The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Help Wanted


December 18, 2007

An actual job description currently posted on the website of a major government contractor:

The Policy Analyst would focus primarily on projects investigating the creation and evolution of subnational identities within and across states, focusing on the construction and interpretation of narratives, contestation, and negotiation with hegemonic discourses, and the temporalization of values, ethics, and ideals. In the project, analysts conduct research on reiterative social interaction between an object group and other groups, discursive practices of political and religious leaders, modes of cultural learning and knowledge acquisition, contemporary uses of collective memory and cultural repertoires, and the implication of culture on attitudinal perspectives of other groups, the state, regional states, and international actors.

The project seeks to understand how these created identities are constitutive of systems of authority, religion, and kinship; how they affect attitudinal perspectives of other groups, the state, regional states, and international actors; how they affect the manner in which members ascribe meaning to specified themes, messages or events; how they inform the organizational cultures of militaries and other security providing institutions; and how they influence military effectiveness.

The Policy Analyst would conduct literature reviews, assist in structuring research design, analyze secondary sources, and assist in structuring and conducting primary research, and write final deliverables. The Policy Analyst would focus on studies involving the Philippines and other countries as required.

Master’s degree or enrolled in a doctoral program in anthropology, sociology, history, political science, government, area studies, and/or strategic studies required. The candidate must have excellent research, writing, and communication skills.

A background in social constructivist approaches to cultural identity is desirable as is experience conducting fieldwork or living and working abroad. Language skills – particularly Arabic or Southeast Asian languages (Tagalog, Bahasa or others) – are a plus.

1. So who says that my ‘airy-fairy’ constructivist training isn’t policy relevant now?!?! Take that all you realism is the only policy relevant theory people. Ha!

2. What does it mean to do discursive analysis of sub-national identities for “the man”? Sell out, practical application of knowledge in service of better policy, or merely a legitimation claim to further what policies we’re already doing?

3. Should I apply for this job? Would you apply for this job? (Balance your ethical comments against the roughly 85K salary the job is rumored to have. Plus benefits.)

4. What are the odds that the person who wrote that reads this blog?


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Dr. Peter Howard focuses on US foreign policy and international security. He studies how the implementation of foreign policy programs produces rule-based regional security regimes, conducting research in Estonia on NATO Expansion and US Military Exchange programs and South Korea on nuclear negotiations with North Korea.