1st Edition

Considering Anthropology and Small Wars

Edited By Montgomery Mcfate Copyright 2021
    252 Pages
    by Routledge

    252 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book includes a variety of chapters that consider the role and importance of anthropology in small wars and insurgencies.

    Almost every war since the origins of the discipline at the beginning of the 19th century has involved anthropology and anthropologists. The chapters in this book fall into the following myriad categories of military anthropology.

    • Anthropology for the military. In some cases, anthropologists participated directly as uniformed combatants, having the purpose of directly providing expert knowledge with the goal of improving operations and strategy.
    • Anthropology of the military. Anthropologists have also been known to study State militaries. Sometimes this scholarship is undertaken with the objective of providing the military with information about its own internal systems and processes in order to improve its performance. At other times, the objective is to study the military as a human group to identify and describe its culture and social processes.
    • Anthropology of war. As a discipline, anthropology has also had a long history of studying warfare itself.

    This book considers the anthropology of small wars and insurgencies through an analysis of the Islamic State’s military adaptation in Iraq, Al Shabaab recruiting in Somalia, religion in Israeli combat units, as well as many other topics.

    The chapters in this book were originally published as a special issue of the journal, Small Wars & Insurgencies.

    Introduction: Considering anthropology and small wars

    Montgomery McFate

    1. Combat anthropologist: Charles T. R. Bohannan, counter-insurgency pioneer, 1936-1966

    Jason S. Ridler

    2. Archaeology and small wars

    Christopher Jasparro

    3. Identity wars: collective identity building in insurgency and counterinsurgency

    Heather S. Gregg

    4. Lost in translation: anthropologists and Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan

    Paula Holmes-Eber

    5. Beyond faith and foxholes: vernacular religion and asymmetrical warfare within contemporary IDF combat units

    Nehemia Stern and Uzi Ben Shalom

    6. Doing one’s job: translating politics into military practice in the Norwegian mentoring mission to Iraq

    Kjetil Enstad

    7. ‘The perfect counterinsurgent’: reconsidering the case of Major Jim Gant

    David B. Edwards

    8. Francis FitzGerald’s Fire in the Lake, state legitimacy and anthropological insights on a revolutionary war

    Paul B. Rich

    9. Accidental ethnographers: the Islamic State’s tribal engagement experiment

    Craig Whiteside and Anas Elallame

    10. The anthropology of Al-Shabaab: the salient factors for the insurgency movement’s recruitment project

    Mohamed Haji Ingiriis


    Dr. Montgomery McFate is professor at the US Naval War College. Dr. McFate received a BA from UC Berkeley, a PhD in Anthropology from Yale, and a JD from Harvard Law School. She is the author of Military Anthropology (Oxford University Press, 2018) and editor of Social Science Goes to War (Oxford University Press, 2015).