Accepted Paper:

Caught between acronyms: HTS, AAA and the politics of ethics  


Kathleen Reedy

Paper short abstract:

Wary of ethical implications, Anthropology is hesitant of applied political research. Yet between host countries, anthropological associations and invested sponsors, no ethnographic encounter is apolitical. This paper examines how academics in the Human Terrain System navigate such political waters.

Paper long abstract:

Wary of, and occasionally apologetic for, its association with covert operations through the 20th century, the discipline of anthropology appears to have sought to distance itself from the dangers of applied political anthropology. Yet no ethnographic encounter is apolitical, whether it involves seeking visas and official research permits from host countries or signing and adhering to a set of ethical standards in order to get research approved by the academy. Caught between the ideals of an objective anthropological institution and those born of a desire to make a difference, applied anthropologists walk a tight political line. And yet, rather than being above politics, anthropological institutions' reactions to such applications of anthropology reveal that they are actually fully implicated in political maneuvering. On top of this, applied anthropologists are responsible to and must negotiate with their sponsors and employers, itself a highly politicized situation, especially when the research in question is in the context of a conflict zone. This paper will present an ethnographic examination of how anthropologists and other academics who participate in the much-debated Human Terrain System navigate these waters, and how they are attempting to come to terms with and resolve their precarious ethical and political positions.

Panel W015
Diversifying anthropology: politics of research or research in politics?