Cold War Anthropology: The CIA, the Pentagon, and the Growth of Dual Use Anthropology

Cold War Anthropology: The CIA, the Pentagon, and the Growth of Dual Use Anthropology

by David H. Price

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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780822374381
Publisher: Duke University Press
Publication date: 04/01/2016
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 472
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

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.

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Cold War Anthropology

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

By David H. Price

Duke University Press

Copyright © 2016 Duke University Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8223-6125-1



The end of the Second World War left the United States in a unique position among the victors. Not only was it the only nation on earth possessing a new weapon capable of instantly leveling entire cities, but the lack of damage to its industrial home front gave America the exclusive economic opportunities befitting a global conqueror.

The United States entered an era of economic prosperity the likes of which the world had never seen. With an expanding global economic system, and much of the world slowly recovering from the war, America found itself with what George Kennan secretly described as a nation holding "about 50% of the world's wealth but only 6.3% of its population. ... In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity. ... To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. ... We should cease to talk about vague and ... unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of living standards and democratizations" (1948: 121–22). Kennan understood that U.S. foreign policy could not seriously support efforts to improve human rights, raising standards of living and introducing democratic reforms, though he underestimated the importance of the need to "talk about" these vague and unreal objectives as tools of domestic and international propaganda. Kennan's cynicism was matched by the inability of many U.S. social scientists of the era to acknowledge that such self-serving motivations lay at the base of many Cold War American foreign policies and programs linked to American academics.

The war's end brought uncertainty for American intelligence agencies. Under President Truman's Executive Order 9621, the OSS disbanded on October 1, 1945, and the agency's functions were reassigned to the Department of State and the War Department. Had President Roosevelt lived to the postwar period, the OSS may have remained a permanent agency, but OSS director William Donovan lacked Truman's support. Truman's fiscal approach to government envisioned a smaller postwar military and intelligence apparatus, and he initially opposed expanded postwar intelligence functions.

Before the war, the United States had no permanent agency devoted to international intelligence. When Truman disbanded the OSS, 1,362 of its Research and Analysis Branch personnel were reassigned to the Department of State's Interim Research and Intelligence Service, and another 9,028 of OSS Operations personnel (such as covert action) were transferred to the War Department (Troy 1981: 303; 313–14). The OSS's Research and Analysis Branch was renamed the Interim Research and Intelligence Service and placed under the leadership of Alfred McCormack. When OSS's Secret Intelligence (SI) Branch and Counterespionage (X2) Branch were relocated to the War Department, they became the new Strategic Services Unit (SSU). Three months later, in January 1946, President Truman created the Central Intelligence Group which took over the responsibilities, and many of the personnel, of the War Department's SSU. All of this shifting, realigning, and relocating of intelligence personnel was short-lived. The permanent restructuring and relocation of both the analysis and the covert action functions of American international intelligence shifted to a new centralized agency in the summer of 1947, when Truman signed the National Security Act on July 26, establishing the Central Intelligence Agency.

During the 664 days between the dissolution of the OSS and the creation of the CIA, American intelligence personnel continued many of the types of tasks undertaken by OSS during the war, though there was greater institutional disarray, with less intense focus than had existed under a culture of total warfare. Had Truman stuck with his initial decision to divide intelligence analysis and operations into two separate governmental agencies (analysis at State, operations at the War Department), the practices and uses of American intelligence might have developed in profoundly different ways than occurred during the Cold War. Combining analysis with operations structurally fated the CIA to a history of covert action and episodes of cooking analysis to meet the desires of operations and presidents.

When the National Security Act of 1947 established the CIA, the American military and intelligence apparatus was reorganized with the establishment of the National Security Council (NSC), and the June 12, 1948, NSC Directive of Special Projects (NSC 10/2) authorized the CIA to undertake covert action and intelligence operations. The Central Intelligence Agency Act of 1949 later provided budgetary authority to the agency and authorization to undertake domestic and international activities.

During the CIA's early years, its employees' work was divided between the Intelligence Division (Office of Collection and Dissemination; Office of Reports and Estimates) and the Operations Division (Office of Operations; Office of Special Operations). The CIA sought to become the eyes, ears, and mind of America. It envisioned itself as an elite body harnessing the intellectual power of its citizens to gather information. The CIA's charter authorized no domestic or international law enforcement authority; instead, the agency was charged with the collection and analysis of intelligence relating to national security. The CIA was administered by the executive branch, with a bureaucracy providing oversight by a group known as the Forty Committee, which could authorize CIA covert operations in consultation with the executive branch. The looseness of its charge allowed the agency to undertake a wide range of operations with no oversight outside of the executive branch.

From the CIA's earliest days, its analysts monitored postwar, postcolonial shifts in global power. As postwar independence movements reshaped global relations, CIA analysts considered how these shifts would pit American anticolonialist historical values against America's emerging role as a global superpower.

"The Break-Up of the Colonial Empires and Its Implications for US Security"

The CIA's confidential report The Break-Up of the Colonial Empires and Its Implications for US Security (1948) described the global setting in which the anthropological field research of the second half of the twentieth century would transpire (CIA 1948). Most anthropologists undertook this fieldwork without reference to the dynamics described in this report, yet these dynamics shaped the funding of particular research questions and geographic areas. The report stated the agency's understanding of the problems facing the postwar world, where shifting power relations presented threats and opportunities to the new American superpower:

The growth of nationalism in colonial areas, which has already succeeded in breaking up a large part of the European colonial system and in creating a series of new, nationalistic states in the Near and Far East, has major implications for US security, particularly in terms of possible world conflict with the USSR. This shift of the dependent areas from the orbit of the colonial powers not only weakens the probable European allies of the US but deprives the US itself of assured access to vital bases and raw materials in these areas in event of war. Should the recently liberated and current emergent states become oriented toward the USSR, US military and economic security would be seriously threatened. (CIA 1948: 1)

The report identified upcoming dominant Cold War dynamics, as the United States and the Soviet Union would spend trillions of dollars in the next four decades struggling over postcolonial loyalties around the globe. The key elements to future strategies were the collapse of European colonialism, growing native nationalism, the likelihood of Soviet efforts to capture clients in these new states, the presence of (cheap) raw materials needed for U.S. economic growth, and envisioned conflicts with the Soviet Union over control of these nations and resources.

The CIA observed that the postwar collapse of existing European and Japanese colonialism in Asia and Africa fueled "the release of bottled-up nationalist activities," and it conceded the "further disintegration" of global European colonial holdings was "inevitable" (CIA 1948: 1). It stressed the economic impact of anticolonial movements, lamenting that "no longer can the Western Powers rely on large areas of Asia and Africa as assured sources of raw materials, markets, and military bases" (2). Capturing the "good will" of nations achieving their independence was vital, and a failure to do so would result in antagonism toward the United States and a loss of vital clients (3).

At this moment in history, the CIA could have positioned itself to side with the liberation of people of the world who were ruled and taxed without direct representation, but agency analysts instead framed this primarily as a proxy struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union, noting that "the gravest danger to the US is that friction engendered by these issues may drive the so-called colonial bloc into alignment with the USSR" (CIA 1948: 2). The CIA explained native nationalist liberation movements as deriving from a mixture of historical, social, political, and economic forces, and it identified the five primary causes as increased awareness of stratification, colonial powers' discriminatory treatment of subject populations, the "deep-seated racial hostility of native populations," the global spread of Western values favoring independence and nationalism, and "the meteoric rise of Japan, whose defeats of the European powers in the Russo-Japanese War and especially World War II punctured the myth of white superiority" (5).

The CIA noted the neocolonial control of the British in Egypt, the French in Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia, and the Italians in Libya and mentioned burgeoning independence movements in Indonesia, Madagascar, and Nigeria. It understood that "states like India and Egypt have already brought colonial issues into the UN and may be expected increasingly to take the leadership in attempting to hasten in this and other ways the liberation of remaining colonial areas" (CIA 1948: 7).

Even in 1948, the CIA recognized the role that foreign aid and promises of technical assistance and modernization could play in courting would-be independent nations. As explained in its report, "The economic nationalism of the underdeveloped nations conflicts sharply with US trade objectives and these countries tend to resent US economic dominance. On the other hand, they urgently need external assistance in their economic development, and the US is at present the only nation able to supply it. The desire for US loans and private investment will have some effect in tempering the antagonism of these states toward US policies" (CIA 1948: 8). Under the direction of Cold War economists and strategists like Walt Rostow, Max Millikan, and Allen Dulles, aid later became a powerful soft power component of American international policy.

The CIA viewed coming colonial collapses as "inevitable" and predicted these developments would favor the Soviet Union (CIA 1948: 9). The agency was concerned about the Soviet alignment with international liberation movements. Without addressing Leninist critiques of imperialism, the CIA observed the Soviets were "giving active support through agitators, propaganda, and local Communist parties to the nationalist movements throughout the colonial world" (9). The agency acknowledged the USSR held advantages over the United States because

as a non-colonial power, the USSR is in the fortunate position of being able to champion the colonial cause unreservedly and thereby bid for the good will of colonial and former colonial areas. Its condemnation of racial discrimination pleases native nationalists and tends to exclude the USSR from the racial animosity of East toward West. The Communists have sought to infiltrate the nationalist parties in the dependent and formerly dependent areas and have been, as in Burma, Indonesia, and Indochina, among the most vocal agitators for independence. The Soviet Union has found the World Federation of Trade Unions an effective weapon for penetrating the growing labor movements in Asia and Africa and for turning them against the colonial powers. (9)

Nationalism was expected to have increasing importance for poor nations undergoing rapid transformations, and the CIA believed that cultural differences between colonizers and the colonized would increase antagonism in historic colonial regions like Indochina, Indonesia, and North Africa (10).

The CIA identified opportunities for American interests given that newly independent nations would need help from "the great powers for protection and assistance" in the new "power vacuum" (CIA 1948: 11). Establishing the "good will" of the leaders and peoples of these countries would be key, and the report noted that American racial segregationist policies allowed the Soviets to portray the United States as a bigoted nation.

The report identified five impacts that the collapse of the global colonial system would have on U.S. security. First, colonial liberation would economically weaken America's European allies, which would diminish access to cheap minerals and other natural resources and strategic military outposts. Second, political upheaval could leave the United States with reduced access to these same resources. Because of this threat, the CIA insisted that "the growing US list of strategic and critical materials — many of which like tin and rubber are available largely in colonial and former colonial areas — illustrates the dependence of the US upon these areas. The US has heretofore been able to count upon the availability of such bases and materials in the colonial dependencies of friendly powers; but the new nations arising in these areas, jealous of their sovereignty, may well be reluctant to lend such assistance to the US" (CIA 1948: 12). Third, if the Soviet Union established close relationships with new nations in Asia, such relationships would undermine U.S. interests. Fourth, the CIA recognized dangers for American interests if the United States was identified as supporting colonial powers. Finally, the Soviet Union was expected to create unrest in colonial regions and to exploit any resulting upheaval to its political advantage (12–13).

The agency concluded it was vital for the United States to generate goodwill in these new nations. It recommended that the United States temper its support for European allies engaged in colonial control of foreign lands in order to not be identified with colonialism. The CIA predicted colonialism would become a losing venture for Europe and that "attempts at forcible retention of critical colonial areas in the face of growing nationalist pressure may actually weaken rather than strengthen the colonial powers" (CIA 1948: 13).

It is worth speculating on what lost strands of U.S. intelligence analysis favoring postcolonial independence might have developed in an alternate universe where Truman left the OSS's former intelligence and operations branches disarticulated into the State Department and War Department, but in a world where intelligence and operations were conjoined, and Kennan's Cold War game plan aggressively guided American policy, such developments were not to be. As a result, CIA reports questioning the wisdom of aligning American interests with colonial powers were destined to be ignored and overwritten by emerging hegemonic Cold War desires.

Seeing Like a CIA

From its beginnings, the CIA established links with academia. These earliest links exploited connections with academics with wartime OSS service who returned to university positions after the war. An article in the CIA's journal Studies in Intelligence noted that "close ties between the Central Intelligence Agency and American colleges and universities have existed since the birth of the Agency in 1947" (Cook 1983: 33). Given the connections of OSS personnel to Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and other elite universities, it was natural that "a disproportionate number of the new recruits came from the same schools. Similarly, professors who had joined the Agency often turned to their former colleagues still on campuses for consultation and assistance. This 'old boy' system was quite productive in providing new employees in the professional ranks. Thus, there was an early linkage between the Agency and the Ivy League, or similar schools" (Cook, 34; Jeffreys-Jones 1985).


Excerpted from Cold War Anthropology by David H. Price. Copyright © 2016 Duke University Press. Excerpted by permission of Duke University Press.
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Table of Contents

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

What People are Saying About This

Confucius Institutes: Academic Malware - Marshall Sahlins

"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."

The Theater of Operations: National Security Affect from the Cold War to the War on Terror - Joseph Masco

"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."

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