Public lecture: Montgomery McFate

The Institute for Information Technology and Culture (IITC) presents a continuation of
“This is Dangerous Territory: Social Research Out of Bounds”
with its final presenter:

Montgomery McFate, Ph.D., J. D.
Friday, December 12, at 4 p.m.

McGregor Memorial Conference Center
Wayne State University

Refreshments to follow the presentation.

Montgomery McFate is a cultural anthropologist who works on defense and national security issues and is currently the Senior Social Scientist for the U.S. Army’s Human Terrain System (HTS). The U.S. Army developed HTS to study social groups, currently in Iraq and Afghanistan, by using anthropologists to provide military commanders with information about the population in order to help reduce military and civilian conflict. This lecture tries to put HTS in context, by describing the transformation that has occurred within the Department of Defense over the past few years, of which HTS is a small, but significant part.

To say that Dr. McFate is a controversial figure in anthropological circles would be a gross understatement, not only because of her current work but her past association with her mother’s security firm. The circumstances under which the HTS does its work in conjunction with direct military objectives raises enormous ethical issues, and I have grave misgivings about the way in which this sort of work has been done in the past and the present. Does she nonetheless deserve a hearing? Yes, of course: the sort of skeptical, rigorous attention to which any scholar’s work must be subjected. I am pleased that my institution will be hosting her talk, and I plan to be there.

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1 Comment

  1. Huh – there is a class this semester being offered on Ethics and Professionalism here this term. I wasn’t able to fit it in to my schedule, but several friends have. They talked about the whole HTS thing a bit, and the department brought in a guest speaker who talked about this…. and her name escapes me and i can’t find a useful e-mail. In any case, she does work in the Sudan, and she talked about some of the ethical issues, and how little we know about what HTS’s actually do/mean, and the general ethics of working with the government with these sorts of things.

    So now I’m curious about this chat – let me know how it goes :)

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