Date of Award


First Advisor

Katie Boswell

Second Advisor

Sue Lyon


American anthropological presence post-9/11 Middle Eastern engagement marks a return to practices of colonial and Vietnam War cultural intelligence efforts. Post-9/11 American operations have increasingly utilized social and anthropological information for facilitation of cross-cultural collaboration and identification of threat. Past and current effort to engage with local populations on a cultural level have been met with equal parts skepticism and support by the international community, drawing academic and applied anthropologists alike into the ethical deliberations of an insurgency war. In a conflict defined by the transience and adaptability of the enemy and the belligerent impunity of American forces, anthropologists are tasked with forming and maintaining a bridge between local populations and Americans. This anthropological diplomacy remains morally ambiguous, catching anthropologists between civilian duty to protect American interests and the anthropologist’s duty to do no harm. Meanwhile the anthropologist’s counterpart and polar opposite, the drone, evokes imperial god-like connotations and eliminates dialogue. The cultural sensitivity of anthropological influence is at odds with the mechanization of American warfare through drone usage. This thesis will locate the position of the American anthropologist in current trends of warfare and analyze the factors pushing anthropology back into the war zone.

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