MEANWHILE, BACK IN THE DEPARTMENT
By the time People’s Park happened, I had been a grad student for three quarters. That I had been admitted at all was clearly another tour de force from Gerry Berreman, but nevertheless surrounded in some mystery. Billy and Cowan both claimed that they had threatened their mentor, Robert F. Heizer, that if Lynn and I were not accepted to grad school, they would assume it was because we had been too associated with them politically and they, his star students upon whom he greatly relied to organize and lead archaeological digs, would drop out of school. I was not sure I believed that story, because I could hardly imagine them throwing away their careers on my behalf, I could hardly imagine Heizer would have that much influence on admissions (I was wrong), and I could not imagine that I was a big enough fish politically that my politics alone would inspire any faculty to oppose me (wrong, again).
I was never a leader of any kind in Berkeley but, as it turned out, I was well-known and marked by the conservatives in my own department, probably starting with the Free Speech Movement. My participation in the FSM was well-known by my bosses at the Lowie Museum, therefore any of the many faculty members who were connected with the museum in some way. And, there was one incident during my undergraduate years that could have led them to believe that I was more of a “ringleader” than I actually was. They would not have known that I had been tricked into it. What happened was that anthro student activists had called a meeting of anthro students to come up with a group statement of some kind to the anthro faculty, explaining our position in whatever the most recent controversy had been. It probably had to do with peace marches or teach-ins or military recruiting on campus. While we were meeting, the anthro faculty was also meeting, down the hall. The plan was to write up something, then deliver it to the faculty by knocking on the door of their meeting and handing it in.
At my meeting, I was hearing much more nastiness than I wanted to pass on to the faculty, for most of whom I still had some degree of respect. I feared to sign anything that would be delivered by any of the loudmouths in a possibly disrespectful manner. I felt that whatever we said would carry more weight if we all behaved, at least before the faculty, as rational, respectful, polite academics. (This was too early in my life for me to have known that academics are not always all that rational, respectful and polite.) It was a continuation of my relatively goody-goody personna, later to be dropped. I rose and said, “whatever we decide to say to them, I hope we will say it respectfully.” The person leading the meeting rounded on me and said, “Ok, if you’re so worried about that, you can deliver it.” That person was Cowan, the same person who had gotten me earlier for wanting to send flowers to the officer that got a broken leg defending me from the Hell’s Angels. It occurs to me now that his anointing me messenger to the faculty might have been by way of revenge for making a similar remark at a similar meeting he was leading, for which I forgive him, but I do wonder. If the story about he and Billy trying to blackmail Heizer into supporting me and Lynn in our admission to graduate school is true, was that an attempt to redeem himself from having earlier set me up in this situation? Add things I’ll never know.
There was no way to back out of it without appearing a fool, so I allowed my Scorpio rising to rise and said “Well, ok, I’ll just do that little thing.” While I might have been expected to shake in my shoes for the rest of the meeting, I actually did not because I envisioned that I would just knock on the door and hand the paper to whomever answered it. Silly me. Naive me. What happened is what I now imagine everyone else at the meeting knew would happen. I knocked on the door, a prof answered, I handed him the paper and then he reached through the door as I backed up, grabbed my hand and physically pulled me into the room, where the entire faculty sat, many stony-faced, surely making note of just which student appeared to be leading this revolt, so that they could later bring it up when I applied for grad school, which they did.
One of the senior faculty members, Professor Theodore McCown, a physical anthropology professor noted for his severe personna and obscure wit, asked me to explain verbally what the paper said so that I could answer any questions the faculty might have. It was then I realized that I had consented to be the sacrificial virgin. I had never spoken to any political group of students, let alone a group of my own professors, though I did occasionally dare to ask questions of TAs in section. I was not entirely sure I even knew exactly what the paper said, since we had been through several wordings and versions. I wondered if Professor McCown knew I had aced both the classes I had taken from him. He gave no sign. I looked around the room.
They were seated at tables in a half-circle facing inward, so I could see everyone clearly. It was not unlike the setting of a gladiator fight in ancient Rome. We, the grateful dead, who are about to die, salute you, or however that goes. Luckily for me, Gerry was seated directly in front of me, smiling serenely. I knew that he was on my side and I suspected he might even be enjoying the whole spectacle. He wore an expression that said he fully expected me to survive triumphant.
So, I kept my eyes focused on Gerry and got into my Baptist Training Union head, which allowed me to speak up and stand tall, and I did my damndest to explain what was in the paper and how we had come up with it. There were questions and I answered them, again, as best I could. I cannot remember the particular issue or how I ever got out of there, or how I did explaining-wise, but I do remember the feeling of being pinned like a collector’s bug by one of the scariest professors in the department and then the sink-or-swim feeling that followed it, and the lifeline thrown to me by Gerry that allowed me to at least not turn around and run like the wind.
I was in there for an eternity, but probably about a half-hour. When I returned to the students, I noted quite a few cat-that-ate-the-canary smiles on the faces of people that knew I had just taken it full in the face for them and without a clue that I would have to do so. They knew this particular revolt would not go down on THEIR permanent records, so to speak. On the other hand, most of the students were simply eager to hear what had gone down and, since I had not fainted with fear before, I was now on a roll, so I told them what had happened, while staring down the canary people.
Though I am sure that little sortie fixed me in the minds of some of the faculty as a rowdy to be thwarted at all costs, I know for sure that that one, along with preaching to the preacher after the FSM, endeared me to the heart of Gerry Berreman forever and contributed to his zeal in his role as my senior and graduate advisor. I not only got into grad school, but Gerry got me an all expense paid traineeship (“you get the money, but no prestige,” he told me, “it ain’t a fellowship. Its like you get no bread with one meatball.”) The traineeship would have paid all my expenses, including field work in another country, until I finished my doctorate. It was that one chance in a lifetime you may or may not get, prestige or no, and it was the only such chance I ever did get.
Part of the mystery of my admittance, a part that probably reflects all the machinations that went on around it, was that I was first rejected. During the summer, while I was working for the Art History Department, I received a letter informing me that my application for graduate school had been rejected. I was somewhat surprised, because Gerry had been optimistic in my presence, but not all that surprised, since I was competing with shining applicants from Harvard for a severely limited number of positions. I suspected I might have even been presumptuous to have applied, Gerry’s encouragement notwithstanding.
Upon receipt of the letter, John and I had gotten into our VW bug and driven down the coast from San Francisco, so that I could grieve on the beach at Half Moon Bay. I was still grieving, but coming to terms with it, a few days later when, by the purest of chances, I happened to encounter one of the professors sympathetic to me on the Terrace while having lunch. As I walked by his table, in one of those cosmic coincidences that have been featured in my life, he reached out his hand to me and said, “Congratulations.” I stared at him. “Congratulations for what?” I asked. He went a little pale, then said, tentatively, “For getting into grad school?”
I was flabbergasted. “Bill,” I said, “I did not get into graduate school. I got my rejection letter last week.” Now it was his turn to be flabbergasted. “Oh no,” he said, shaking his head emphatically, “That was a mistake. You were accepted. I was on the committee.” We looked at each other as understanding began to blossom and grow. I could hear him thinking, “Mistake, my ass.” “Look,” he said. “I’m going to my office now. The minute you are free, you go to Gerry’s office. We will fix this.” I had my lunch, went back to work, left early and headed straight to Gerry’s office, where he was expecting me. He sat me down and said he had been waiting for me to arrive so that I could witness the phone call he was about to make.
Picking up the phone, he called the chairman of the admissions committee, a well-known conservative, and began mock-sweetly explaining that there seemed to have been some kind of mistake. “Oh no, that is not correct. At the end of that meeting, she had been accepted. She says she got a rejection letter. No, she’s sitting here right now, waiting for the news that this mistake has been corrected.” Etc. “Does she have the letter?”, eyebrows raised at me, I nodded and mouthed “at home.” “Oh yes, she can bring it to me tomorrow.” I do not remember who signed the letter or if I ever knew how it got mailed, but I picked up from my end of Gerry’s conversation and his tone and manner, that he and Bill had no doubt at all that they had been double-crossed and the perpetrators had figured it would not be caught in time for me to enter in the Fall. Thank you, Providence, for sending me to the Terrace that day and foiling what would have been a fait accompli, perhaps forever irreversible. When I say I got in by the skin of my teeth, I really am not kidding.
The simmering antagonism against me and my faculty supporters is indicated by an incident whose very smallness illustrates the personal level at which these things may work. Soon after the beginning of my first semester of grad school, while we entering grad students were all still getting used to our new statuses, I needed to get something from the departmental chairman, Professor John Rowe, who could be assumed to hold a position among those opposed to my admission. It was something small and routine, a signature for special coursework, perhaps. I got to his outer office a few minutes before he was due to arrive and settled in with a handful other students also waiting to see him. One of these was my museum buddy, Pat McKim, who was enthusiastic in congratulating me on my acceptance and my grant. When he jokingly asked me how I was adjusting to the new regime, I jokingly answered, “Well, gee whiz, Pat, I don’t seem to be able to find any time to play my guitar.”
The timing was perfect so that Rowe opened the outer office door and walked in just as those irreverent words escaped my mouth. Pat and I were both laughing, which one would assume might be a clue to a behavioral scientist that this was not a serious remark, but Rowe was not amused. Glowering at both of us, he walked on into his office and slammed the door as we all made “ouch” faces at each other. He continued to glower and speak in monosyllables as he signed my whatever and I was left in no doubt whatsoever that my guitar remark would now be spread around the faculty as a serious remark validating any arguments that had been or would be made that I was not really serious enough to be graduate student material. I hied to Gerry for a reality check. Gerry said, “You’re right, but don’t worry about it.”
There was a point when the rationale of reasonable discourse that we liked to think informed our decisions was seriously challenged by what I can only interpret as a yippie-type spillover from the counterculture growing daily outside our doors. It was the first time, but certainly not the last time, that I saw such a tactic in person. I cannot nail it to a specific movement, since it was so astounding to me that the incident seems to stand alone in my memory. My best guess is that it might have been a reaction to the early police violence associated with the People’s Park movement. It would have been before Bloody Thursday, since I did not return to campus after that event.
One day I was at an anthropology meeting in the Gifford Room, attended by both students and faculty. We were discussing something political, but I remember that it was not as emotionally charged as other similar meetings I had attended. There was an orderly process and reasonable remarks were being made. It was shaping up, as many of us might have said, to be still another purely academic meeting about highly charged campus events, one at which scholarly wheels would be spun and absolutely nothing would come out of it. All of a sudden, the meeting was disrupted by a bunch of people who came dancing into the room dressed in costumes made of sheets and wearing handmade masks. There was a lot of noise, wordless yelling and maybe even noisemakers of some kind. All attempts at meeting were abruptly ended, as most attendees stared dumbfounded, some angry, some bewildered and a handful tentatively amused. I would place myself in the bewildered category. I cannot remember how it ended. It is possible the dancing group left on its own after a few minutes, but the meeting was adjourned as we all tried to explain it to each other.
I was among the few who got the point fairly quickly. It was a “theater of the absurd” performance art statement on the futility of trying to stop the war from the ivory tower. I got it, but I had little success explaining it to anyone else. The absurd part was enhanced for me later on, when I learned who the tallest performer had been. It had not, as some suspected, been an invasion of hippies from off The Ave. It had been organized and led by one of the most respected graduate students in the department, a whiz kid who shall remain nameless here. This student had arrived from an Ivy League college festooned with the highest of recommendations from world famous people. I knew him from the Gifford Room, liked him a lot and had jokingly anointed myself the best person available to help him make the cultural transition to Berkeley. For him to have done such a thing was almost—but not quite—beyond my comprehension.
One thing the surprise performance did, and this was probably also part of the intention, was to shock people into discussing what they otherwise might not have. In trying to understand it, people were forced to think in ways unfamiliar to many of them. My main thought was the question, “Have we really come to a place where ordinary communication is impossible?” Always before, if we had had nothing else, we had had our ability to relate to each other rationally as social scientists. We went to teach-ins. Everyone was reasonable. We saw ourselves as future professionals who would, at some point, take our place in society. We will sit down and reason together and go through channels as best we can. We will, by presenting and discussing our views, try to convince people to take a certain political course.
But, here we are at a social science meeting and here is this utterly incomprehensible dance taking place in the middle of it. I was struck with that image, that now things have entered into a stage where we are not even speaking to each other. It had gotten so confrontational, so emotional, so crazy, that rational discourse was now becoming irrelevant.
Spy vs. Spy
As the war and the anti-war movement were growing during the late 60s, a schism was developing in the UC Anthropology Department and in the discipline itself as a result. It was to prove earthshaking to me and other activist anthro students. At Berkeley, it centered around two faculty members, both highly respected in their fields and, coincidentally, both physically large, which encouraged one to think of it as a battle of the titans. One was Gerry Berreman. The other was Herbert P. Phillips, whose name I avoided saying out loud for years, on Gerry’s advice, for fear of professional retaliation, or more explicitly in this case, further professional retaliation. There came a point, however, when it was clear that I had no professional future to be retaliated against, so I have no such reservations these days, especially since Gerry documented his part of it so well some years after the fact in his book, The Politics of Truth.1
It was, indeed, a battle of the titans—two experts on Southeast Asia, going toe-to-toe on the most emotionally charged issue of the day, the war taking place in that area of the world, their struggle fraught with meaning to the direction of anthropology, as well as to my own personal and professional life. Although Bob Dylan’s song “Only A Pawn in Their Game” was written about a specific historic event, I had no problem applying the sentiment of the title to my own position in anthropology, especially when, years afterward, Kathleen Zaretsky, one of the principals in the drama, described the process by which students are admitted or kicked out of graduate school as “a card game.” She, my fellow graduate student who had reason to be familiar with faculty machinations, said faculty members actually sat at a table and passed students’ folders back and forth like cards, saying, essentially, “I’ll give you two of yours for this one of mine.” I had no problem believing it. Gerry loved me, but in the long run, I was a truly a pawn in the academic game.
The Politics of Truth, Gerry’s compilation of mostly speeches and essays, describes the situation in excruciating detail, and I have relied heavily on that source to reconstruct the context for what happened to me. I am deeply grateful to him for publishing it, long after I left Berkeley and, according to personal communication from Gerry, at least in part because of me and students like me, for whom the exposure of Phillips was the very last straw.
Ethical issues have been central to the science of anthropology since its inception and continue to be debated on an ongoing basis. One way to phrase the question is: should humans be studied scientifically in the same way that the rest of the natural world is? Anthropology students are told early on that they should be, and they can be but, because they are humans, the studying must be done within certain ethical boundaries, one of which is that the culture may not be changed, especially harmed, by the study. Star Trek fans will recognize this stricture the “Prime Directive.” I have often wondered if Gene Roddenberry ever took anthropology and if that is how he thought up the Prime Directive.
The history of anthropology is full of breaches of these ethics, particularly as that history is told by native peoples who were on the receiving end of damaging changes. I remember one conversation on that subject centering around an anthropologist who allegedly gave an Amazonian tribe machetes in exchange for information, with which they then proceeded to greatly expand their slash and burn technique and deforest their habitat at a highly unsustainable rate. It was a damaging change disguised as a beneficial one, and done for the benefit of the anthropologist more than the informants, clearly a breach of professional ethics.
My friends and I, as far as I knew, accepted the ethical rules without question. We saw anthropology as having the potential to increase cross-cultural understanding and tolerance and therefore peace in the world and I, at least, had chosen it specifically because of that. We hoped that it might also help to ultimately resolve the greater issues, such as the causes of war, intolerance and environmental destruction. On the ground, of course, were our personal interests. I hoped anthropology would be able to explain why I was such a goddam misfit, and I strongly suspect other anthropologists of having the same motive, but no one I knew would have knowingly endangered the subjects of their study for any reason, or would have studied them without their permission.
The role of anthropologists in war, again, as far as I knew in the 60s, had been when Margaret Mead, Ruth Benedict and Gregory Bateson worked for the Allies in World War II, analyzing German and Japanese culture with a view to understanding how best to use psychological warfare against them. Mead went on to be part of the “Indirect Rule” school of thought,2 that native peoples were doomed to be destroyed by industrial cultures, anyway, therefore it was the duty of anthropologists to help them become part of industrial civilization with as little pain as possible, never mind that most of their resources and cultural heritage would be lost in that process and they would end up populating the lowest rung of the class system. This subject is well-covered by my second graduate advisor, John Bodley, in his book, Victims of Progress,3 wherein he presents numerous examples of such ethnocide. Even my earliest anthropological hero, Bronislaw Malinowski, and revered English anthropologist E. E. Evans-Pritchard, had helped found that imperialistic idea—using anthropology to help colonial takeover, minimizing trauma to native peoples and maximizing efficiency for colonialists.4 I was under the impression that anthropology had evolved past colonialism, but it turned out that I was mistaken.
As arguments raged in the Gifford Room as to whether anthropology was or was not a “tool of the imperialists,” a question more pertinent to the current war was looming, unbeknownst to me. I reeled on the day I learned that Phillip’s research assistants, including Kathy Zaretsky, had found documentation in his files that he was working for the CIA, spying in Southeast Asia. It had never occurred to me that anthropologists could be spies. It was a direct violation of anthropological ethics and perhaps the very situation the ethics rules were created to address.
My teachers, on the other hand, had been aware of spies in their midst all along. As early as during World War I, according to Berreman,5 “our illustrious forebear” Franz Boas, known as the “father of American anthropology” castigated at least four anthropologists who “have prostituted science by using it as a cover for their activities as spies.”6 Two examples of the problem, provided by Berreman, are Project Camelot7 and Project Agile, the first involving Michigan State University and its relationship to the CIA in Vietnam8 and the second a Pentagon worldwide counter-insurgency research program, using anthropologists and other social scientists in Thailand and Southeast Asia on “projects of direct military relevance.”9 Berreman describes being exposed to “such attempted seduction” as early as 1963. Through the American University, he was approached on behalf of the Department of the Army to provide information “on the peoples and cultures of the Himalayan area for use in psychological operations ‘in the event of military action in the General area… involving the United States and a hostile and aggressive communist force.” The information would be available “for use by other governmental and nongovernmental departments and agencies.”10
That there was no conflict of interest or violation of anthropological ethics in using anthropologists as spies was rationalized to Berreman in 1968, when an anthropology project in his area, the Himalayan Border Countries Project—was rejected in India as soon as it became known that it was to be funded by the U.S. Defense Department. When Berreman objected to the project, he received a note from a project administrator deriding his concern. He was told that “the complications you fear because of government funding were actually carefully avoided in our negotiations under ARPA.”(Advanced Research Projects Agency of the Department of Defense.)11 It is hard to imagine how such “complications” could have been “carefully avoided,” since just accepting military money at all under any conditions would have been a violation of anthropological ethics, at least as I understand them.
According to Berreman:
In anthropology as a discipline, the nadir was reached with the revelations and years-long controversy regarding the clandestine and military research in Thailand [Phillips’ area] and adjacent Southeast Asia in conjunction with the support of American interests in the Vietnam War in the late 1960s. The American Anthropological Association was riven as never before or since by the controversy that raged as a result.12
Berreman had been offered “money, employment, fringe benefits and anonymity” in exchange for violating his ethics for the army.13 He refused, and continued to refuse subsequent offers from that organization and others “hoping I might have a change of heart and join the ranks of hireling, gumshoe social scientists.”14 That is not what Phillips chose to do.
When The Politics of Truth was published, both Berreman and Phillips were still active members of the UC faculty. It boggles the mind to imagine how that might have worked on the ground, but it does explain why Berryman almost never actually mentions Phillips’ name in any of his essays on anthropology, morals and the war though, for those of us who were in the department when this shit was hitting the fan, it is unmistakeable to whom he is often referring. Berreman’s “Innocence Abroad” essay presents document after document, instance after instance of the misuse of anthropological research for military purposes.15 Below, I have listed some relevant citations from among the many provided by Berreman documenting the spy problem.
In a military report, Berreman quotes an unnamed anthropologist working in Thailand. The report, dated June 15, 1965, has a title that tells the story all by itself, “AD-468 413 Military Research and Development Center, Bangkok (Thailand) Low Altitude Visual Search for Individual Human Targets: Further Field Testing in Southeast Asia.”16 It is described by the author as “a detailed study of quantitative information on the ability of airborne observers to sight and identify single individuals on the ground.”17 In other words, as we all said to each other at the time, “how to spot a communist from the air.” Berreman follows his quote from this report with his own assessment, as usual grimly humorous. “I will spare you the rest, but can assure you that it is vivid, albeit mercifully inane in its conclusions.”18
A second such report is entitled “AD-473 593 Military Research and Development Center, Bangkok. Village Security Pilot Study, Northern Thailand.”19 This one was authored by three unnamed anthropologists, and is dated May, 1965. It is described as an attempt to “develop a database of information related to problems of village security in remote areas.” 20 It provides detailed information on villages, including security, military resources, “characteristics of each village’s immediate, local zone of influence”21 and much more that is of interest to the military but has little, if any, ethnographic significance. In the Gifford Room, we called it “what you should know before you burn the village.”
These two reports are, without a doubt, from the reports discovered by Phillips’ research assistants, since this is exactly what those assistants had reported verbally to UC students and faculty. I have always been mystified as to why Phillips had employed research assistants known to oppose the war and had not hidden his spy reports better. I can only conclude he was not a very good spy.
Berreman cites a study done by “an American anthropologist employed by the U.S. operations Mission in Thailand, [who] authored 46 reports for the Department of Community Development and the US Operations Mission during 1966-67 collectively titled ‘Intensive Village Studies Focused on Rural Security and Related Conditions.’” He quotes the smarmiest, boilerplate statement from this anthropologist saying, (my paraphrase) gee, thanks, to the natives who helped me out. Berreman comments that “these crumbs were bitter fruit indeed, I would say, for included among the data sought was detailed political-ideological information of a kind useful to counterinsurgency forces, and inimical to the research subjects.”22
In discussing how anthropological research done in perfect compliance with anthropological ethics can still be used by the military, Berreman includes an account by anthropologist Georges Condominas of the way his research was used for military instruction. Pirated copies of Condominas’ ethnography of a Vietnamese people, published in 1977, were distributed to U.S. special forces in Vietnam. Condominas later learned that one of his informants had been tortured by the U.S. Special Forces.23 The frightening likelihood is that the ethnography led the special forces to the torture victim.
Similarly, five informants of anthropologist Cora Du Bois were arrested by the Japanese during World War II and publicly beheaded for claiming that America would win the war. According to Du Bois, whose work was published as The People of Alor, her informants had never even heard of America before she studied them. Their claim, she explains, had to have been a fantasy. She had to live with the knowledge that they only died because of her research.24 Documenting the specific contractual relationship between anthropology at UC Berkeley and the military, Berreman quotes a 1968 amendment to a contract between the United States of America and the Regents of the University of California for research in Thailand. That such a contract would even exist is ethically questionable. It is justified as follows: “Whereas United States’ competence to foster development in Thailand is strengthened by the intellectual integration of scholars in the social sciences professionally interested in Thailand’s development….”25 Among other things, the contractor is to identify research that relates to “developmental” and “counter-insurgency activities in Thailand.”26
In a truly scary scenario, Berreman cites Project Cambridge, a “massive cross-cultural social science data retrieval system sponsored by the Department of Defense, to be installed at MIT.” He calls it “the social scientists’ 1984, —a system whereby anything we do is immediately and electronically available, out of context, to whomever wants to use it for whatever purpose.”27 Whether that system was actually installed, I do not know, but Berreman concludes his discussion of it with the comment that “there is literally no place to hide, once you have done social science research.”28 That statement describes exactly how many of us felt after hearing of Phillips’ deliberate misuse of anthropology. We were not spies, but how could we know how much damage we might do our subjects in the long run, inadvertently or not?
We finally discover Phillips’ name on an incriminating document when Berreman discusses accepting corporate research funding as no different ethically than accepting government funds.29 In an article written ultimately for the Department of Defense, Phillips and his co-author address themselves to “selected aspects of the politics, administration, social organization and culture of rural Thailand that are related to the problem of maintaining and strengthening the country’s internal security.”30 The aims of the report, in the words of its co-authors, were to “deny communists potential recruits” and “to develop village organizations… capable of overcoming communist penetration.”31 Anthropologists are not supposed to be developing anything when doing field studies. That one statement alone supports the vilification of Phillips as a spy and a disgrace to anthropology.
Berreman was not the only anthropologist addressing the wartime role of anthropologists. In 1966, UC Berkeley anthropologist, Michael Harner, whom I knew from the museum, challenged a ruling that a resolution condemning the war was out of order at the AAA meeting in Pittsburgh. The ruling had been made because the resolution did not “advance the science of anthropology.” Harner replied to the assembly that—“genocide is not in the interest of anthropology.” The resolution was amended and passed.32 This event was discussed avidly by my fellow museum employees, who also knew Harner personally, and by other anthropology students.
The schism in the AAA continued for some time after the spy issue had seemingly ended my career in anthropology, as the ethics committee and the membership continued to diverge in their viewpoints and battling committees were formed. In 1970, two members of the AAA ethics committee resigned within two years of its formation, after they were “rebuked for speaking out against clandestine activities by anthropologists in connection with the war in Southeast Asia.”33 Political maneuvering resulted in the election of the more conservative candidate for association president, but the general membership went with the findings of the ethics committee, one assumes the findings for which the members were rebuked. An ad hoc committee headed by Margaret Mead looked into the Southeast Asia situation and the findings of the ethics committee the following year. That report, critical of the ethics committee, was “resoundingly rejected” by the general membership at the 1971 AAA meeting. A Committee on Potentially Harmful Research was then formed to inquire into the effects of research among “relatively powerless peoples.” That year’s election of incoming members of the executive board reflected a more liberal trend.34
A code of ethics for anthropologists was adopted by the AAA in November, 1970. Not surprisingly, Berreman was on the committee that wrote it .35 It is an extensive and detailed document specifying the responsibilities of anthropologists to their informants, the public, the discipline, students, sponsors and the government. It specifies no clandestine research and no reports provided to sponsors that are not available to the general public and, if possible, to the population studied.36
In discussing the general issue of responsibility, Berreman compares anthropologists to nuclear scientists, quoting words attributed to Robert Oppenheimer, in his closing statement before his security hearing in 1954. “We have been doing the work of the Devil and now we must return to our real tasks.”37 Elsewhere, he urges anthropologists, as teachers, to model social responsibility, to show students, among other things, “that we will not sell our souls for money or professional advantage to the antihuman forces in society.”38 Comparing the problem of value-free social science once again to the problems presented by the advent of the atom bomb, Berreman states that a value-free science of physics “disappeared in the atomic cloud. Our own is disappearing in the blood of Vietnam. That war, the policies it reflects, and the shadow of social scientific complicity, have forced every American social scientist to answer anew Irving Horowitz’ question ‘is he a member of a human science or of an anti-human science?’”39
The impact of the exposure of Phillips as a spy on me, personally, can hardly be overestimated. I had entered anthropology, rather than followed my expected path into English, because it had seemed to me a bastion of rationality in a great sea of prejudice. I had thought that studying all humans scientifically, dispassionately within the bounds of ethics, would go far in reducing hatred based on stereotypes and misunderstanding. It had seemed even noble to me, especially since I had been led into it largely by so noble a person as Gerald Berreman. Nobody told me people went into anthropology to learn to be spies. That revelation came as a real sucker punch to me emotionally.
I began to consider my own research funding. I had, through Gerry’s expert finagling, been admitted to graduate school with an all-expenses paid NIH (National Institutes of Health) traineeship. Now I had to look at it. It was federal funding. Was I being groomed as a spy? No, Gerry would never have led me into that position, but I could not determine just exactly how gray was the ethical area I was treading in pursuing anthropology with a federal grant. And, the whole area of funding was becoming clearer to me. Federal agencies, or private corporations, where did you get untainted funding? It was a problem, it seemed to me, that I would face from then on.
Suddenly, I saw myself accepting blood money. I could relate to Macbeth, who said, “will all Neptune’s great ocean wash this blood from my hand?” Between that thought and my epiphany in the Rose Garden, I could not see any resolution but to drop out of school and leave Berkeley, perhaps forever. The rumors flying around that concentration camps were being prepared for us by revamping the internment camps built for the Japanese during World War II did nothing to comfort me. It seemed like a goddam silly rumor, but, gee, I did not think I would get gassed from a helicopter, either, or that my discipline would turn out to be a training method for spies.
I knew just how hard it had been for Gerry to get me into grad school. If I dropped out and gave back my grant, how would it reflect on him? I had no idea. I would like to say that I went to the administrator of the grant and told him to put the money where the sun don’t shine, but that is not what I did. I first attempted, as I had earlier in Tallahassee, to get a medical leave of absence from both graduate school and my grant. If necessary, I had no doubt that I could get supporting documentation for that from Cowell Hospital, where I had built up quite a record of exhaustion-related medical woes. I was just as exhausted as I had been in Tally, though not quite as malnourished, and I was experiencing physical pain and cognitive symptoms I now attribute to PTSD.
The administrator of the grant was none other than Professor Rowe, he of the guitar joke incident and that was not my only history with Professor Rowe. He had also, being in linguistics, been the person who flunked me twice on the graduate German exam on the basis of what I and others believed was much more politics than grammar. The exam consisted of translating a scholarly article, with a dictionary. The first time I flunked it, I accepted it quietly and took a no-credit course the following semester specifically for graduate students struggling with their German exams. The second time, I definitely smelled a rat. I took the article and my translation of it to my German instructor and asked him if he would have passed me. He said absolutely. Then I took it to my main boss in the Art History department, a professor who was a native speaker of German and owed me a favor, and asked him if he would have passed me and he concurred with the German instructor. I realized then that my only hope of ever passing the graduate language requirement would be if I took the exam in a year when someone else in the department made the call and I was unclear if that would ever happen. Rowe had certainly also been present at the faculty meeting wherein I had been tricked into representing dissident students.
It should not have come as much of a surprise, then, that Rowe was having none of my arguments about a medical leave of absence. I could get one from school, he said, but I could kiss my grant good-bye, even though I knew of several cases of other graduate students obtaining medical leaves of absence from their grants on even less argument than I had. If I had not had a reputation for being an activist, which caused that particular professor to already be biased against me, I believe that my request would have been considered quite reasonable. But, I had been through this before in Tallahassee and in Georgia. The medical problems of activists do not receive the same consideration as that of other students. They are, instead, viewed as gifts from Fate enabling administrators to get rid of troublemakers. The blood money idea, I am forced to confess, is what I comforted myself with, in a sour grapes sort of way, when I decided to forfeit the grant and leave Berkeley.
If I had been allowed the medical leave of absence, it is possible that I might have returned the following semester and finished my doctorate. If I had kept my mouth shut, I would have had no problem returning in the fall and retaining my traineeship. If I have any regrets about the decisions I made in Berkeley related to my profession that is one, that I showed my hand too soon about the grant instead of just leaving for the summer and hoping I would get my head together before Fall quarter. But, I was simply overwhelmed by it all, unable to think straight and deprived of my main advisor, Gerry, because he was in India that year. I just wanted the pain to stop.
© Jentri Anders, 2016