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PRICE, David H. (St. Martin’s College) CIA Pillow Talk: The Uses of Populations, Undeclared Agendas and Development Anthropology


Abstract of paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Philadelphia, PA, December, 1998.


Throughout the Cold War era, theoretical approaches to the subject of development and underdevelopment- -ranging from modernization theory to dependency theory- -have hinged upon issues of demography and population dynamics.   This paper examines new evidence pertinent to understanding the political economic context of anthropological fieldwork and theoretical models addressing population and development in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.


Relying on archival materials and documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act from the Central Intelligence Agency, this paper clarifies some of the un-stated political agendas behind the funding of social science research that focused on issues of development and underdevelopment.  These documents clarify the extent to which anthropological, political science and sociological development research was privately viewed by policy makers within the American intelligence community primarily as a component of Cold War brinkmanship.  Though many anthropologists involved in development work did not frame their research in terms of Cold War battles for the hearts, minds, and the all important debts of third world peoples, these documents clarify that such considerations were paramount to an important contingent of America’s overt and covert policy makers.


Modernization Theory came-up short in its efforts to boost “underdeveloped” nations into a state of prosperity shared by all, though some have recognized some level of success insofar as it has functioned as an international pyramid scheme which created relationships of debt, dependence and subordination.  While skeptics have long voiced concerns about these last results, it has not generally been recognized by Modernization’s supporters that these relationships were in un-stated fact design features of Rostow, Millikan and the CIA’s Modernization vision.