Geographers, academics and governmental consulting

One of the points I’m interested in with the OSS/intelligence material is the relationship between academics/scholars/experts and government. I think this goes back to my fascination with the World War One era Inquiry; a think tank of experts that President Wilson formed to determine America’s post-war foreign policy/international relations. The idea is that knowledge is a weapon, along with intelligence, to help you fight a war (or avoid war), and the relationships between knowledge and politics.

Although geographers have long had governmental ties (and the history of the discipline, along with cartography, is shot through with governmental-military relationships), a recent post by Glenn Greenwald about the psychologist Dr. Larry James got me thinking that there hasn’t been anyone like him in geography. Prof. James was the Chief psychologist at Guantanamo in 2003 when a number of abuses–Greenwald calls them war crimes–were committed. He is currently Dean and Professor at Wright State University in Ohio.

Anthropology had its controversy with the human terrain system (HTS) and geography has had the Mexico Indigena controversy (see pieces in Political Geography in December 2010 and February 2011).

Incidentally, there are geographers who’ve worked for HTS, including Philip Zaprzalka (U. Colorado Springs and now at George Washington Univ.) and Heather McAfee, who both confirmed to me on the record that they have worked in the HTS. They also mentioned Robert M. Kerr, formerly at University of Central Oklahoma and 2006-7 Academic Fellow with the right-wing Foundation for Defense of Democracies (Board of Directors includes Newt Gingrich, Bill Kristol and Joe Lieberman). (Kerr’s UCO webpage has been deleted but is available via Google cache where he describes himself: “I am a political geographer with particular interests in Global Jihadist Terrorism, Counter-Terrorism Studies, and Xenophobia”). If anybody knows his current position I would appreciate it. Another page describes a forthcoming book Marking Territory: Xenophobia and the Geographical Imagination, but I’ve not been able to trace it. (Update: Kerr responds in the comments below.)

But we have not had anyone who calmly poured themselves a cup of coffee while watching a suspect being force-clothed in pink panties and rolled into a nightie. And who didn’t then report the abuse (details on Greenwald’s blog).

One response to “Geographers, academics and governmental consulting

  1. I do happen to know the current whereabouts of Robert Kerr because, in the immortal words of Obi Wan Kenobi, “He’s me.”

    I am currently an Associate Professor and Chair of Cultural Geography programs at the US Air Force Culture and Language Center at Maxwell AFB in Alabama.

    I am extremely proud of the work I did with HTS in the NE Baghdad areas of Sadr City, Adhamiyah, and Istiqlaal, and have absolutely nothing to hide with regards either to my work with HTS or my current work with the Air Force. I will be presenting work based on my time in Baghdad in 2008 and 2009 at the AAG meeting in Seattle (on Thursday afternoon) and welcome and encourage all questions regarding the work I do for the military.

    Very Respectfully,

    Robert Kerr

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s