Response: Human Terrain System & War in Iraq

In response to: CultureTube Segment 1: Human Terrain System & War in Iraq

From a communications standpoint, sending enlisted anthropologists makes perfect sense. Not only are you gathering intelligence about the culture in which you’re fighting, you’re also able to have full-control over what is released to U.S. news agencies. Many of these news agency’s are ready at a minutes notice to receive this information and write up a story. I have doubts that any meaningful or peer-reviewed work will come of the Human Terrain Teams project mainly because it doesn’t seem to be designed for that. While recently doing a public affairs internship for a government agency I as surprised to learn that soldiers are allowed to post nearly any type of content as long as they don’t specifically relate it back to a branch of the military. A simple search on google renders a long list of soldier’s blogs and information about the Iraqi people that appears to be gathered with much less agency. News outlets rarely pick up on those because they are less credible than the military, yet in their entirety they paint a pretty accurate picture of what is really taking place.

In contrast to the war in Iraq, this film offers a rather simplistic approach. One similarity I find is that while living in the U.S. we see little of what is happening Iraq, this too was the case for people who lived in Paris. At one point it mentioned that the celebrities in France (I think) were beginning to publicly announce that they supported an Algerian government. Future ethnography on Iraq will likely be much more political than the one written by Fernea and may even be focused on restructuring the country much like the work that came out of Japan after WW2.

GROUP B 2. Unless I was discussing this with someone who is Algerian, I have a hard time speculating about whether Pontecorvo represented both the Algerians and the French fairly. From my standpoint, I noticed a few scenes, which depicted western lifestyles as being more lively and colorful. All of the scenes of the Algerians made them appear somewhat brutish and somber. This definitely plays into the plot of the movie although, adding a scene depicting some of the more positive elements of Algerian culture would allow the audience to sympathize more with the Algerians. I was impressed with the way the general in the movie put things in much more simple terms when talking to the reporters. This type of simplification would likely never be allowed in this type of situation, especially not now.

Without knowing a lot of history about Algiers I have a hard time know how close he came to the truth or whether there is one basic truth about the battle. In either case, I do believe it is ethnographic because it attempts to tell a story about a specific time and place as well the people and culture. I would also need to study up on how well the film follows documented events but it seems to help us hear and understand the voices of the people who lived through this.

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