This site is archived. For my brand new live site go to Struggle Forever!

09 October 2010

HTS and Military Anthropology, Again

The other day in my anthropology theory class we had a discussion about the HTS and the ethics of military anthropology.  One student brought an article about Montgomery McFate published earlier this year.  It was a critical article, but my fellow students were not convinced.  There was a great deal of ambivalence, and the general feeling was that the invasion was going to happen anyway and so we might as well try to make it as culturally sensitive as possible.  One guy gave an example where a military representative refused a meal, and if only he had been told how important hospitality is to them ...

This kind of argument has always annoyed me, and I should have spoken up at the time, but when I get passionate about something (and I was seething inside) I find it difficult to articulate myself.  The whole argument misses the point completely.  The point is that the war is unjust, and fundamentally wrong.  Helping to make it more culturally sensitive can do little more than make a bad situation just a little better.  Like those doctors who try to make torture more humane.  Or like a rapist who uses a condom.  Sure, a rapist who uses a condom is better than a rapist who doesn't, but would we simply throw up our hands and say "Well, rape is going to happen anyway, we might as well do our best to get them to wear condoms"?  Of course not!  We would and should try to stop rape because it is fundamentally wrong!

It's the same with the war.  I don't give a damn if the military knows how important hospitality is to Iraqis - to me, the military shouldn't be there in the first place.  And if we oppose the war, then we should be trying to end it, not make it kinder, gentler, or more culturally sensitive.

2 comments:

btmc said...

Good metaphor Jeremy. You said "when I get passionate about something (and I was seething inside) I find it difficult to articulate myself." I have similar reactions at times, but because of what I'm studying I'm wondering if there is another reason to not express this anger to the class that inspired it. There are many things being said and done online that used to be done personally, like making friends on facebook and hooking up on dating sites. Why are we doing these things online? Is it a place where we feel more comfortable expressing ourselves? Why?
The only reason I bring this up is because I think it is important to express your opinion to those who disagree, face to face where google or an RSS reader isn't filtering based on our preferences.
I just read this article http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/08/ff_webrip/all/1
And I'm worried about the changing ways we'll be interacting with the internet, the limits we're building. I'd love to read your thoughts

Maximilian C. Forte said...

Helping to make it more culturally sensitive can do little more than make a bad situation just a little better. Like those doctors who try to make torture more humane. Or like a rapist who uses a condom. Sure, a rapist who uses a condom is better than a rapist who doesn't, but would we simply throw up our hands and say "Well, rape is going to happen anyway, we might as well do our best to get them to wear condoms"?

Good that you spotted this Jeremy, because that is exactly the argument that is being made by some in HTS. It will always be with us, all we can do is mitigate. It's nonsense that is based on naturalization of social and cultural phenomena--phenomena that by virtue of being social and cultural constructions can be changed. It is also based on a view of human nature as universally the same, and eternally the same, a kind of reductionist biologized essentialism. In other words, they are grasping at straws. They will be quoting passages from the Old Testament next.

Related Posts with Thumbnails