Human Terrain System, or a new anthropology in a new era

Jarema Drozdowicz


The contemporary warfare seems to have great influence on the way social sciences position themselves within the socio-political contexts of today. This is being implemented in many cases by the geopolitical context of 9/11 and the fall of former centers of power (end of the Cold War). Cultural anthropology, which shared a similar dilemma in the formative period of its own history provides us today with one of the most controversial examples in this matter. The program initiated by US Army back in 2006 called Human Terrain System started a wide spread debate on ethical issues regarding doing ethnographic fieldwork in a militarized landscape. HTS became thus a field of intellectual and political polemics between certain groups of researches. The academic and political debate on HTS seems to be put in a post-colonial context as a new form of mixing of science and ideology. This paper tackles the problem of emergence of a new type of anthropological understanding of the cultural other and as well its own methods and ethical standards in a situation, where crisis seems to be a permanent state of the discipline and the world its trying to describe.


Human Terrain System, Human Terrain Team, counterinsurgency, anthropology, military, war, Afghanistan, Iraq, global war on terror, pragmatism, CORDS

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