The Ethics of Embedded Anthropology

The articles I have assigned all deal with the involvement of anthropologists in the armed forces of the United States and Canada operating in Iraq and Afghanistan. The US called it the “Human Terrain System”; the Canadian Armed Forces called it “White Situational Awareness Team”. In both cases, it was an effort to integrate anthropologists (or cultural ‘coaching’) into the decision structures of troops on the ground. The hope was that it would make those decisions, and the military personnel who would implement them, more aware of the cultural values of the people they were dealing with. The intent was to ‘win hearts and minds’ and reduce civilian casualties by promoting cultural awareness and sensitivity.

Anthropology has long been uncomfortable with the discipline’s past associations with colonial administrations. More recently, American anthropology has forbidden involvements with any military in its ethics code, due to their experiences in the Vietnam War (read if you want to know more). The revival of this in the ‘war on terror’ was also seen as unethical. Making the invaders of Afghanistan and Iraq more culturally sensitive really did not make them any less, well, invaders. This criticism was mirrored in that of the ethics and objectivity of embedded journalists.

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The style of the paper will be an argumentative essay. You will be taking a position early and attempting to argue or prove it in the paper. Your task, once again, is to assess the points made in each of the articles, and the data used to support them. You are then to provide your own, reasoned and supported, views on whether the articles argue their positions successfully. Many of the authors are critical of the initiatives, but there is also some supporting material. Quite effective arguments exist on either side.

  •  “An argumentative paper makes a claim about a topic and justifies this claim with specific evidence. The claim could be an opinion, a policy proposal, an evaluation, a cause-and-effect statement, or an interpretation. The goal of the argumentative paper is to convince the audience that the claim is true based on the evidence provided.”
  • for more information on this and other types of essay.

If you think this was a good idea, state this and explain what you see as the advantages and benefits of the initiative. If you feel that this practice was a bad idea, state that up front and explain what you feel are the major problems with it. If you cannot argue strongly on either side and think it is some of both, explain why.

Remember that you are assessing their arguments to make an argument of your own, and that your argument is the one that interests me the most. Do not waste my time simply repeating what they said. Decide what position you will take and then concentrate on extracting the points from those articles that will support your argument.


You will be assessed on:

  1. How well and efficiently you summarize what you see as the important points in each of the assigned articles. If you do not cite or at least refer to every article, you lose marks.
  2. How well and clearly you cite (using APA style) each of the four articles below. Are all quotes marked as such, and do you note which article made which point?
  3. How well you organize those points to support your argument.
  4. How clearly stated and consistent your position is throughout the paper.
  5. How well you separate unsupported opinion from reasoned argument.
  6. How well you used APA style in both in-text citation and in the bibliography (on separate page).


Format (marks will be deducted if you do not follow these instructions)


The paper should be 700-1000 words (2-3 pages), double spaced with 1”/25cm margins all around, and in 12pt Times New Roman font. No title page, headers, and footers. APA citation and bibliography are required.

You must upload a copy in MS Office  .doc or .docx format or PDF format (and no other format) to the Brightspace folder Assignment 2 by 9PM Wednesday March 3rd.


Potential Sources (Cite any 4)


Below are six sources. Some are supportive, some are critical of embedding anthropologists. You are required to choose any 4 to support your paper. You can use more from this list or any others that you find as well. There is some discussion about ethical research in your text, which may be useful. But 4 from below is the minimum required.


Please remember that these links may not be openable in one browser but will be in another. Try different browsers and different machines before emailing me that you are having problems. Please do not wait until the night before to discover these problems.





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