Human Terrain Team member blog by Ben Wintersteen
Readers familiar with the ongoing discussions on the utilisation of anthropological knowledge and the employment of anthropologists within the Human Terrain System will be familiar with the views of the small band of its most vocal supporters: namely Montgomery McFate, Andrea Jackson and Steve Fondacaro. While these vocal supporters and a number of other program personnel (including, among others, Zenia (Helbig) Tompkins, Marcus Griffin, Brit Damon, and Major Robert Holbert) have expressed their opinions and experiences with the program publicly, the overwhelming tone of analyses of such opinions and experiences has focused not on their stated experiences but on what their stated experiences belie about the program. Concerns expressed with the HTS largely revolve around the potential of the program to produce effects which are in conflict with anthropological values and ethics.
The views of the anthropologists involved with the HTS have often been censured, derided and ignored on the basis that they are representative of supreme ignorance, immorality and/or naivety. This is likely too simplistic a reading. It is important to acknowledge the diversity of experiences and thoughts of the HTS personnel or else we are subjecting ourselves to a narrow (and potentially flawed) conception of the program and the HTS personnel. In adopting such a narrow conception, we risk distancing ourselves from the actual issues of the program and fighting a war against a phantom of our own creation.
I would thus like to direct your attention to a blog by Ben Wintersteen, a current HTS member. The stated audience of his blog is his friends and family, but as his stated purpose in the program is (at least in part) to critically examine the workings of the HTS from the inside, his blog contains many reflections on his experiences with the program to date (he is currently in week 15 of training). He posts 2 extended blogs per week on his ethical, educational, social, emotional and physical experiences in the program, and often takes the time to compare them to the issues raised against the HTS in the broader disciplinary debate.
Without further ado, here’s the link: