The disciplinary terrain of objections to HTS
As I’ve been slowly researching this paper I’m writing on social science and the U.S. military for an Egyptian publication (I think I mentioned it before here on Culture Matters), one of my ‘informants’ brought up a good question: of all the academic disciplines who are represented on Human Terrain Teams (HTTs), why does it seem to be just anthropology that objects to the Human Terrain System (HTS)?
We know that anthropologists are just one of many different disciplines that are being hired to serve on HTTs. In fact, it seems that anthropologists are a minority, and of anthropologists, it looks like there is a significant contingent of archaeologists involved (though so far I have no precise figures on which disciplines are represented — this is a question I’ve posed to HTS deputy director, James Greer, and when I get a response I’ll post it here). The two HTT members who were recently killed, Nicole Suveges and Michael Bhatia, were PhD students in Political Science.
We all know that there is fierce debate within anthropology about the ethics of the HTS, and the American Anthropological Association has formally expressed disapproval of HTS even as it continues to study it. But so far I haven’t been able to find anything equivalent in political science or sociology, and as far as I can tell, the Middle East Studies Association hasn’t said anything about HTS, either. (A search of the American Political Science Association website for “human terrain” returned no results, and the American Sociological Association website has only one page that touches on HTS.)
Am I wrong? Am I just poorly informed about debates in other disciplines? If anyone has any knowledge about how HTS is being discussed in disciplines other than anthropology, or if anyone has a theory about why anthropology is particularly concerned about HTS where other disciplines aren’t, please weigh in here.