Cold War Anthropology: The CIA, the Pentagon, and the Growth of Dual Use Anthropology
David H. Price is Professor of Anthropology at Saint Martin’s University. He is the author of Threatening Anthropology: McCarthyism and the FBI’s Surveillance of Activist Anthropologists and Anthropological Intelligence: The Deployment and Neglect of American Anthropology in the Second World War, both also published by Duke University Press, and Weaponizing Anthropology: Social Science in Service of the Militarized State.
Anthropologists’ Articulations with the National Security State
Most of the anthropologists who worked for the CIA during the 1950s had worked for the Office of Strategic Services or engaged in intelligence work at other agencies during the Second World War. During the 1950s, several anthropologists worked as analysts within the CIA, while others undertook field operations abroad. Frank Bessac joined the CIA and later traveled overland from China to Tibet with CIA agent Douglas Mackiernan in 1950. The CIA careers of anthropologists Donald Wilber, Michael Coe, and others are described.
The structure and function of CIA funding fronts are examined, and several dozen CIA funding fronts from the 1950s and 1960s are identified. These fronts allowed the CIA to outsource research to unwitting scholars, including anthropologists, who gathered information and produced analysis of interest to the CIA. The Asia Foundation, a CIA asset from the early 1950s until 1967, gained access to lists of Asian anthropologists by offering to subsidize AAA membership dues for Asian anthropologists.