Virtual War and Magical Death

Virtual War and Magical Death

Technologies and Imaginaries for Terror and Killing

Virtual War and Magical Death is a provocative examination of the relations between anthropology and contemporary global war. Several arguments unite the collected essays, which are based on ethnographic research in varied locations, including Guatemala, Uganda, and Tanzania, as well as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and the United States. Foremost is the contention that modern high-tech warfare—as it is practiced and represented by the military, the media, and civilians—is analogous to rituals of magic and sorcery. Technologies of "virtual warfare," such as high-altitude bombing, remote drone attacks, night-vision goggles, and even music videoes and computer games that simulate battle, reproduce the imaginative worlds and subjective experiences of witchcraft, magic, and assault sorcery long studied by cultural anthropologists.

Another significant focus of the collection is the U.S. military's exploitation of ethnographic research, particularly through its controversial Human Terrain Systems (HTS) Program, which embeds anthropologists as cultural experts in military units. Several pieces address the ethical dilemmas that HTS and other counterinsurgency projects pose for anthropologists. Other essays reveal the relatively small scale of those programs in relation to the military's broader use of, and ambitions for, social scientific data.

. Robertson Allen, Brian Ferguson, Sverker Finnström, Roberto J. González, David H. Price, Antonius Robben, Victoria Sanford, Jeffrey Sluka, Koen Stroeken, Matthew Sumera, Neil L. Whitehead

  • Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: Virtual War and Magical Death - Neil L. Whitehead and Sverker Finnström
  • 1. Ethnography, Knowledge, Torture, and Silence - Neil L. Whitehead
  • 2. The Role of Culture in Wars Waged by Robots: Connecting Drones, Anthropology, and Human Terrain System’s Prehistory - David Price
  • 3. Cybernetic Crystal Ball: “Forecasting” Insurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan - Roberto J. González
  • 4. Full Spectrum: The Military Invasion of Anthropology - R. Brian Ferguson
  • 5. Today He Is No More: Magic, Intervention, and Global War in Uganda - Sverker Finnström
  • 6. The Hostile Gaze: Night Vision and the Immediation of Nocturnal Combat in Vietnam and Iraq - Antonius C. G. M. Robben
  • 7. Virtual Soldiers, Cognitive Laborers - Robertson Allen
  • 8. Virtual War in the Tribal Zone: Air Strikes, Drones, Civilian Casualties, and Losing Hearts and Minds in Afghanistan and Pakistan - Jeffrey A. Sluka
  • 9. Propaganda, Gangs, and Social Cleansing in Guatemala - Victoria Sanford
  • 10. The Soundtrack to War - Matthew Sumera
  • 11. War at Large: Miner Magic and the Carrion System - Koen Stroeken
  • References
  • Contributors
  • Index


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