Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Ethics Casebook - Call for Abstracts

The Ad Hoc Commission on the Engagement of Anthropology with the US Security and Intelligence Communities (CEAUSSIC) has issued a call for abstracts. Please go here for a sample abstract or here for a sample narrative. An online submission portal is forthcoming.

CEAUSSIC is asking our colleagues in anthropology and related disciplines for summaries of illustrative cases that explore intersections among the ethical, methodological, and theoretical aspects of work in, around, and for the national security state, including public and private institutions, in and outside academia. We seek narrative cases from all of anthropology’s fields, including archaeology, biological/physical anthropology, ethnology, and linguistic anthropology; from emerging and established areas of practice and research within these fields.

Process. The casebook submission process will occur in two phases: submission of a short summary abstract for CEAUSSIC review, due by December 31, 2008; followed by submission of a longer case narrative for selected cases, due by May 15, 2009. A more detailed timetable is included below.

In the first round of submissions, CEAUSSIC will review abstracts and select a subset that meets the following criteria:

1. The potential for exploring complex and emerging intersections among methodology, practice, ethics, and theory in anthropology, across all fields and forms of practice;

2. The case’s relevance to present-day issues in anthropology’s intersection with national security problems, across all four fields of the discipline and all forms of practice;

3. The potential for provoking educational and productive debate and discussion among anthropologists;

4. The potential for provoking debate about social science research ethics in a wider community beyond anthropology, including other disciplines and institutions;

5. The quality of the narrative, as demonstrated in a well-written abstract

Content. Case abstracts should briefly describe the context, the individuals and institutions involved, type of activity, the time period during which the situation is occurring or took place, and the ethical problems, themes, and issues that the case raises. Rather than offering opinions, solutions, or analysis, we would like a descriptive narrative that richly evokes the context and complexities of a moment of engagement in which moral, political, methodological, and/or ethical issues become salient.

We strongly encourage our colleagues to submit cases referring to real-life situations encountered in the course of work, but we are willing to consider realistic hypothetical cases that raise provocative questions about ethics, politics, morality, theory and methods, and that have practical implications for anthropologists engaged in all forms of practice, across all fields of the discipline. Cases do not have to originate in national security problems, but should have some relevance to current debates about anthropological ethics and practice vis-à-vis public and private institutions of power, including national security institutions. Cases that bring an international perspective to these problems are encouraged, particularly from anthropologists outside the United States. Cases that originate outside anthropology are welcome as well, as long as they provoke issues that are relevant to current anthropological discussions and debates.

Please note that CEAUSSIC is primarily a review and research panel and does not engage in ethics investigations. Therefore, this is not a place to raise specific allegations of misconduct or to accuse other researchers of illegal or unethical behavior. Allegations of significant ethics violations should be raised with your home institution, funding agencies, and/or AAA leadership, as you feel appropriate.

Format. Each preliminary submission should include the case title, the author’s name and contact information, and a 200-250 word abstract that summarizes the key points of the case, and explicitly states how the case pertains to questions of anthropological ethics. An example of a preliminary submission is included at the end of this call.

CEAUSSIC will contact authors whose case abstracts meet the initial criteria, and ask them to provide a longer submission for panel discussion and eventual publication in the casebook. If your abstract is chosen for further consideration, we will ask you to submit a more elaborated case narrative of between 1500 and 3000 words in length. A sample second-round narrative is attached at the end of this call.

Submission process. You may submit your case abstract electronically by emailing it to . Alternatively, you may mail a paper copy of your abstract to the following address:

ATTN: Dr. Robert Albro
School of International Service
American University
4400 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20016

Privacy and Confidentiality. CEAUSSIC is extremely concerned about maintaining the privacy and confidentiality of all individuals involved in the cases. As they are being reviewed, all cases will be held in strictest confidence for consideration and discussion of CEAUSSIC and its guests only. However, we ask that you indicate if the story is hypothetical or fictional (or some combination thereof), and indicate where you have used real names, events and places in your story, so that we can take appropriate safeguards to maintain confidentiality and anonymity. We also ask that you also respect the confidentiality and anonymity of your colleagues and informants: for example, please not disclose sensitive information unless such information is germane to your case. If your case is selected for publication, CEAUSSIC will contact you to anonymize any identifying elements in the story, to protect privacy and confidentiality of the individuals and institutions involved in the event.

Review. CEAUSSIC will select a subset of the case submissions for discussion and review. Cases will be chosen for quality of their narrative, the case’s relevance to present-day issues in anthropological research and practice, and the complexity and nuance of the ethical issues that the case raises. CEAUSSIC will recruit appropriate subfield representatives and a professional research ethicist to assist in the review of the cases. The selected cases will be annotated with a set of discussion questions and a summary of the review committee’s comments; these annotated cases will provide the basis for a final casebook manuscript.

Important Dates.

  • Case abstracts final submission due to CEAUSSIC by 31 December 2008.
  • We will review all submissions, select the discussion cases, and notify authors of the status of their case submission by 15 February 2009.
  • The full case review will take place during May 2009.
  • Once the review is complete, we will select and post a subset of these cases on the CEAUSSSIC website. In addition, CEAUSSIC will maintain updates on its AAA webpage as the project progresses.
  • We expect to have a final manuscript for publication submission by December 2009.
Contact. Question and concerns may be directed to the Ad Hoc Commission's Chair, Dr. Rob Albro, at or (202)885-1546.