity in the previous occupation of the world’s majority. "Our minds have been occupied by colonialism," said one speaker. And the group’s previously published open letter to the occupation calls attention to the very “colonizing language” of these occupations, with calls like “taking back our country,” with which many First Nations people simply cannot unify. Other speakers reminded of the imperial process that decimated existing communities, nations, identities and created new ones in permanent and hostile distinction from the West, from the White. Their calls for self-determination and an appropriate concept of "occupation" differ importantly from but remain in basic solidarity with those of the mainstream occupations. But they speak to longer struggles still incomplete that cannot be forgotten or marginalized by these more recent and mostly White uprisings. The differences are important and, as Greg Tate wrote recently, speak to the fact that this country remains more segregated by race than class. 

And what each speak to in their own space and way is that radical voices from the world’s majority are simply not welcomed even in spaces that each previously occupied. White corporate dominance over hip-hop has largely wiped out space for group’s like the Cornel West Theory, just as now White liberal dominance over social unrest continues to limit space for other world majority radical voices from being heard. And if you continue to doubt that this latter point is an issue, just look at last week’s aired panel from The Nation magazine in all its Whiteness and ask if those in the occupy movement who are worried about corporate co-optation need to look more carefully at the liberal takeover currently being carried out. 

We all have indeed been occupied by colonialism and hip-hop and the occupation movement are no different. I am glad though that in their own ways each occupation suffered these small interventions. May many more soon come. 

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Jared Ball. 

On the web visit us at BlackAgendaReport.com

Dr. Jared A. Ball is an associate professor of communication studies at Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD. He is also the author of I Mix What I Like! A Mixtape Manifesto (AK Press, 2011)

24 November 2011

AAA 2011: A Review of Some Presentations on Military, Security, and Intelligence Topics

Report and commentary by AJP member Maximilian C. Forte:

For those who could not make it to the recently concluded conference of the American Anthropological Association in Montreal, or who were there but found themselves compelled to attend/participate in any of a number of other important sessions, here is a summary and review of some of the highlights of presentations made around topics dealing with the military, national security, and intelligence. Originally, I was invited by five different session organizers to present papers on their panels, and after some vacillation, I agreed to present on two, dealing with WikiLeaks and secrecy, and the other dealing with research about the covert and military operations. I attended a few other sessions that had similar themes, and this is the substance of this report. Hopefully, and in the spirit of "accessibility," more people in the future will produce blog reports of the contents of sessions for those who might otherwise miss out completely.

Sharing some of the ideas, details, and interactions that came out of the recently concluded conference meets with a couple of limitations: a) I cannot reproduce entire papers received, because in most cases these are intended for publication; b) in other cases I did not take detailed notes, and so some presentations are not even mentioned here; and, c) there is always the risk that I may not be accurately representing what was said, especially in those instances where I am relying on memory (I have tried to minimize those).

Deployment Stressed

The first session I attended at the AAA conference was "Deployment Stressed: Legacies of the War on Terror in Home Front Communities," organized by Jean N. Scandlyn of the University of Colorado at Denver. (Here I should point out that the University of Colorado had a prominent presence in this conference in particular where military and intelligence topics were the focus.) Recently I came across "Deployment Stressed"  which is also the title of this related project blog at the University of Colorado. Christopher King, anthropologist and social science director of the U.S. Army's Human Terrain System also attended this event as a member of the audience, as well as the other events discussed below.

Andrew Bickford (George Mason University) presented an extremely insightful and incisive paper titled "Super Soldiers and Super Citizens: Armored Life in the United States." Bickford described how in the U.S. (and this could be applied to Canada, and elsewhere), soldiers have been constructed by the state as almost mythical creatures, with the role of myth helping to render soldiers unquestionable. These are the agents of violence, where violence created and sustains the state, which is always prepared to use violence--in that order, the soldier is cast as "the best possible citizen" that the state can produce. Again, it is worth noting how in Canada we also hear government ministers declaring soldiers to be our most special citizens, our most valued citizens, as if their work was the most productive and useful, and as if their "sacrifices" (they volunteer, and get paid) were more important than the sacrifices of others made on a daily basis in the non-violent sectors of society. From there, Bickford began to focus a great deal on medicine and health technology, as a means he argued of mitigating the effects of war, not to end war, which of course would be the clearest solution to preventing the harmful effects of war. The role of advanced medicine, applied to soldiers' bodies, is to create an illusion that they are "superhuman" and thus eminently deployable. Medicine makes war palatable, and makes war seem clean. An array of drugs and psychotherapies are administered in order to shield, enhance, and prolong the life of the soldier, and to demonstrate the inherent superiority of the American soldier. Bickford reconnects these medical procedures and rationales to what he calls "the military imaginary"--which involves the processes and tropes by which states make soldiers. The internal regulation of the soldier becomes the external regulation of the state--the soldier is the state in action. Militarized medicine becomes part of the production of an "armored life" (we can see the influences of both Hegel and Agamben in Bickford's theorizing). The internal armouring of the body of the soldier is the armouring of the state. Bickford ended with some much needed, provocative questions: if the specialists and authorities can banish the fear of warfare, what else can they banish? He asks how the impact of killing, who matters most, why some are killed, etc., are the kinds of questions that are held away by the processes of making medically enhanced super soldiers.

David Bayendor (University of Colorado Denver) presented his work under the title of "Human Terrain Redux--A 'Halfie' Talks Anthropology and the Army," which was also quite unusual for being a presentation by someone both in the military, and anthropology, who is critical of militarist ideology but not without some reservations. While acknowledging the fetishizing of warfare, and the heroizing of the masculinity, "courage" and "sacrifice" of soldiers that forms part of "the military normal" (an idea he credited to Catherine Lutz, involving the militarization of social institutions, values, etc., shaped by and prepared for war), he added that he did not view the military as a total institution. He thus devoted some time to describing the military as an intermediate institution, between the military and the civilian, yet still forming a world that is largely off limits to civilians. As Bayendor noted, quoting from Laura Nader, powerful groups are notorious for resisting being studied. (Throughout the presentation, Bayendor quoted repeatedly from the works of anthropologists critical of militarism/militarization, adding his own perspectives as someone who is also part of the military.) Speaking of powerful institutions, Bayendor who is apparently no fan of HTS, noted how HTS members appear to be very excited about being in a powerful institution, suggesting that whatever their original intent for joining HTS, their perspectives became altered by being in close proximity to high-ranking officers, on bases, and so forth. Speaking of ethnic and generally marginalized minorities who make up a large part of the U.S. fighting force, including foreign citizens from Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America, Bayendor made the point that often it is the victims of the power system that are drawn into service to support the system, participating in their own oppression in effect. Bayendor also commented on how "support our troops", "thank you for our service" and what I would call the yellow ribbon industry, work to keep critical questions at bay. He ended his presentation in speaking of the military's appropriation of anthropological knowledge by means other than HTS, and showed a slide featuring a list of key texts in anthropology from the U.S. Army's own online database--a list he had accessed as late as three days prior to the conference and which featured a number of prominent titles, including Malinowski's Practical Anthropology and Gluckman's Rituals of Rebellion.

Sarah J. Hautzinger (Colorado College) further explored some of the themes raised above, in her presentation titled "Battle-Speak on a Domestic Homefront." (I noted how choosing to term the local and the domestic as the "home front" is itself an example of "battle-speak," which the title of the session seemed to reinforce, though the irony may have been intentional.) Hautzinger discussed the domestication of war metaphors in the U.S., with the adoption of terms such as "battle buddies" and "deployment" among those not militarily deployed abroad, or in any actual armed conflict. Among the facets she raised were "battle" as metaphor, as metonymy, and as synecdoche. The effect is to reinforce war as a paradigm for symbolically ordering understandings of the world, even as those adhering to this paradigm are involved in trying to aid those suffering from war. Hautzinger also raised the point that in talking about the losses suffered from war, the focus is almost always on U.S. losses alone. This was an interesting paper for addressing issues of cultural militarization and hegemonization (her word), in how individuals can become complicit in their own subordination, as they buy into paradigms that sanitize and euphemize war, even when they directly face its bloody consequences. Her work, as I suggested, took some of the panel's themes on language a bit further, speaking in terms of civilian-military code-switching and the use of insider argot to build solidarity across civilian-military lines.

Jean N. Scandlyn (University of Colorado Denver) in her presentation, "Promises, Promises: The Military and Opportunity Structures for American Youth," was clearly pressed for time--and in a long session, my own attention began to wane. As a result, I came away with just three particularly interesting arguments made in this presentation, but which I present in a disjointed fashion given the state of my notes: 1) that those motivated to join the military in pursuit of economic and/or educational benefits (these are often the same), are also those suffering from higher rates of PTSD; 2) most recruits come from southern states--the south-east and south-west--from economically disenfranchised conditions, where there is also a long tradition of military service...and she suggested that the relationship between the two is not merely incidental; and, 3) practices that depersonalize "the enemy," beginning with the use of silhouette targets used in weapons training.

Christopher King, Human Terrain System:

Originally, seven papers were scheduled for this session, with no time at all for discussion--as was strangely common at this AAA conference, remarkably not what one would expect in a conference if there is no room for actually conferring. With one cancellation, we had about 10 minutes of discussion that was dominated largely by a very talkative Christopher King from HTS. He was not presenting any papers at the conference, but was present at almost all of the events of direct relevance to military, security, and intelligence themes, and I had the chance to converse with him on several occasions, especially as we tended to sit together or very close. I am not sure if King was aware that he raised some eyebrows when--speaking as someone representing a program that for a long time stressed that it was not about "gathering intelligence"--said that he could put a number of the panellists in touch with people he knows in the "Department of Intelligence". He seemed to be eager to get the panellists to communicate with the military, which of course they already were since their research was grounded in that communication. When he began to say that one of the "nice things" about the military is that it can "really be self-reflective"--thereby missing the point of evidence to the contrary--he seemed to wear some patience thin and the moderator interjected to move on to someone else. On the other hand, King is neither an abrasive nor aggressive person, so the panel could have suffered much worse.

It was at this event that I overheard one young woman approach King, who stood in front of me, to ask him about working for the military--and he gave her his card. Interesting move, that of choosing a session critical of militarization in the hope of finding someone from the military in the audience so as to market oneself. One of the panel participants later asked me what King was doing at the conference, and if the AAA had not censured HTS.

Human Terrain: War Becomes Academic

I had the great pleasure of finally seeing James Der Derian's now well-circulated film, Human Terrain: War Becomes Academic. And who better to sit next to for the whole film and discussion, if not HTS' Christopher King? At this event, King did not take part in the discussion--it would not have been a welcoming crowd. I stayed silent, as it was important for me to observe American anthropologists, whom I have never heard from before, weigh in on these topics, only to discover that if they were in any way a representative sample then HTS meets with fairly wide condemnation among AAA members.

The room was packed with people, many standing, and the discussion afterwards was quite animated, in-depth, and intelligent. During the film, members of the audience got quite loud on occasion, either laughing at some of the speakers (the Marine officer who proudly boasts, "we are not killers...we are professional killers," or the suggestion that Arabs, because of their inherent cultural difference, yes, really would fear being stripped naked, jeered at by women, and having angry dogs barking at their crotches--"unlike American men," as one audience member joked), or even hissing at Montgomery McFate, quite sinister and dark by way of contrast to the man sitting next to me. Overall, King, who said that he too had never seen the film before, seemed to think it was fair and liked it. I also thought it was a remarkable film from which I even learned a few "new" details (that is, new to me).

Der Derian definitely deserves all of the praise he has received for this film, for the complex questioning, editing, and narrative structure. There was some debate about "balance" in the film--yes, we hear from almost all sides (the Afghan side is, of course, once again mute...a little more than a small omission from almost all debates about anthropologists joining the military, or even in debates about the occupation of Afghanistan). Some felt that, nonetheless, the film clearly, and on balance, swings the argument against HTS. Even those closest to one of the featured protagonists, the late Michael Bhatia (HTS' first fatality), are clear in saying they argued against his joining HTS in the first place. Others instead feel that the film kicks a bit of sand in the eyes, dulling anti-militarist perspectives by encouraging identification with, and sympathy for Bhatia, while raising "good intentions" of "helping to improve" (improve what? war? conflict?) by aiding the military in becoming more "culturally aware"--not that HTS serves to offer classes in hand signals, or the etiquette of drinking tea, which by now surely have been abundantly learned anyway.

Perhaps the sharpest and most memorable part in the whole film for me came from Hugh Gusterson when he explained that the U.S. military, and politicians, make the fundamental mistake of thinking that the continuing conflict facing occupation forces is simply the result of "cultural miscommunication," rather than resistance against foreign domination and social engineering at the point of a gun. The assumption, he noted, is that if U.S. troops could better understand local cultures, then there would be less conflict, which ignores the totally separate motivations for resistance. Invasions and occupations are not the result of some sort of "cultural" mishap, so that the turn to culture--and particularly static and outmoded, functionalist conceptions of culture at that--can only deceive U.S. military practitioners that programs like HTS are a solution, a way of winning the war. As Gusterson said, when you ask the wrong questions, you can only come up with the wrong answers.

As for Bhatia, there was some discussion about how he could delude himself into thinking that by going from being a researcher to a practitioner, he could change the world, and yet remain unchanged himself.

Anthropologies of the Covert

Organized by Carole McGranahan (University of Colorado Boulder), "Anthropologies of the Covert: From Spying and Being Spied Upon to Secret Military Ops and the CIA," was a very long session lasting four hours, on which I served as a discussant.

HTS' Christopher King attended this event also, that is until Roberto González finished his presentation.

David H. Price (St. Martin's University), led the session with his historically dense investigative research into CIA ties in funding the AAA via a front organization called the Asia Foundation. His paper, "The CIA, the Asia Foundation, and the AAA: How the AAA Linked Asian Anthropologists to a CIA Funding Front," is part of a larger work in progress. Price demonstrated the significant extent to which anthropologists, like other social scientists, were linked to military and intelligence agencies throughout the Cold War period, even if unknowingly. As he indicated, if we exclude foundations such as the Ford, Rockefeller, and Carnegie foundations, the CIA was involved in nearly half of the research grants offered in the 1960s. Not seeing the case of the Asia Foundation in isolation, Price reminded us that, "the CIA approached the AAA in 1951 and established a covert relationship with the Executive Board through which the AAA secretly gave the CIA the raw information it collected for its detailed roster with the understanding that the CIA would keep information from this roster for its own uses."

Carole McGranahan followed with "Sympathy for the Devil: The CIA, Tibet, and the Humanity of Empire," in which her stated intention was to "humanize" the CIA by two routes, one being by highlighting their affective ties to Tibetan resistance fighters, symbolized by tearful embraces, and two, by arguing that the CIA engaged in covert humanitarianism. Another stated goal was to challenge what in her spoken version she called the "knee jerk reactions" of critics of the CIA, and what in her written version she referred to as "leftist critiques." It was a fairly interesting and controversial paper that seemed to provoke mixed reactions, especially when viewed in contrast with some of the presentations that followed, like the next one.

Anna Roosevelt (University of Illinois Chicago), in "THE HEART OF DARKNESS IS WHITE: The role of the NATO countries in the chaos and killings in Central Africa," presented a shocking litany of a very long history of intense, and often grotesque, Western interventions in the Congo and Rwanda, while also featuring some of her own investigative documentary research that uncovers and exposes the identity of a leading military intelligence agent behind numerous local plots. As I said in my discussion after these three papers, Anna Roosevelt does not write like any Roosevelt I know--and yes, she is related to all of the prominent Roosevelts that readers will know.

Briefly, in my discussant's remarks I said: 1) that I would like to see David Price theorize his work more, and that the case he features seems to contain a lot of ambiguities; 2) that Carole McGranahan ought to explain how an affective approach to some CIA agents can in any way become an anthropological theory of empire, and why in opposing herself to unnamed leftists, she creates the kind of binary that she disdains; and, 3) that Anna Roosevelt's work might be useful as part of a critical dialogue with "responsibility to protect" and other forms of "humanitarian interventionism" that call for foreign military intervention in the Congo--as if more such intervention will fix the problems caused by foreign military intervention in the first place.

One productive coincidence came when both Roberto González and I discussed various research methods for gaining information about military and intelligence agencies. I listed documentary research (such as Price using Freedom of Information Access); interviews and participation in public events; the role of deception as in covert ethnographic research to penetrate state agencies; the use of leaks; and, antagonism. In his excellent presentation, "Methodological Notes on Researching Military and Intelligence Programs," Roberto J. González (San Jose State University), spoke of documents, followed by interviews (with public writing about the contents of documents prompting some from the military and intelligence communities to come forward), and self-analysis (which, in part, involves reflecting on reactions to one's research). Interestingly, a former geospatial intelligence agent on the panel, Nate Keuter, said that he saw the work being done by González as similar to that of an intelligence analyst--and this tied in with his own presentation that argued we could look at the CIA as a research organization (except it's one that kills).

An exceptional paper, with a long-term view of anthropological research of secrets going back to James Mooney and Franz Boas, my favourite passage in González's paper came toward the end when he explained, ever so politely, that, "...this kind of anthropology often requires the use of theoretical concepts or hypotheses to make sense of certain phenomena. An example of this might be the use of the Whorf-Sapir hypothesis, which can help explain how terms like human terrain lead to the treatment of humans as dirt (or at best, as territory to be conquered) by those who have uncritically adopted the phrase." I believe that it was on this note that HTS' Christopher King, whose presence was indirectly noted by González in his talk, left the room.

23 November 2011

Students Take Anthropology Back Into the Streets: A Report on Off-AAA

Report and commentary by AJP member Maximilian Forte:

From Questions, to Critique, to Protest

Students took Anthropology into the streets on Saturday, 19 November, 2011, in an action that was (in part) designed to protest the exclusive nature of the recent American Anthropological Association conference held inside the Palais des Congrès, with exorbitant registration fees that barred the attendance of most Montreal students. Students occupied the park outside the Palais and took the initiative to mobilize against what some of them called "bourgeois 'science'," and the commodification of knowledge that turned anthropology into an elitist fetish. As natives and residents of this city, they emphasized that this is their space, and the time is one of global ferment against capitalism, inequality, and elitism. Hence, the Occupy Montreal camp sent its banner in solidarity to be put on display at this event, dubbed Off-AAA. As the students questioned in announcing their initiative and inviting participation by faculty, "shouldn't we be generating critical thinking on our own institutional dynamics? Is research only an interest or a tool for social change?"

At the event, while some of the students suggested that they wished they had organized it better, the fact is that the numbers in attendance (on a cold and rainy Saturday afternoon as the semester nears its hectic finale) ranged between 30 and 50, and several faculty made presentations at the event and engaged in debate, including myself, David H. Price (St. Martin's University), Rob Hancock (University of Victoria), and Terence Turner, and others. The students organized in advance using Facebook and Indymedia Quebec, among other sites. They brought coffee for all, chairs, mats, a table, a megaphone, and later even a microphone that seemed to serve no function other than to be passed around to mark the next speaker. There were at least two persons recording the event with video cameras on tripods--but I don't know if their videos will be made available. The students were animated, speaking mostly in French (with simultaneous translation), with a passion for ideas for an alternative anthropology. At different points, some passers-by stopped to hear what was going on--behind us instead, within the multi-coloured glass walls of the Palais, I was stopped on two occasions and asked for my conference badge...the excuse being that the attendants were trying to block access to homeless persons (I was in a suit and tie on one of those occasions).

This was anthropology in public, but with frequent calls by the students for more public anthropology, for more activism, for more research that is undertaken for more than just communicating it to colleagues in closed sessions hidden behind pay walls. Far from the hackneyed, right wing stereotype of students "brainwashed" by their allegedly "radical" professors, here were the students radicalising faculty and drawing the latter out from the enclosure of pay-per-view anthropology, conducted safely and quietly, away from the public's ear.

The Geopolitics of Anthropology: As Seen from the Canadian Periphery

Indeed, we should question the logic behind the AAA locating its event here, as if Canada had no Anthropology association of its own. After some quiet protest by the Canadian Anthropology Society (CASCA), the local association was given the grand gift of a booth at the AAA event, and allowed to organize a reception. While this assertion of U.S. hegemony is troubling--and one of the main reasons for why I have not travelled to the U.S. to take part in AAA conferences--we have to admit that "Canadian" anthropologists (many of whom are actually American, and many of whom obtained their PhDs in the U.S.*) are part of the problem. Some of these nominally Canadian anthropologists tell their graduate students that if they wish to obtain academic employment in Canada, they should earn their doctorates in the U.S. (thereby invalidating their own positions, and the responsibility to train the next generations of Canadian academics). It seems that our job is to locally produce the part-time sessional instructors, and to import the full-time tenure-track faculty. Many others enforce a dependency on U.S. texts and other assigned reading materials written by their U.S. colleagues. Some departments are even structured on the U.S. "four-field" model, thereby establishing themselves as beachheads of American academic exceptionalism in Canada. Each year, entire departments are vacated in November as faculty make their annual pilgrimage to the AAA, travelling to the U.S. conference venues of their intellectual masters, massaging the ego of the monster as they pay tribute to the U.S. dominance that they reinforce.

This year the CASCA conference in Fredericton, at which AJP launched a symposium and gained new members, was thinly attended by less than a third of CASCA's regular members, most of whom were holding out for the AAA conference in Montreal. The AAA did not cause that, but it did enable it, and the result was a huge plunge in revenues for CASCA. Virtually none of the representatives of Canada's largest Anthropology departments, organized according to the U.S. four-field model, were in attendance in Fredericton. The event became an unintended celebration of our peripheral status, within the Canadian periphery that are the Maritime provinces. So if the AAA event was exclusive and occupied our attention, it is also our fault. We had Montreal anthropology faculty on the AAA's Executive Program Committee--and none of us thought that, as a basic courtesy, the invading association should at least offer free access to students bearing local ID cards--and a public explanation for why the AAA thinks that Quebec comes under its umbrella as a U.S. body.

It is interesting to observe such a phenomenon displaying itself at the same time as some tout the value of "world anthropologies" (as published in dominant U.S. journals). Perhaps the potential for irony is limited by the fact that much of what constitutes itself currently as "world anthropologies" is fashioned by anthropologists based in, trained in, or oriented toward the dominant American centre and its UK counterpart.

[* In a recent survey published by CASCA--Demographics and Opinions of Canadian Anthropologists--it was found that out of 306 respondents with a PhD, 168 (55%) have Canadian PhDs, 77 (25%) have U.S. PhDs, and the remaining 61 (20%) have degrees from other parts of the world--I am included in the latter category, though I did not know of the survey when it was being undertaken and thus did not respond. Narrative responses to the survey tellingly included calls for developing more "Boasian" graduates, and for getting our journal into Anthrosource, which is the AAA's publications database.]

The Speakers: From Corporatization to Militarization to Free Knowledge

I asked David Price to accompany me to the event, since it followed a AAA session in which we both participated, and since my comments would dovetail into subject matter of which he is a leading expert, yet expertise that might not have been familiar to the assembled students. So we performed what I called a duet.

"I am here under an alternate identity," I said, "in there [where the AAA was meeting] I am an associate professor in anthropology at Concordia University...but out here I speak in my capacity as a member of Anthropologists for Justice and Peace." I began by speaking about the increased pace by which private business interests were appropriating the university as a common, public good--in some cases, very directly, with the university hiring individuals from the private sector (in crisis) who had as little as a BA and four years of working experience, and getting paid more than a full professor, for performing obscure and minimally useful administrative tasks. Indeed, the inflation of administration, and the bloating of its operating costs at the expense of the core missions of the university, represents a hidden bailout package for the private sector by essentially handing them lucrative university positions and contracts. Regardless of the current track record of massive corporate failures, the university has adopted corporate management models, led by CEOs of private corporations who sit on our Board of Governors. From there I took the students into research done by a student in my New Imperialism seminar, Laura Beach (see this and this), who shows that several of the members of the Board of Governors of Concordia University are also defence contractors. In addition, it was one of them who pushed through Project Hero, with little in the way of discussion or advance notice. Having established a corporate presence with militarist leanings, I spoke of how the university--while not yet interfering in dictating what we should research, and thus directly curbing our academic freedom--has nonetheless gradually altered the university's reward structure to publicly favour and promote only specific kinds of projects--those funded by the Department of National Defence's Security Defence Forum, for example, to engineering projects dedicated to developing UAVs, better known as drones. (There is no "Canada Research Chair in Studies of Imperialism" nor any Anti-War or Peace Research Institute in Montreal.) Those students who had been to Concordia had not seen any of the drone prototypes suspended from the ceilings in public areas. I also spoke of how the university markets certain "signature areas," one of which is the interventionist, private- and military-funded "Will to Intervene" project (students recoiled at the very name). I noted how the university administration had, seemingly overnight, rewritten its mission statement, from one that emphasized the role of the university as social critic, engaged in public debate, and valuing academic freedom--to one that made no mention at all of any of these, instead emphasizing "harmony" and "strengthening society." From there I proceeded to remark to students that in being faced with limited job prospects, they would be tempted to apply their anthropological knowledge toward well-remunerated, imperialist ends, and I advised them to pay close attention to what David Price would tell them about the Human Terrain System (HTS). I mentioned how just a few blocks away from where we stood, a Montreal head-quartered company, CGI, was doing the recruiting for the U.S. Army's HTS. This is a reminder of how porous is the border between the U.S. and Canada, and how blurred are the lines between the two--making us as susceptible to U.S.-funded and U.S.-inspired militarist projects as we were to the AAA meeting in the edifice that formed my backdrop. Finally, I congratulated the students for their imagination and initiative, and reminded them that without their leadership, little would change, as even tenured faculty for the most part are trained into fearful silence and many are demoralized and thus unlikely to spearhead any movement for change. To date, this Off-AAA assembly is perhaps the most remarkable, encouraging and productive "conference" experience I have had.

David Price then stood up in the circle of assembled students, cold wind blowing, and remarked--using the metaphor of the drones hanging from our ceilings, which are there and which we do not see--about the insidious spread of war corporatism in the university. He spoke of his work in uncovering the CIA connections to anthropologists, and of the use of anthropologists in counterinsurgency, giving a brief history of HTS. It's not over, he noted, as we had just come from a panel where some of the papers were about creating sympathy for the CIA or its local agents, and casting the CIA as a "humanitarian" actor. David Price also remarked on the fact that just because the students are in Canada, not to think that they are immune from the current wave of university militarization, which has proceeded apace in the U.S. (and, in fact, he is right--not least because some of our military research in universities, such as in fuel air explosives at McGill, is directly funded by the Pentagon, with the university's code of "ethics" revised to suit). David added that many students like those assembled, faced limited academic employment prospects, especially with the tendency toward hiring only temporary and part-time faculty, and that many such individuals are motivated to join programs such as HTS for monetary reasons. When David mentioned how much HTS employees get paid when deployed, circa $225,000 U.S., there was a loud gasp of disbelief from the students, some laughing at how extraordinary the salary appears. An American student in Montreal (from Ohio, if I recall), asked to interject--and told David that in the town where he came from, the sole source of employment, a mine, had shut down, so that really the only available employment presenting itself is to join the military. David concurred, noting the same is true of the town he came from. In fact, a number of the Montreal students assembled are themselves from the U.S., and tend to be both highly critical of U.S. foreign policy and very much committed against militarism--so that David somehow managed to speak to what was partly a "home crowd" even in Montreal, and a home crowd as well for sharing his concerns about militarization. David was very well received, but unfortunately had to leave soon after his talk.

Rob Hancock then stood up and made the point of welcoming those assembled to traditional, unceded Mohawk territory. In this welcome, noting that we are on Aboriginal land, Rob made the point that this land has been "occupied" by settlers for too long, and he took some issue with the naming of the "Occupy" campaign currently spread across North America. This was not an incidental point, as Rob then proceeded to talk about how he and others worked to make accessible anthropological knowledge around Indigenous rights in Canada. In this vein Rob outlined an absolutely remarkable project in which he is engaged, known as the Free Knowledge Project (also see their Facebook page), with at times many dozens of members of the wider public taking their free classes offered at local cafes in Victoria, BC. This is the kind of public, and very open access anthropology (open in cyberspace, and open in physical space), which met with very obvious approval from the assembled students.

Unfortunately, in the cases of the remaining speakers, I have forgotten the name of one (from Vermont) who made some very profound comments about being a fully embodied anthropologist and activist, and Terence Turner who spoke at the very end, after I had already left.

Student speakers took turns to build ideas for a more public, activist anthropology. One of the event organizers, devoted particular attention to the Quebec Public Interest Research Group at Concordia--QPIRG-Concordia--and to its sponsorship of Community University Research Exchange (CURE), as concrete examples of already existing projects that students could support and carry forward. Indeed, in some respects QPIRG appears as the embryo of a new university, growing within the shell of the old university, one deemed "corrupt" by one of the speakers.

I left the event feeling both inspired and very proud of our students here in Montreal, and I am looking forward to more such events.

First Nations Under Surveillance in Canada

In our continuing coverage of reports of surveillance and domestic forms of counterinsurgency in Canada, we present this material, first aired on the CBC's radio program, The Current, from Thursday, 17 November, 2011. It demonstrates the state's continuing efforts to spy on the public sphere and to treat Aboriginals as if they were a potential insurgent threat, a domestic implementation of espionage techniques that tie in with the "return investment" on Canada's participation in foreign counterinsurgency wars, as first demonstrated by the inclusion of First Nations in the draft counterinsurgency manual of the Canadian Forces. For more background, see the prior reports we published on these topics:

From the CBC:

Why is the govt spying on Cindy Blackstock? Cindy Blackstock is an advocate for First Nations children and youth. She has an email trail that shows bureaucrats from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs are tailing her, showing up at more than 70 speeches and appearances, taking notes, following her Facebook page and sharing what they find with their Dept and the Dept of Justice. She calls the surveillance, chilling and politically motivated.

Canada spends millions of dollars each year monitoring and tracking individuals and groups thought to threaten national security. Law abiding citizens aren't typically under the government's microscope. But when Cindy Blackstock applied for access to government documents, she received a fat folder that showed she was being watched. Cindy Blackstock runs The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society.

In 2007, her organization filed a human rights complaint against the federal government, alleging under-funding of child welfare services on reserves. Her Access to Information request revealed, the Federal Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development has amassed a large file on her activities, much of it based on first-hand accounts from government employees who tailed her at public appearances. Cindy Blackstock joined us from our studio in Ottawa.

Martin Papillon is a professor of political science at the University of Ottawa. Among other things, his research focusses on Aboriginal self-determination and he was in our Ottawa studio.

For his take on whether and when the federal government should monitor native groups and why it might be keeping tabs on Cindy Blackstock, we were joined by Tim Powers. He's the Vice President of Summa Communications and a Conservative Party strategist. He also worked in the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in the mid 1990s. Tim Powers was in Ottawa.

The Current asked to speak to someone from the Prime Minister's Office. We did not receive a reply. We asked to speak to Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan. Neither he nor anyone else from the department was available this morning, but Minister Duncan's spokesperson did provide us with this statement. It reads:
I can tell you that our government takes Canadians' privacy very seriously. The Minister has asked the Deputy Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to report to him on whether privacy rules were respected.
We also asked to speak to someone from the Department of National Defence. We received no response. The Government's Leader in the Senate, Conservative Senator Marjory LeBreton, was not available to speak to us this morning.
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