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War, Technology, Anthropology

War, Technology, Anthropology

Koen Stroeken
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 158
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  • Book Info
    War, Technology, Anthropology
    Book Description:

    Technologies of the allied warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan, such as remote-controlled drones and night vision goggles, allow the user to "virtualize" human targets. This coincides with increased civilian casualties and a perpetuation of the very insecurity these technologies are meant to combat. This concise volume of research and reflections from different regions across Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and Africa, observes how anthropology operates as a technology of war. It tackles recent theories of humans in society colluding with imperialist claims, including anthropologists who have become involved professionally in warfare through their knowledge of "cultures," renamed as "human terrain systems." The chapters link varied yet crucial domains of inquiry: from battlefields technologies, military-driven scientific policy, and economic warfare, to martyrdom cosmology shifts, media coverage of "distant" wars, and the virtualizing techniques and "war porn" soundtracks of the gaming industry.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-588-8
    Subjects: Anthropology, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction: War-Technology Anthropology
    (pp. 1-18)
    Koen Stroeken

    The title of this volume,War, Technology, Anthropology, not only refers to war technology as an object of anthropological research but also recognizes that anthropology itself can be a technology of war. Of the three forms in which anthropology contributes to warfare, the first and most direct form is collaborating with the army by providing ethnographic data on populations deemed insurgent (NCA 2009). A recent case in point is the militarization of AFRICOM, one of the US’s Unified Combatant Commands, which is present in African countries to pro-actively ‘prevent war’, in part by predicting insurgency through cultural modeling (Albro 2010;...

  4. Part I: Perpetuating War

    • Drones in the Tribal Zone: Virtual War and Losing Hearts and Minds in the Af-Pak War
      (pp. 21-33)
      Jeffrey A. Sluka

      This essay considers the civilian casualties caused by the use of air strikes, particularly remote-controlled drones, in the current wars in the tribal zones of Afghanistan and Pakistan. I argue that these tactics of virtual counter-insurgency, touted as being highly discriminate and effective (literally able to “put warheads on foreheads”) and as representing the technological cutting edge of a revolution in advanced modern warfare capabilities, have in practice resulted in a collateral disaster that has effectively ensured that the ‘battle for hearts and minds’ among these communities—and hence the ‘global war on terrorism’ in the so-called Af-Pak war—has...

    • The Dead of Night: Chaos and Spectacide of Nocturnal Combat in the Iraq War
      (pp. 34-44)
      Antonius C. G. M. Robben

      “In ’Nam it seemed like we were always in the brush. Once in a while we would have some clearings. It was real difficult to see very far ahead. You had to keep your eyes moving to see what was in front, to the side, and most of all where you were walking.” So wrote Vietnam veteran Ed Smith in April 2006 to his son Captain Will Smith, stationed in Tikrit, Iraq. Captain Smith commented on his father’s combat experience of four decades earlier: “Before night vision was a common soldier-issued item, the V.C. owned the night. We learned from...

    • World in a Bottle: Prognosticating Insurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan
      (pp. 45-61)
      Roberto J. González

      Imagine a computer program that tells its users which neighborhoods in a distant city—Baghdad, Kabul, or Islamabad—are dangerous. The program predicts whether these neighborhoods are prone to riots, gun violence, sniper attacks, or bombings, and it even forecasts when such events are likely to occur. With all the speed and imagery of a video game, the program also identifies the names of the probably participants in the violence, as well as their addresses, fingerprints, and photo IDs, along with the names of their relatives, friends, and associates.

      Such a program might appear to be beyond the realm of...

    • Anthropology As We Know It: A Casualty of War?
      (pp. 62-80)
      R. Brian Ferguson

      One of the more pernicious myths in our culture is that generals are technocrats, objectively seeking the best way to get the job done. Of course, the question, what job? comes to mind. As the saying goes, when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. It is now thoroughly understood that the prior generation of military brass was using the wrong tools, fighting the wrong kind of war in Iraq (Mellowly 2006; West 2009). Faced with an impending cataclysm, the later Bush administration underwent a paradigm shift in the upper policy echelons, turning to its prophet, General David...

  5. Part II: Globalizing War

    • Games without Tears, Wars without Frontiers
      (pp. 83-93)
      Robertson Allen

      In 2009, with the release of the latest version of the US Army’s official video game,America’s Army 3, a new enemy of the US Army emerged. Players who downloaded the free, online military tactical shooting game, which is not shy about its dual role as both a propaganda tool for recruitment and a platform for teaching doctrine, tactics, and combat skills to enlisted soldiers, were brought into a scenario in which a fictional but vaguely Eastern European island resort nation, the Democratic Republic of the Ostregals, was invaded without provocation by its northern nationalist neighbor, Czervenia (see fig. 1)....

    • Music, Aesthetics, and the Technologies of Online War
      (pp. 94-105)
      Matthew Sumera

      Shortly after the 2005 launch of the video-sharing Web site YouTube, several journalists began writing about a purportedly new form of war representation appearing there: homemade combat videos, ostensibly filmed by military personnel and uploaded online.¹ In their initial attempts to make sense of these depictions and the locations in which they were circulating, reporters quickly dubbed the war in Iraq the ‘YouTube War’, situating such an appellation within the context of CNN’s coverage of the First Gulf War and common conceptualizations of the war in Vietnam as America’s ‘living-room war’ (see Cox 2006; Hedges 2006; Kaufman 2006; Meyershon 2007)....

    • Humanitarian Death and the Magic of Global War in Uganda
      (pp. 106-119)
      Sverker Finnström

      In this short and preliminary essay, I revisit a few months of intensive fieldwork conducted in late 2005. This spell in the field was part of a much longer engagement with wartorn northern Uganda that began in 1997 and is still ongoing. In 2005, I could follow closely the unfolding of local news as the International Criminal Court (ICC) unsealed its warrants of arrest for the Lord’s Resistance Army/Movement (LRA/M, or simply LRA) leadership. I will draw examples from theNew Visionand theDaily Monitor, two Ugandan newspapers—the first state-controlled, the second independent—that I always follow carefully...

    • Resident Violence: Miner Mwanga Magic as a War-Technology Anthropology
      (pp. 120-134)
      Koen Stroeken

      “Mwanga,” my Sukuma friend replied to my question about the purpose of this magic for which a gang of Tanzanian criminals was arrested and sentenced to death by hanging in the summer of 2009. BBC World and Al-Jazeera widely reported on the matter, mostly contextualizing it as a symptom of poverty and lack of education in Africa. About 50 Tanzanians suffering from albinism have been killed between 2007 and early 2010 (Lumanyika 2010). Their bones and skin are said to serve as ingredients in magic. They would be powerful additives in the magical recipes that fishermen and artisanal miners need...

    • The Magic of Martyrdom in Palestine and Cultural Imaginaries for Killing
      (pp. 135-148)
      Neil L. Whitehead and Nasser Abufarha

      Much of the scholarly discourse on ‘suicide terrorism’ focuses on attempts to discern the political strategies that underlie such acts of violence but utterly fails to consider the cultural dimensions that are key to understanding how these acts gain popular support and become potential individual motivations.¹ As with other modes of occult violence, such practices are conceived through cultural forms related to local knowledge and historical memory that are poorly understood by most Western researchers and reporters. As a result, they appear to be ‘magical’ in the way that they confound the rationalities of Western political and cultural discourse (Whitehead...

  6. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 149-152)