Anthropology at the Dawn of the Cold War

The Influence of Foundations, McCarthyism and the CIA


Anthropology at the Dawn of the Cold WarThis book breaks new ground in the history of anthropology, opening up an explicit examination of anthropology in the Cold War era. With historical distance, Cold War anthropology has begun to emerge as a distinct field within the discipline. This book brings a number of different approaches to bear on the questions raised by anthropology’s Cold War history.

The contributors show how anthropologists became both tools and victims of the Cold War state during the rise of the United States in the post-War period. Examining the intersection between science and power, this book is a compelling read for anthropologists, historians, sociologists, and anyone interested in the way in which colonial and neo-colonial knowledge is produced and constructed.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Anthropology at the Dawn of the Cold War (Dustin M. Wax)

1. Ashley’s Ghost: McCarthyism, Science, and Human Nature (Susan Sperling)

2. Materialism’s Free Pass: Karl Wittfogel, McCarthyism, and the “Bureaucratization of Guilt” (David Price)

3. American Colonialism at the Dawn of the Cold War (Marc Pinkoski)

4. In the Name of Science: The Cold War and the Direction of Scientific Pursuits (Frank A. Salamone)

5. Peasants on Our Minds: Anthropology, the Cold War and the Myth of Peasant Conservatism (Eric B. Ross)

6. Organizing Anthropology: Sol Tax and the Professionalization of Anthropology (Dustin M. Wax)

7. Columbia University and the Mundial Upheaval Society: A Study in Academic Networking (William Peace)

8. Afterword: Reconceptualising Anthropology’s Historiography (Robert L.A. Hancock)

Press and Reviews

Critique of Anthropology, June 2010, Vol 30, No. 2: Review by Heonik Kwon.

Wax and other contributors to the volume should be congratulated not only for telling their colleagues about anthropology’s hidden past during the early Cold War, but also for opening a new way to investigate the shape of the Cold War political-intellectual complex.

Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford, Vol. 1, Issue 1: Review by Iain Perdue [PDF; review starts pg. 111], 2009.

In the last chapter the historiography of anthropology is considered, [effectively tying] the issues discussed in the book back to the present moment, thus preventing the collection from being statically located in the Cold War era and reminding the reader that these issues are once again present and contentious for the discipline. Though slim, this densely packed book attempts to add to the historiography of anthropology and provide context in place of paucity.

Anthropology Review Database: Review by Robert Lawless, February 2009.

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.

Socialist Review: Review of Anthropology at the Dawn of the Cold War, Penny Howard, April 2008.

…a useful reminder of the political significance of [anthropological] questions and the extent to which governments have been prepared to go to ensure that they get the “right” answers…….a fascinating study in the political nature of ideas, and the terrible consequences of mechanical and deterministic approaches to Marxism.

San Francisco Chronicle: Montgomery McFate’s Mission: Can one anthropologist possibly steer the course in Iraq?, Matthew B. Stannard, April 29, 2007 (Interview about Montgomery McFate and HTS)

But as the military began embracing the academics it had effectively forsworn since Vietnam, there were relatively few anthropologists returning the embrace.”Anthropologists for decades were screaming at the top of their lungs, ‘Hey, we can help you to administer your colonial empires, we can help you to administer post-occupation Japan’ … and were ignored,” said Dustin Wax, a doctoral candidate focusing on the history of anthropology at the New School for Social Research. “Now it’s a couple decades later, and they’re saying, ‘Well, where are you guys when we need you?’ “

Brainiac (Boston Globe): Cold War anthropology, Joshua Glenn, Dec 6, 2007

Perhaps the answer is somewhere in Wax’s forthcoming book, “Anthropology at the Dawn of the Cold War” (Pluto, May 2008), a collection, edited by Wax, of historical essays on “the relationship between the various factors characterizing the Cold War period and the development of anthropology at the time.” Sounds good to me!

Savage Minds: The Road to Published: The Making of an Edited Volume, by Dustin M. Wax – Part 1, Part 1a, Part 2

Three-part series documenting the process of putting Anthropology at the Dawn of the Cold War together, from inception to publication.

Where to Find It

Amazon UK (Available now)
Amazon US (Available now)
Pluto Press (Publisher)
Google Books