Saturday, January 02, 2010

Human Terrain System and Avatar

For visitors who have seen Avatar this article link might have resonance. SPOILER: part of the movie involves the military hiring a social scientist/biologist to study another culture.

The program, called the Human Terrain System, embeds social scientists with U.S. Army or Marine units in combat zones, where they collect ethnographic data on the human populations there. Field researchers submit their findings to military and civilian “analysts” back home, who use those data to create reports on a wide range of topics -- such as social customs and key local conflicts and personalities -- for military decision makers. As of April, the two-year-old program had 27 teams deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But the authors cringed at the notion of field researchers conducting “anthropology” for a program with such an ill-defined ethical framework. “When ethnographic investigation is determined by military missions, not subject to external review, where data collection occurs in the context of war, integrated into the goals of counterinsurgency, and in a potentially coercive environment -- all characteristic factors of the [Human Terrain System:] concept and its application -- it can no longer be considered a legitimate professional exercise of anthropology,” the association wrote in its report.
from Military and Anthropology...

Related Link:

1) Human Terrain System at Wiki
2) Mexico and HTS
3) Extensive article in The Washington Post

3 comments:

Underground Baker said...

Can't wait to see Avitar now!!!!

I find the Human Terraine System a facinating topic to think about...

You should have a link to the main web site by the military for the HTS as it is interesting in itself.Here it is if you want it.

http://humanterrainsystem.army.mil/

As well, on Wiki they use anthropologists as an example of one of those from the social scences involved in HTS. This is somewhat deceiving; of all the social scientists involved with the HTS, the number of anthropologists hired by the HTS are lower than other academic disciplines - the HTS pretty much goes against all the ethical elements debated within anthropology today.

That said, coming out of university with a degree in anthropology (and a big debt) may not get you much of a job...I can see why the HTS could have some appeal to students from the social sciences from a finacial perspective - I hear the pay isn't too shabby.

Oooo, I am so looking forward to Avitar!!

Gardenia said...

VERY INTERESTING! The research that goes into some movies amazes me - I often catch it, but not this time! I plan to come back and go to your links! Thanks!

tweetey30 said...

havent seen Avatar and more than likely wont either because its animated for the time being....