A bit more than two weeks ago, around 1300 anthropologists from all over Europe left the university village Maynooth not far away from Dublin. Europe’s largest anthropology conference, the biennial congress of The European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) was over.
As usual, hardly any information about the knowledge that was exchanged at the conference, found its way to the public.
Here is what I found.
One of the most vigilant members of the SM community, John McCreery (PhD Cornell, 1973), just returned from EPIC, Ethnographic Praxis in Corporations, a conference which took place August 29th-September 1, 2010 in downtown Tokyo with this guest blogger report. It was a local event for John who has lived in Japan since 1980. John is a pioneer in the creative application of anthropological training in corporate contexts having first worked as a copywriter and creative director for Hakuhodo Inc. (1983-1996) and later becoming a Partner and Vice-President of The Word Works, Ltd. (www.wordworks.jp). Kochira koso, John, for this excellent look at EPIC. –AF
The ‘Dirty Secrets’ that Purify a Dirty War: A Colonial Tale of Dancing Boys, a Journalist, and the Human Terrain System in Afghanistan
By M. Jamil Hanifi & Maximilian C. Forte
The Telling of a Tale
There is no “scoop” in Joel Brinkley’s article, “Afghanistan’s dirty little secret” (29 August 2010, San Francisco Chronicle)—just an ugly sensationalist title on a story already abundantly covered by PBS Frontline months ago (see: “The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan”). What is more distinctive about Brinkley’s piece is the level of demonizing to sell war, and the involvement of AnnaMaria Cardinalli, an employee with the U.S. Army’s Human Terrain System—a basic fact which Brinkley smudges out of view for the entire article, where HTS is not mentioned even once. Thanks to Brinkley’s clumsy use of an airbrush, Cardinalli is transformed into a “military investigator,” someone expressly hired by the Defense Department to investigate the “dancing boys” controversy: “the Defense Department hired Cardinalli, a social scientist, to examine this mystery.” The article is about Afghan men who gawk at and take little boys for sex. It mixes a fair amount of pedophilia, homophobia, and Islamophobia, all in a short space. The article even manages three paragraphs casting aspersions on Afghan President Hamid Karzai as someone whose family is likely to have indulged in sex with little boys—not the first time that Americans have thrown mud at their own, presumably trusted, ally.
So I am getting back into the rhythm of being in seminar classes again, which means complete inundation in books, articles, films, and INFORMATION GALORE. That’s life in graduate school. This semester already has a decidedly environmental focus, since I am taking a seminar about culture and environment, and am also a TA for a course that covers very similar ground. And the recurrent issue that has been cropping up all over the place: the whole idea of nature versus culture.