Current Institutional Affiliation
Teaching Fellow, Anthropology, Columbia University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2011
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, Columbia University
Person as Frontier: Human Technologies in the Iraq War

This is a study of the Iraq War through the dual lens of the American military theoreticians and the Iraqi “frontier figures” whom they recruit as human technologies of war. Variously understood as translators of culture by the US military and as collaborators back home, how do these figures (mock villagers in combat simulations, political advisors, fixers, drivers, interpreters) see themselves? How might we understand the lives and complex allegiances, debts, and doubts of frontier Iraqis — both maneuvered by the military and making their own moves within economic and moral calculi? And as these figures translate Iraqi culture, how do they translate themselves when wartime compels practices of constant masking? I examine two interrelated case-studies in the war & security landscape of the Iraq War: first, American military theoreticians at Fort Irwin, California’s mock Iraqi villages, and the Iraqi role-players employed there; and second, a range of Iraqi frontier figures (interpreters, drivers, etc) in Amman, Jordan. This comparative lens enables me to study the Iraqis’ displacement in two disparate contexts: America to which they, at great cost, aligned; and Jordan, an in-between place of waiting and fantasy of America. I will collect life-histories and observe the lives of frontier Iraqis; interview American theoreticians of war; and engage with the military scripts that generate storylines for the simulations. I propose that embodying the frontier location turns selves and bodies into second selves and bodies: technologies doing work within a bigger warmaking apparatus, of traversing national & cultural boundaries My project furthers debates on the nature of contemporary war: I argue that amidst improved machine technology enabling distance and a potential turn to the "posthuman," my case study foregrounds the human being at the frontier as an irreplaceable technology of war.