Anthropology and Counterinsurgency: Collaborators in Neoliberal Imperialism

Linda Outcalt


Shrouded in fear and secrecy, the “Global War on Terror”, with its foundation firmly planted in the politics of neoliberalism, has created an ideal atmosphere for the reengagement of anthropology in counterinsurgency and warfare in the twenty-first century. As the neoliberal ideology of “choice” normalizes this participation, the usefulness of anthropological knowledge has been rediscovered by the military who have begun overt recruitment of anthropologists into the intelligence
community. This paper will examine the historical background and present day realities of anthropological collaboration in counterinsurgency, highlighting its similarities and differences. Most importantly, the implications of such involvement by the discipline will be discussed, raising questions about academic freedom, as well as the ethics and morality of anthropological participation in warfare and counterinsurgency.

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University of Victoria