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Torture & Anthropology

November 27, 2006

There has been an interesting debate in the Savage Minds blog on a recent American Association of Anthropologists resolution on the US use of Torture in connection with the so called War on Terror. One of the side bars to the thread has been an accusation (with I think some justification) that a post-modern interpretation of the world can lead to a disengagement from action and thus de facto from reality.

The debate also raises some fascinating takes on the role of academics and the potential marginalisation of the profession of Anthropology if they engage in political action. I always thought that part of being a professional was that one had some sense of ethics. Given the attention that goes into approving ethnographic studies with debates on ethics that equate to counting the angels on the head of pin, I find it curious that something that is so obviously wrong (torture) can excite anything other than absolute condemnation. Getting other countries to do it for you represents a level of hypocrisy that should not be tolerated by any citizen.

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