American and Canadian archaeologists, anthropologists and social scientists are being deployed in Iraq and eastern Afghanistan to see of their insights can bring peace to areas where military intervention has failed. The so-called Human Terrain System seeks to understand better the populations in which US brigades operate and thus help military commanders reduce the use of force.

The scheme is controversial among civilian academics who believe that using their knowledge in this way ‘prostitutes’ social science to military ends and harks back to the past when archaeology and anthropology were strongly associated with colonial rule and imperial subjugation. Others have agreed to take part in briefings to soldiers as part of college-based military education, but others have gone as far as working with the military on cultural awareness programmes in war zones, believing that getting to know people is a better way to make peace than dominating them with technology and firepower. •


This article is an extract from the full article published in World Archaeology Issue 29. Click here to subscribe

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