Cold War Anthropology

The CIA, the Pentagon, and the Growth of Dual Use Anthropology

Cold War Anthropology

Book Pages: 488 Illustrations: 2 illustrations Published: April 2016

Author: David H. Price

American Studies, Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, History > U.S. History

In Cold War Anthropology, David H. Price offers a provocative account of the profound influence that the American security state has had on the field of anthropology since the Second World War. Using a wealth of information unearthed in CIA, FBI, and military records, he maps out the intricate connections between academia and the intelligence community and the strategic use of anthropological research to further the goals of the American military complex. The rise of area studies programs, funded both openly and covertly by government agencies, encouraged anthropologists to produce work that had intellectual value within the field while also shaping global counterinsurgency and development programs that furthered America’s Cold War objectives. Ultimately, the moral issues raised by these activities prompted the American Anthropological Association to establish its first ethics code. Price concludes by comparing Cold War-era anthropology to the anthropological expertise deployed by the military in the post-9/11 era.


"Others have written on the entanglement of the social sciences with the military-intelligence complex, but none as energetically, from as many angles, or with as sensitive an eye for connections and overarching themes. ... ? Just as [Price] insists that HTS matters less than the underlying trends it represents, he cares less about the dramas of individual anthropologists in Cold War Anthropology and more about the subtle, systemic changes throughout the field—changes that threatened to make the discipline itself a security-state collaborator, sucking in individual researchers without their full knowledge." — Peter C. Baker, The Nation

"In the course of twelve years Price has written three books which have helped redefine anthropology’s understanding of itself. And now, with Cold War Anthropology, Price brings his massive, precedent-make (and -busting) history of anthropology and American power to a close. It’s a defining moment in the history of anthropology, and deserves wide attention. . . . We have much to learn from our discipline’s recent past, and thanks to David Price we have the opportunity to see our field as it really was, warts and all. The stories in this book, and the issues that it raises, need to be discussed by the discipline as a whole." — Alex Golub, Somatosphere

"Readers will benefit from Price’s careful attention to the impact of funding streams on scholarly decision-making, his dedication to amassing hard-to-locate source material, and his cogent moral compass."   — Margaret Flood, History of Anthropology Newsletter

"Cold War Anthropology restarts a conversation that should have never stopped. Anthropologists unaware of their discipline’s history will nodoubt find its lists of CIA and military projects eye-opening. Veterans of campaigns to rid the discipline of ties to the military and intelligence agencies will appreciate its recounting of battles lost and won within the AAA. Historians of science, too, have much to learn from the book’s methodology, especially its use of FOIA applications and tracings of blown CIA fronts." — Audra Wolfe, Anthropological Quarterly

"Cold War Anthropology forces the reader to confront in blunt detail the ways in which ethnographic work exists in tandem with political-economic forces, especially the agendas of funding bodies and special interests. It is a book I encourage anthropologists everywhere to read, but, more importantly, to discuss its implications with colleagues and students." — Joseph Anderson, LSE Review of Books

"With regard to US anthropology, perhaps no other scholar has done more to unsettle the by now defunct representation of the anthropologist as hero than David H. Price." — Sindre Bangstad, Anthropology of This Century

"Price names names in abundance, carefully weighing researchers' awareness, or not, of hidden agendas; few records exist about unfunded research disfavored by state agencies. Illuminating shadows and obscured influences, Price brings realpolitik into anthropology’s history. . . . Highly recommended. Most levels/libraries." — A. B. Kehoe, Choice

"Cold War Anthropology is a book we need. Part dogged investigation and part ethics prompt, this book uncovers histories of anthropology most scholars will wish hadn’t happened or secretly wish they didn’t know." — Carole McGranahan, Hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory

"David Price’s book is exemplary. Arguing forcefully for the return of metanarratives that will enable us to describe the consequences of the relationshipbetween anthropology and the military and intelligence arms of government, he has given us a remarkable text concerning the rise of the current national securitystate, with sobering implications for anthropology into the future."
  — Katherine Verdery, Hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory

"...the important lessons that anthropologists can take from David Price’s book are not just about what the intelligence apparatusdid and does, but how anthropologists, and the AAA, have responded to these and other political challenges. Our responsibility, as individual anthropologists and as a collective through our professional association, is to openly debate the politicsof our entanglements, to decide where we stand on these politics, and to act accordingly."
  — Ilana Feldman, Hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory

"I salute David Price, who is clearly a scholar with focused purpose and talent. Given the sheer volume of material he has waded through, I remain impressed and in awe of his persistence, stamina, and hearty backbone in carrying through on this project. The result is an invaluable resource for anthropologists and other scholars engaging with either Cold War themes or the complex history of the discipline. The book is a masterful application of investigative journalism and ought to be thoroughly lauded for what it does."
  — Donna M. Goldstein, Hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory

"What David Price has achieved in the last of his trilogy and the chronicling of interactions between anthropology and military intelligence is the refinement of methodologies for the discovery of the history of our discipline that has never before been achieved by anyone in or out of the field—an ethnographic history."
  — Laura Nader, Hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory

"For twenty years, Price has been honorably and doggedly trawling for evidence of the 'weaponization' of anthropology in World War II and the Cold War, making especially good use of the Freedom of Information Act but also performing the traditional functions of the good historian in archives, memoirs, oral histories, and the technical literature. Cold War Anthropology, his third book on the subject, is his magnum opus."

  — Peter Mandler, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"Price’s work has been marked by extensive use of governmental archives, including many sources declassified through the Freedom of Information Act. Simply bringing this information to light should be reckoned as a major achievement....Price has written, if not a fully sufficient book (who has?), then a profoundly necessary one that challenges what American anthropology has been and what it remains." — Robert Oppenheim, Journal of American History

"Cold War Anthropology is an exceptionally valuable book, based on impressive scholarship. It deserves the thoughtful attention of anthropologists interested in where their discipline has been and where it may be headed." — Robert A. Rubinstein, Journal of Anthropological Research

"Historians of anthropology will welcome this volume, but it is relevant for every anthropologist working today. . . . We have much to learn from our discipline’s recent past, and thanks to David Price we have the opportunity to see our field as it really was, warts and all. The stories in this book, and the issues that it raises, need to be discussed by the discipline as a whole." — Alex Golub, Savage Minds

"Cold War Anthropology forces the reader to confront in blunt detail the ways in which ethnographic work exists in tandem with political-economic forces, especially the agendas of funding bodies and special interests. It is a book I encourage anthropologists everywhere to read, but, more importantly, to discuss its implications with colleagues and students." — Joseph Anderson, Social Science Space

"By calling attention to this pivotal moment in the formation of modern anthropological thought and practice, Price ultimately challenges his colleagues to remember the high stakes involved with maintaining academic freedom—particularly as today’s rapidly changing political and economic climates may again offer attractive incentives to scholars with expertise on contested geographic regions and communities." — Adrianna Link, Laboratorium

"Price critically analyzes the rapid growth of American anthropology during the Cold War ... [and] masterfully contextualizes these tranformative years in anthropology." — Roberto J. González, Anthropos

"The publication of David Price’s Cold War Anthropology concludes a trilogy of volumes that, taken together, constitute one of the most important and unprecedented contributions to the intellectual and political history of American anthropology." — Mark Goodale, American Anthropologist

"Price has gone to extensive lengths using the FOIA to secure previously secret documents that complement his comprehensive survey of open source material and the secondary literature. No stone is left unturned, no shallow defense of complicity left unchallenged." — John Krige, Diplomatic History

"Price’s painstakingly researched and carefully told story of Cold War anthropology is also particularly well timed.  . . .  At a time in US history when dissenters’ loyalty is questioned and lists are once again being drawn up, Price’s insistence that conflicts of interest cannot just be brushed away by the subject’s promise of probity deserves close attention." — Robert D. English, Slavic Review

"One strength of Price’s book is his depth of research, and he has been working on this topic for decades. . . . A second strength is that Price’s book is an effective wake-up call. . . . As a third strength, Price’s book serves as a useful example of social science self-critique." — Chris Temple, H-War, H-Net Reviews

"Price's book is an exhaustive account of how military and intelligence agencies strongly affected the formation of anthropological research in the United States from the post-war period. The book, benefiting from the Freedom of Information Act, is based on meticulous research." — Eleni Sideri, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

"This is a work of superb and relevant scholarship that deserves to be read and heeded by every undergraduate student let alone scholars across the anthropological discipline. It is a moral call to examine the nature and value of knowledge and of conducting independent research rather than following the pathways opened up by the imperial state." — Inderjeet Parmar, Social History

"Rife with rich detail . . . Cold War Anthropology suggests a deep entanglement of academic knowledge with a brutal world in which two superpowers struggled to outdo each other on the global stage." — Olga Ackroyd, U.S. Studies Online

Cold War Anthropology is an important historical resource. The information collated by Price will appeal to a wide audience across the social sciences.” — Matthew S. Wiseman, Canadian Journal of History

"David Price is convincing; his arguments are nuanced and reveal the breadth and degree of US anthropology’s involvement in CIA and Pentagon efforts." — Julie McBrien, American Ethnologist

"David H. Price’s book is an illuminating study on the post-WWII days of U.S. anthropology and is worthy of attention beyond the field of anthropology." — Thomas Klikauer, Anthropology of Work Review

"Cold War Anthropology is a highly informative and in most parts thoroughly thrilling read, as one follows the author’s analyses, stories, and even personal anecdotes to gain a better understanding of the power structures that influenced, and partly still influence, American anthropology’s thought and ethics." — Benjamin Hirschfeld, Anthropological Notebooks

"Once again, David H. Price proves he is anthropology's conscience. In a time that the human sciences are being compromised by revelations of their complicity with some of the worst practices of a national security state and a phony 'war on terror,' Price's work stands as a moral and political compass. It stands as a caution and a guide to research because of Price's remarkable accomplishment in making a persuasive case for ethical action the logical conclusion of serious scholarship." — Marshall Sahlins, author of Confucius Institutes: Academic Malware

"Cold War Anthropology is a major accomplishment that reveals a largely hidden and strategically forgotten aspect of American anthropology: the complex and contested interactions between anthropologists, the Pentagon, and the CIA during the early Cold War. David H. Price contextualizes longstanding anxieties in the discipline about the nature of its knowledge production, the militarization of ethnographic work, and the status of anthropology as an independent social science. The intellectual stakes of this meticulously researched work could not be higher." — Joseph Masco, author of The Theater of Operations: National Security Affect from the Cold War to the War on Terror


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

David H. Price is Professor of Anthropology at Saint Martin’s University. He is the author of Threatening Anthropology: McCarthyism and the FBI’s Surveillance of Activist Anthropologists and Anthropological Intelligence: The Deployment and Neglect of American Anthropology in the Second World War, both also published by Duke University Press, and Weaponizing Anthropology: Social Science in Service of the Militarized State.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface  xi

Acknowledgments  xxv

Abbreviations  xxix

Part I. Cold War Political-Economic Disciplinary Formations

1. Political Economy and History of American Cold War Intelligence  3

2. World War II's Long Shadow  31

3. Rebooting Professional Anthropology in the Postwar World  54

4. After the Shooting War: Centers, Committees, Seminars, and Other Cold War Projects  81

5. Anthropologists and State: Aid, Debt, and Other Cold War Weapons of the Strong  109

Intermezzo  137

Part II. Anthropologists' Articulations with the National Security State

6. Cold War Anthropologists at the CIA: Careers Confirmed and Suspected  143

7. How CIA Funding Fronts Shaped Anthropological Research  165

8. Unwitting CIA Anthropologist Collaborators: MK-Ultra, Human Ecology, and Buying a Piece of Anthropology  195

9. Cold War Fieldwork within the Intelligence Universe  221

10. Cold War Anthropological Counterinsurgency Dreams  248

11. The AAA Confronts Military and Intelligence Uses of Disciplinary Knowledge  276

12. Anthropologically Informed Counterinsurgency in Southeast Asia  301

13. Anthropologists for Radical Political Action and Revolution within the AAA  323

14. Untangling Open Secrets, Hidden Histories, Outrage Denied, and Recurrent Dual Use Themes  349

Notes  371

Bibliography  397

Index  433
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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-6125-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-6106-0
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