November 2011 Meeting

  • 01 Nov 2011
  • 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM
  • Charles Sumner School
Anthropologists in the Securityscape:
 A Dialogue on Implications for Practice

Tuesday, 1 November 2011
Sumner School, 7:00 pm
Dinner, Beacon Bar and Grill, 5:30 pm


  • Robert Albro, American University, School of International Service
  • David Abramson, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, U.S. Department of State 

As the military and intelligence communities re-tool for the 21st century, the long and contentious debate about the role of social scientists in national security environments is dividing the disciplines, including anthropology, with renewed passion. Yet, research shows that most scholars have a weak understanding of what today's security institutions actually are and what working in them entails.  This presentation will briefly review the recent debate on anthropologists in the military and the work of the American Anthropological Association commission, CEAUSSIC, in response to those concerns.  It will also outline the rationale behind the recently published Anthropologists in the Securityscape (Left Coast Press 2011), which comes out of that work.  Discussion of the relationship between ethnographic and intelligence work will then serve as a basis for a dialogue about what this broad debate might tell us concerning the changing locations of “practicing” anthropology today.

For background information, those planning on attending the meeting are urged to read the following:

1.      The description of the work of the AAA commission: http://www.aaanet.org/cmtes/commissions/CEAUSSIC/index.cfm

2.      A brief piece by Robert Albro, “Anthropologists and Analysts,” which explores the similarities/overlaps/differences in the kinds of knowledge production between so-called academic knowledge production among anthropologists and that destined for policy makers: http://blog.aaanet.org/2009/06/08/ceaussic-anthropologists-and-analysts/.

UPDATE:  The presenters' edited volume, Anthropologists in the SecurityScape: Ethics, Practice, and Professional Identity, will be available in mid-November.  Click here for more information.

Robert Albro received his Ph.D. in sociocultural anthropology from the University of Chicago in 1999. Since1991 Dr. Albro has maintained long-term ethnographic research, and published widely, on popular and indigenous politics in Bolivia, with a particular focus on the changing terms of citizenship, democratic participation, and indigenous movements in this country. His current research is concerned with global cultural policy making, as it meaningfully shapes the ongoing terms of globalization, including the relevance of culture in contexts of security. Dr. Albro's research and writing have been supported over the years by the National Science Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the American Council for Learned Societies, among others. Dr. Albro has also been a Fulbright scholar, and has held fellowships at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, the Kluge Center of the Library of Congress, and the Smithsonian Institution. Dr. Albro has held several leadership positions in the American Anthropological Association, including Chair of the Committee for Human Rights and Chair of the Commission on Anthropology’s Engagement with the Security and Intelligence Communities. He was recently a member of the National Research Council’s Committee on Unifying Social Frameworks. Dr. Albro was given the AAA’s President’s Award in 2009 for outstanding contributions to the Association. Most recently he has taught at Wheaton College (MA) and at George Washington University.  He is currently in residence at American University’s School of International Service.

David Abramson is an analyst at the U.S. Department of State in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research.  Abramson received his doctorate in Cultural Anthropology from Indiana University where he specialized in community and conflict in post-Soviet Uzbekistan.  Before coming to Washington in 2001, Dr. Abramson spent four years at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies and directed the Development Studies major.  During 2001-2005, he worked in the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom, monitoring the status of religious freedom in the Middle East, promoting religious freedom as an element of U.S. foreign policy, advising on outreach to the Muslim world, and engaging with Muslim-American communities.  Dr. Abramson frequently lectures and has published on Islam in Uzbekistan, religious-secular tensions, the politics and culture of foreign aid to Central Asia, the role of religion in U.S. foreign policy, and anthropologists working in security and the military.  In 2008-09 he was a Woodrow Wilson International Center Public Policy Scholar working on transnational trends in Islamic education and their impact on the future of Islam in Central Asia, the results of which are published can be found at http://www.silkroadstudies.org/new/docs/silkroadpapers/1003Abramson.pdf.  He also has a chapter in the forthcoming volume Anthropology and Securityscape, published with Left Coast Press.

Meeting:  Charles Sumner School, corner of 17th St and M St NW, Washington, DC

How to get there:  The Sumner School is located at 1201 17th St NW (corner of 17th St and M St NW).  The entrance to the meeting area is on 17th St under the black metal stairway. Directions from Metro Red Line: From Farragut North station, take either L St exit, walk one block east to 17th St, turn left and walk 2 blocks north.

Dinner:  5:30 pm at the Beacon Bar & Grill (one block north of Sumner School).  All are welcome.

How to get there:  The Beacon Bar & Grill is in the Beacon Hotel located at 1615 Rhode Island Ave NW (corner of Rhode Island and 17th St).  Directions from Metro Red Line: From DuPont Circle station, take the south/P St exit, then walk 2 blocks southeast on Massachusetts Ave to 17th St. Cross 17th St and turn right (south) for two short blocks. From Farragut North station, take either L St exit, walk one block east to 17th St, turn left and walk 3 blocks north.

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