Sunday, July 25, 2010

Human Terrain Reports from Baghdad

Posted by Chris at 12/13/2007 11:12 AM ...

Noah at Danger Room discusses the first report available to the public from the Human Terrain Teams that created such a stir among anthropologists the past few months. I think that he brings up the important point of qualifications and background for HTT members when asking whether Dave Matsuda's focus on Central America really prepared him to work in Iraq, but it also misses the point. At least in the History program here in Tuscaloosa, we are learning how to learn, and developing professional skills, as we are learning specific details in our area of focus. I imagine that this is also true for anthropology programs.

If nothing else, Matsuda understands that different cultures deal with events in different, and valid, ways. To prevent avoidable conflicts, you have to find out what the differences are. What this means to me is that someone educated in anthropology, sociology, or history is more likely to know this, and quickly find and interpret the information needed, than someone not trained in those areas. Similarly, you wouldn't necessarily expect an anthropologist to be able to build a dam, or assault fortifications.

Sharon, commenting on Noah's post asks a valid question - is it possible that Iraqi's don't view a (smallish) cash payment as compensation for family members accidentally killed by U.S. forces. I'm thinking that, despite cultural differences, the way to answer this question is simple: would a $25,000 check from the government be acceptable if someone killed someone in your family?

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