2014 Abstracts


Session 1

Friday, May 1, 2014 | 11:00 am – 12:45 pm

Fieldwork as Political Ecology: Anthropologists and Archaeologists in Landscapes of Conflict

Fractured Oversight: Palestinian Sites and Objects after the Oslo II Accords

Morag Kersel

Palestine is a state in limbo – they lack full formal recognition as a sovereign land, but possess a unique nation-state status that incorporates elements of a unified national consciousness and basic civil institutions albeit with limited autonomy. Palestine’s ambiguous political status is starkly illustrated by its convoluted territorial control, and nowhere is this more clearly attested than in the jurisdiction of archaeological sites and the display of artifacts in museums. The 1995 Oslo II Accords carved the Occupied Territories into a complex mosaic of areas – A, B and C. As part of this agreement the Palestinians assume administrative control of the cultural heritage and materials in Areas A and B. Area C is currently under Israeli military occupation and heritage is under the jurisdiction of the Archaeology Department of the Civil Administration of Israel. Fractured oversight of heritage sites and objects provides a fascinating lens for examining the efficacy of law and the administration of archaeological and object management in a hotly contested landscape. Through an examination of the archaeological oversight process in Palestine and case studies involving Qumran and Herod’s palace – both examples of disputed territorial jurisdiction – the ideologies, rationales, and political forces leading to the construction of the artificial ABCs that dominate the Palestinian landscape will be considered.

Exposing the Colonial Matrix of Power: Archaeologists and Private Military Companies in Iraq

Maria Theresia Starzmann

The issue of embedded archaeologists in Iraq has long been approached with a focus on collaboration with military authorities. In most instances, this involves critical reflections on specific forms of collaboration (e.g., when archaeologists work as consultants for the military) and their consequences for cultural heritage protection. In this context, the imperialist dimensions of archaeological knowledge production are frequently invoked. In my paper, I attempt to extend previous debates by expanding the definition of military collaboration to include non-state organizations, such as private military and security companies (PMSCs). Understanding how archaeologists are not merely embedded with troops, but deploy private firms for their work, is particularly pertinent as we witness the growth of private contractors within the military industrial complex and the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. More importantly, the role of PMSCs in archaeology underscores how even critical discussions of the links between military and archaeologists obscure the exploitative regime of war economy. I argue that a radical critique of archaeological practice in landscapes of conflict will not merely rail against universalizing knowledge paradigms, but expose the full colonial matrix of power, which according to Anibal Quijano (2000) involves control of subjectivity and knowledge just as much as control of economy and authority.

Fieldwork in Battle Space: On the Intersecting Geographies of Research and War

David B. Edwards

This paper focuses on how ideas and ethics associated with place are redefined in the context of the conflicts and dislocations brought about during wartime. People operate according to moral coordinates that have a spatial dimension, and this is nowhere more true than in situations in which control of contested areas has becomes confused and people are forced to leave the places ‘where they come from’ and forced to move to other places ‘where they don’t belong.’ Place as an everyday reality might recede into the background of concern in times of peace, but people are aware of where they are, where they want to be, and where believe they should be in times of war, even if, when guns are actually firing, their spatial coordinates can become temporarily disrupted.

The central concern in this paper is to relate assumptions concerning place that inform anthropological fieldwork as a situated practice to notions of place held by anthropological informants, and to understand, in the context of war, the ways in which the different cultural geographies of those studying and those being studied intersect with one another. The paper focuses on three periods of research undertaken by the author: the first, a stint of traditional ethnographic fieldwork undertaken in a refugee camp near Peshawar, Pakistan in the mid-1980s; the second an extended journey through eastern Afghanistan accompanying a group of former mujahidin following the collapse of the communist government in 1995; and the third, directing the production of a documentary film in and around Kabul in 2003. Each of these periods of “fieldwork” had different origins, intentions, methodologies of investigation, and productive outcomes; and each also involved engagement with people who had a very different relationship to place that had to be taken into consideration in working with them and accomplishing particular project goals. The focus of the paper is on the author’s gradual coming to awareness of the nature and importance of place in each of these contexts and the ways in which people’s understanding of place informed the practical, ethical, and political choices they made.

Session 2

Friday, May 1, 2014 | 2:30 – 4:30 pm

Human Terrain Systems and Anthropologists

“On Using Ethics to Avoid Politics: The Limits of Using Professional Ethics to Address the Political Problems of HTS and other Security Sector Projects”

David Price

This paper examines how knowledge of military uses of anthropological knowledge have historically pressed the American Anthropological Association (AAA) to develop or revise their professional ethics codes as a means of addressing the problems raised by a broad range of anthropological research—including traditional non-military linked fieldwork practices. While militarized uses of anthropology can raise serious ethical concerns, recurrent decisions by the AAA to institutionally address these concerns by exclusively focusing on ethical dimensions, while largely ignoring the political issues embedded in militarized anthropological interactions ignores significant dimension of these militarized interactions.

Differentiating between ethical and political critiques can be epistemologically and practically difficult, but if for the sake of analysis we can consider ethical critiques to focus on best practices followed by professionals—often in a context of disclosure, minimizing harm, and maintaining informed autonomy; while political critiques focus on power relations, including macro questions of empire, neocolonialism and imperialism. Using this framework I differentiate between the critical ethical and political issues raised by militarized embedded interactions including, but not limited to, HTS, and I also examine how the institutional glossing of ethical concerns for political concerns creates recurrent problems within the discipline.

The AAA has historically developed advocacy positions on several contentious contemporary political issues (issues including: race, same-sex marriage, refugees, educational reforms, etc.), yet when issues of militarization of anthropology episodically arise the AAA institutionally responds by focuses on ethics, while many AAA members critique these interactions on primarily political dimensions. The AAA’s response to HTS provides a lens to critically examine how the AAA’s inclination to (borrowing from James Scott) “See Like A Bureaucracy” framed HTS in ways that highlighted and obscured anthropological concerns raised by HTS and other militarized application of anthropology.

“Embedded?: Toward A Deeper Examination of Anthropologists’ Work in National Security Organizations”

Kerry B. Fosher

This paper seeks to recharacterize notions of embedded anthropologists within the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). While most disciplinary attention has focused on the ethical problems associated with conducting ethnographic research in conflict areas to support of military objectives, this type of research is not what most anthropologists working with or for DoD actually do. Drawing on the author’s field research on national security organizations, work on the American Anthropological Association’s Commission on the Engagement with U.S. Security and Intelligence Communities, and more than 10 years of anthropological practice within national security-focused organizations, the paper argues that the focus on fieldwork has impoverished discussions of the ethical and political dimensions of anthropological work with and for DoD, as well as in other contexts outside the academy.

Through an explanation of the different kinds and contexts of anthropological work in DoD, the paper calls attention to differences and similarities among kinds of anthropological work including research conducted from within the academy, applied research, practicing anthropology, and advocacy. It also examines the kinds of advising, critique, and knowledge production that can be done from different standpoints in DoD. It concludes with an overview of challenges in making these kinds of work transparent and ensuring that the resulting knowledge of national security organizations is accessible to the discipline.

Disclaimer: These views are those of the author/speaker alone and do not represent the position of the United States Marine Corps.

Session 3

Saturday, May 2, 2014 | 9:00-10:45 am

Remote sensing, drones, satellite images: Ethics of the Use of Remote Technologies of Mapping and Visualization in Archaeology

“Verticality and Fear: Surveying Waziristan”

Vazira F-Y Zamindar

This paper examines the record on the intensive aerial bombardment of Waziristan between the first and second world wars, to explore the relationship between the practice and aesthetics of archaeology and the politics and violence of war. What is the difference between knowledge and violence constituted on the ground and from the air?

From Balloons and Biplanes to Satellites and Drones: The Invasion of Iraq and the Ethics of Aerial Imagery in Archaeology

Adrian Myers

Archaeologists have used aerial imagery for the study of the past for over a century, and in that time aerial photography for archaeology has developed from using balloons and biplanes, to satellites and drones. Intriguingly, the development of aerial imagery in archaeology has mirrored the development of aerial imagery in the military. In every step of the development of these technologies, archaeologists have borrowed from the original military applications. But archaeologists’ borrowing of this militaristic technology is more problematic still: Their use of aerial and satellite imagery is, in fact, in some cases inseparable from the violent military campaigns that produced the imagery in the first place. In one example, during the 2003 invasion of Iraq satellite imagery first ordered by the American military for the specific purposes of assisting with their invasion, was also provided to archaeologists, who used the imagery to conduct research on looting of archaeological sites in that country. This direct relationship between intelligence gathering for a military invasion and a dataset used for archaeological research raises questions about the sociopolitics of remotely sensed imagery in archaeology. While remotely collected imagery has many clear benefits for archaeology, for example contributing to studying looting of archaeological sites, the close associations between the imagery and the military suggest a need for a disciplinary conversation about the ethics of the use of aerial and satellite imagery in archaeology

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his capacity as a private citizen and do not reflect those of his employer or any other organization or person.

Orienting Distance: Aerial Surveys in the Service of Modern Warfare

Caren Kaplan

From the first ordinance surveys in Scotland and India in the late eighteenth and early to mid-nineteenth centuries to the major geospatial remote sensing programs of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, the mapping of terrain has contributed to the description of the boundaries and surfaces of nation-states. Those with the most advanced resources to map generally gained the upper hand in conflicts internal and external. This paper explores the history of the mapping of Mesopotamia from the air during and following WWI to investigate the complex practices of representation generated by archaeology, engineering, and topography in aerial surveying in the period.

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