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Robert Albro was granted his Ph.D. in sociocultural anthropology from the University of Chicago. He has taught widely in higher education, including most recently at Wheaton College (MA), George Washington University, and American University. Since 1991 he has conducted ethnographic research, and published widely, on popular and indigenous expressive politics along Bolivia’s urban periphery, and with particular attention to the changing terms of political participation, indigenous identity, and citizenship as part of grassroots-driven change in this country. The results of much of this work are available in his book, Roosters at Midnight: Indigenous Signs and Stigma in Local Bolivian Politics (School of Advanced Research Press, 2010).

Since the mid-2000s, Dr. Albro’s work has regularly engaged with public policy, specifically, national and multilateral cultural policy making. He is concerned with the interactions and effects of different accounts of the relationship of culture to policy and with ways that cultural policy – as applied practice and problem-solving expertise – is employed in the contexts of globalization and security, where cultural claims are increasingly advanced in the service of a variety of often contrary goals as a: basis of grassroots social justice efforts; subject of new national, international and multilateral legal and regulatory efforts to define and protect it; and as cultural concerns have come to inform and to define diverse national and international security objectives. Dr. Albro has worked to create opportunities for public dialogue bringing cultural policy decision-makers together with cultural producers to consider critical implications and potential impacts upon people and communities of new international cultural instruments and applications of culture as both policy tool and problem-solving resource for nation-states, global civil society, multilateral bodies, and security agencies.

This work is dedicated to understanding better the particular ways these multiple communities of policy and practice recognize and apply their conception of the value of culture. This work is informed by an effort to understand both how and why the culture concept – now formulated in such terms as property, terrain, heritage, and as a right – has been recently renovated in these settings now less as an intransigent obstacle to progress and more as a critical resource, identifiable type of expert knowledge, intangible asset, information capital, and problem-solving instrument, as it is applied in such arenas as public diplomacy, international development, human rights, the new creative economy, as well as military planning, among others. This work includes attention to the ways the social sciences and humanities have been engaged by this effort – as a type of expert knowledge – by communities of practice in pursuit of their own objectives. Dr. Albro comparatively pursues how these policy arenas institutionalize the value of new cultural policies and problem-solving, while creating opportunities for public dialogue about the meaning and purpose of these developments with the communities they most effect.

Of late this work includes attention to applications of sociocultural knowledge in contexts of security. This project grew from Albro’s long-term participation, as member and as Chair, in the American Anthropological Association’s Commission on Anthropology’s Engagement with the Security and Intelligence Communities (or CEAUSSIC): Over its four-year lifespan, CEAUSSIC produced two detailed reports for the AAA examining the ethics, practices, programs and expertise that compose anthropology’s often contentious relationship to military, security, and intelligence agencies.

Dr. Albro’s CEAUSSIC work has provided him a unique vantage point, set of colleagues and research relationships, to consider the intersections of anthropology, and the social sciences, with the securityscape. He is also located in the D.C. metropolitan area in proximity to many of the institutions, agencies, and contractors, composing his research population. Beyond the CEAUSSIC experience, Dr. Albro has organized or been invited to participate in many public forums and committees dedicated to exploring the relationship of sociocultural knowledge to the priorities of security and the subjects of security. Highlights include: recent participation in the National Research Council’s Committee on Unifying Social Frameworks, concerned with exploring challenges to the collection of sociocultural data for use by the Department of Defense; his participation in a workshop on the challenges associated with computational social science, sponsored by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and organized by Sandia National Laboratories; as well as his organization of a conference on the implications of the military’s cultural programming for humanitarian efforts, sponsored by Vanderbilt University’s Curb Center for Art, Enterprise, and Public Policy.

These regular engagements have placed Dr. Albro on several frontiers of traffic between the social sciences and the security establishment, giving him an appreciation of salient issues and key differences between academic, policy and practitioner priorities and frameworks. On this basis, he has published peer-reviewed articles on a range of topics, such as: military culture doctrine, computational sociocultural modeling, human terrain analysis, and the ethics of military humanitarianism. These articles engage in a comparative dialogue at once disciplinary-specific, interdisciplinary, and which engage with practicing counterparts about the sources, methods, possibilities, limits, ethics and politics – the meaning – of social scientific knowledge production in and for the security arena. An important goal of this public dialogue is to direct attention to how the practice of policy incorporates “notional publics,” as the assumed subjects of policy decision-making, and the consequences of this for the subjects of policy. A part of this work has recently been brought together in Dr. Albro’s co-edited volume, Anthropologists in the Securityscape: Ethics, Practice and Professional Identity (Left Coast Press, 2011).

Dr. Albro’s research has been supported over the years by the National Science Foundation, Mellon Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, and the American Council on Learned Societies, among others. He has also been a Fulbright scholar, and has held fellowships at the Carnegie Council, the Kluge Center of the Library of Congress, and Smithsonian Institution. He is currently a Research Associate Professor in American University’s Center for Latin American & Latino Studies.