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Writing Culture Doctrine: Public Anthropology, Military Policy, and World Making

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 November 2010

Robert Albro
School of International Service, American University. E-mail:


I concur with Michael Mosser that bridge-building between academic and military policy communities should be an important priority. I also agree that this is a challenging task. But my sense of why this is both important and challenging differs from Mosser's in some key respects. Despite qualifications along the way, Mosser's account suggests that academia has a particular responsibility to make itself legible and available to military policy makers, but not the other way around. As he explains, his topic grew from a project concerned about “whether the academy is asking militarily interesting questions.” And he proceeds by thinking about how academic scholarship might be “more tightly integrated” with the doings of military policy and planning. Undertaking bridge-building by firstly asking how the US academy can be more effectively leveraged to support national security goals sets up a largely one-sided and unilateral engagement, where the burden is primarily on academia to explain itself to the military policy community, and probably to do so within a frame of reference sensible to the policy crowd but not necessarily vice-versa. This sets up, in short, a scenario making it less likely for policy makers to listen to what academics might be saying, particularly whenever this appears to complicate established agendas. From my point of view, the best mutual outcomes flow from a more balanced dialogue. This includes policy makers taking academic frames at least as seriously when talking with them, so that greater clarity can be reached about how, and under what circumstances, scholarship might contribute to policy concerns, but also when academic contributions might be inappropriate, irrelevant, or even impossible.

Reflections Symposium
Copyright © American Political Science Association 2010

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