View Full Version : Ethnologies of internal intelligence/homeland security

30-04-2011, 07:43 PM
Not sure if this is really the correct section for this.

I'm doing research for a fictional film that deals, in part, with the massive, largely top-secret security system that's sprung up in the U.S. since 9/11. My aim is to contrast the mundane, day-to-day bureaucratic activities of the low and mid-level workers in these agencies (routine paper pushing and number crunching that on the surface could be confused with any other bureaucratic labor) with the deadly effects that labor ultimately contributes to and makes possible (illegal extraditions/kidnappings of foreign citizens, secret assassinations, massive privacy violations, torture, etc).

In order to get a sense of this culture/environment enough to write about it, I'm looking for accounts of what it is like to do this sort of work. These could be either 1st person accounts or 3rd person ethnographies.

Perhaps not surprisingly, finding anything like this has been incredibly difficult. Not only is bureaucracy a fairly boring subject to write about, but in this particular instance, we're dealing mostly with highly top-secret stuff that anthropologists, reporters, or other outsiders don't typically have access to (and which insiders are prohibited from divulging information about).

So far the books on my reading list are Michael Hertzfeld's The Social Production of Indifference (a general ethnography of bureaucracy, not about national security) and Kerry B. Foster's Under Construction: Making Homeland Security at the Local Level (which caused some controversy in the anthropology community because of Foster being deeply embedded in military culture - of course, that's fine for my purposes).

This is sort of a long shot, I know, but does anyone have any additional recommendations? My scope is pretty broad. It doesn't have to be about contemporary homeland security. Stuff about COINTELPRO in the 60s or the beginning of the OSS or even just the mundane aspects of regular police work would be helpful (does there exist anything like the equivalent of David Simon's Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets... but for the desk jockeys??). The only real requirement is that it focuses on everyday life in these types of organizations, as opposed to abstracted analysis.

09-05-2011, 04:44 PM
http://www.statewatch.org/ is good but covers eu only,
i'd fear guantanamisation if i could make any recommendations on u.s
copy us into wahtever you come up with tho, it's an interesting topic

11-05-2011, 12:55 AM
see also:

11-05-2011, 04:05 AM
thanks for the links, Sufi

in addition to the book I mentioned, some resources I've already been looking at include the Washington Post Top Secret America project (http://projects.washingtonpost.com/top-secret-america) and the work of the artist Trevor Paglen (http://www.paglen.com/). the former is, I imagine, about as close a picture I'll be able to get of how contemporary intelligence/security agencies operate, though for my purposes I wish it went into more detail about the day-to-day mundanities (I suppose this doesn't interest many people other than me). the later both stays more distant and focuses more on the particulars, but I like how anthropological it is - the sense of ritual conveyed in some of his work (I'm thinking of the patches (http://www.paglen.com/pages/projects/nowhere/symbology.html) and the code names (http://www.paglen.com/pages/projects/nowhere/code_names.htm)). this second aspect is especially relevant to my particular project, and if I could find something that combined the two (the emphasis of strange seeming rites and rituals within everyday bureaucratic practice), that would be the holy grail, so to speak