David H. Price. Cold War Anthropology: The CIA, the Pentagon, and the Growth of Dual Use Anthropology. 488 pp., illus., bibl., index. Durham: Duke University Press, 2016. $104.95 (cloth), $29.95 (paperback)

Price’s careful and morally centered narrative concludes a trilogy of works describing various relationships between American anthropologists and intelligence agencies in the United States from World War II through the Vietnam War. His preceding volumes discussed anthropologists working for the state during WWII[1] and the persecution of anthropologists under McCarthyism[2]; this volume hones in on arguably the prickliest territory of the three, describing covert and overt relationships between military/intelligence agencies and anthropologists from the close of WWII through the Vietnam War.

Using a wealth of source material, from published memoirs to unpublished documents requested from the CIA, the Pentagon, and other state structures, Price constructs a careful analysis of anthropologists’ collusions—both witting and unwitting—with the Cold War U.S. state. Cold War Anthropology is divided into two parts that, overall, describe changes in the discipline’s majority position regarding U.S. foreign policy from one aligned to one opposed. The first part of the book, “Cold War Political-Economic Disciplinary Formations,” describes the development of the discipline’s relationships with intelligence communities following WWII. Price frames his argument in the context of changing U.S. foreign policy from fighting fascism and totalitarianism to adopting neocolonial policies of modernization and development. He discusses links between the post-WWII federal intelligence community and academic anthropologists as well as larger funding structures such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Price discusses broadly the influence of political milieu upon the development of a science; one wonders how this development of anthropology tracked with other social sciences during the period, particularly as funding agencies such as the National Science Foundation increasingly espoused interdisciplinarity following World War II and divisions between disciplines were often blurred, at least in grant applications.[3]

The second half of the book, “Anthropologists’ Articulations with the National Security State,” concretizes Price’s argument through a closer analysis of particular anthropologists and institutions, including academic structures such as the Asia Foundation and individual anthropologists such as Gerald Hickey. Price discusses the impact of anthropologists’ growing concern over both open and covert complicity with the militarized state, which peaked at the close of the 1960s as radical factions in the American Anthropological Association pushed through a code of ethics.

Price’s overall argument is that the discipline has and continues to function within a military state and often through its structures. In his words, without continued and critical examination of the history and contemporary workings of these dual use relationships, “the discipline seems doomed to recurrently suddenly discover militarized misappropriations of what it self-conceives of as its heart and soul, with repeated crises and misguided efforts to solve political problems using ethics, not politics” (363).

Price’s analysis hinges on the frame of “dual use” anthropology. The term “dual use,” appropriated from the physical sciences, refers to the symbiotic—if often unrecognized—relationships between “applied” and “pure” sciences, with particular relevance to the use of science by and for the military. Describing discipline-military relationships as such enables Price to hold together broad and varying degrees of collusion. Price argues that even those anthropologists who believed their work was politically neutral were often blind – at times willfully so – to their “unexamined alignments” with the military state (xx). Hence, relatively few actors and institutions in his analysis are described as directly and willfully working for the military intelligence community, and the bulk of his analysis goes to institutions and funding structures that opened research to different regions, paid for language training, promoted scholarship in particular journals, etc. Price argues that these latter relationships ultimately shaped anthropology through the promotion of particular geographic regions of interest to the intelligence community, as well as through the general political milieu through which scholarship was produced and that it sometimes reflected.

Price’s argument occasionally relies on logical supposition rather than documentation, a necessity given the type of source material upon which he relies and one that he acknowledges multiple times throughout the narrative. That said, his overall argument is convincing. Readers will benefit from Price’s careful attention to the impact of funding streams on scholarly decision-making, his dedication to amassing hard-to-locate source material, and his cogent moral compass. The book is suitable for a scholarly audience.


[1] David H. Price, Anthropological Intelligence: The Deployment and Neglect of American Anthropology in the Second World War (Durham: Duke University Press, 2008).

[2] David H. Price, Threatening Anthropology: McCarthyism and the FBI’s Surveillance of Activist Anthropologists (Durham: Duke University Press, 2004).

[3] See, for example: Jamie Cohen-Cole, The Open Mind: Cold War Politics and the Sciences of Human Nature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014).

Margaret Flood: contributions / floo0020@umn.edu / Program in the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine, University of Minnesota