Many of the regions of the globe where anthropologists have traditionally worked are now places overtaken by extreme forms of social and political disorder – epidemics, ethnic violence, the dissolution of state apparatuses – necessitating the intervention of supranational forms of aid and authority. This paper surveys the predicament of the producer of anthropological knowledge “as usual” in such regimes of intervention. What identity does the anthropologist create? What is the self-claimed rhetoric of authority for research undertaken in such situations? Three alternatives are surveyed – the expert, the reporter and the witness – with the third focused upon since it has increasingly become an expressed self-identity or ideology of anthropological research within scenes of intervention. Witnessing offers a return to a position of a kind of disinterestedness following on the binds of postcolonial critiques, which makes the presence of independent anthropologists possible but problematic amid projects of interventionist aid, rescue and military action.

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