Re: Education, business and work

David Price (dprice@CATADON.STMARTIN.EDU)
Fri, 11 Oct 1996 08:56:34 -0700

A few days back Jim Martin wrote,

> 1. industry will dictate the problems researchers can pursue
> 2. industry will insist that results are proprietary property and that
> secrecy must be maintained (this affects all aspects of work, from what
> is allowed by contract to discuss with colleagues to what one is allowed
> publish)
> 3. industry is not interested in basic research but supports work that
> contribute to short-term profits

> Do anthropologists on this list face problems like these? That is, are
> research topics circumscribed by the dictates of an outside agency that
> agree to pay for project X but not project Y? Do people face pressures
> to publish specific results? Or to talk about them at professional
> meetings? I would like to know, and the answers might reveal something
> about the differences between social sciences and physical ones.

I think these are good questions.

My own current (anthropological) research is in part devoted to examining
some of these questions. For the past decade I've been looking into the
impact of the Cold War (and America's National Security State) on the
development of American anthropology. I've been interviewing (and still
am if anyone out there wants to talk with me) [mostly senior]
anthropologists, using archival materials and the Freedom of Information
Act (FOIA) (I've made 200+ requests from FBI, State, CIA, OSS, NSA, BIA
etc.) to piece together some of the ways that our
military-industrial-university-complex has directly shaped the thoughts and
actions of anthropology.

This really has been an open secret--but one that has seldom been openly
addressed. It is not hard to find obvious trends in funding if one
investigates: the limiting aspects of funding agencies, the historical
context of the creation of "Area Study Centers" & the availability of funds
for the study of specific languages.

In a recent paper ("The Effects of Cold War Funding on the Development of
American Anthropology" coming out in Vol. II of the Cold War and The
University Series, New Press), I used some interesting FOIA documents to
show how government and business directly shaped (1) the creation of
specific area study centers (which funded anthropological research), (2)
what geographical areas were deemed "hot" funding recipients & (3) what
research questions were of interest to funding agencies. Further, I
reprint portions of some (c.a. 1950s) CIA documents (penned by Walt Rostow
& Max Millikan--Director of CENIS, a significant anthropological research
center of this period) I received under FOIA show that there were publicly
unstated direct connections between business/government interests in
funding what was to become "development" and "modernization theory".

In another paper (given at the AAA last year), I compared the careers of
anthropologists who's professional / private careers led them to be
associated with Marxist perspectives, with anthropologists who either
collaborated with the US State Dept., FBI & CIA in the late 1940s and
1950s. The results from such a comparison are hardly counter-intuitive,
but they do directly relate to larger questions concerning the effect of
public/private funding on research.

There is also a wide literature discussing the limiting effects of the "Big
Three" (Ford, Rockefeller & Carnegie) on social science funding. For that
matter, Congressional hearings in 1974 & 1977 concluded that the Big Three
had routinely acted as a funnel for CIA (and other gvt. agencies) directed
social science research.

The examples I listed here are historical rather than current. This is
simply because it is easier to access records from the past than it is to
access records from the present. I see little evidence that the same
processes are (to more or less degrees) at work today.

David Price