New Review of “Anthropology at the Dawn of the Cold War”

The academic publishing world moves slowly, oh-so-slowly. After almost a year in print, Anthropology at the Dawn of the Cold War has received its second review, a thoughtful response by Robert Lawless at the Anthropology Review Database. Lawless focuses heavily on one of the big undercurrents in the book, the similarity between how anthropology articulated with US interests during the Cold War years and the way it does today. I take exception with one point Lawless raises — he says I treat these the Army’s Human Terrain System and its anthropological champion Montgomery McFate too gently; in my defense, HTS was just a proposal when I discussed it, and McFate just a military anthropologist who had written a couple of articles. Today, we know how poorly planned and executed HTS turned out to be, and we know McFate primarily as the anthropological voice behind the Army’s new counterinsurgency manual — I doubt I’d be so “gentle” with her and her legacy today.

That aside, it’s a very positive review, of the sort of review I like best: those that engage deeply with the text and look to add to the topic, rather than simply assess the book. Lawless’ conclusion:

Required reading for those interested in the history of the discipline, this book joins other important works, such as Price’s Threatening Anthropology, on the deleterious effects of the Cold War on anthropology.

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