Letter from the SET's Board of Directors to EASA's Current President and Executive Committee

Dear Valeria Siniscalchi, Sarah Green and Members of EASA’s Executive Committee

As members of the Board of Directors (BoD) of the newly reincorporated Society for Ethnographic Theory (SET), we are writing regarding the AGM-instigated review, or “moral inquiry”, into HAU Journal. To date, we have not been contacted by anyone at EASA regarding this initiative. We contacted the current EASA president, Sarah Green, and she informed us that Valeria Siniscalchi, during her recently concluded tenure as EASA president, authorized this review. We are concerned about the authority of such a review, and its scope. While the EASA AGM may have voted for the review, we are curious about the rationale that authorizes a professional association such as EASA to single out a particular journal for review. Is it evidence of criminality, allegations, or rumors? By what means will EASA determine this? Does this mean that EASA might in the future be authorized to set up a review of American Ethnologist, L’Homme, the JRAI or of the American Anthropological Association, and if so by whom? Might SET conduct a review of EASA?

The planned “moral inquiry” has direct implications for HAU and the Society for Ethnographic Theory in its present form, even though it is supposedly only concerned with HAU’s past under the leadership of Giovanni Da Col. While a discussion of the issues at hand - of precarity, or academic structure and hierarchies, or job procurement procedures, or the future of digital publications, or any number of problems that HAU has confronted in the past several years – is certainly necessary, we believe these problems are common across journals and indeed all anthropological associations. In which case, it would seem judicious to widen the scope of the so-called “moral inquiry” to include other journals and associations or simply to delink it from HAU entirely.

We the directors strongly believe that HAU Journal performs a vital function among journals in the field, and it has been our primary mission since the day we joined to save the journal. As you may be aware, through blogs and Twitter communication, a small group of graduate students, joined by certain tenured colleagues, have been leading a campaign to kill the journal. We would hope that whoever is authorized to do this ‘investigation’ of HAU Journal will be impartial and not connected to this group. However, we recently discovered that one of the members of the EASA Code of Conduct group, is involved in an online discussion of HAU, as she recently engaged a debate on HAU on Twitter (see also the 'Public Statement on Hau and Open Access Publishing'). Should you decide to pursue your inquiry, we would urge you to include within it consideration of the kind of damage that can be done by irresponsible use of social media.

While we welcome a review of issues surrounding precarity in academia and in anthropology, we think these are best explored not through “moral inquiries” but through investigation and debate in professional journals and similar fora.


Kriti Kapila, John Borneman, Anne-Christine Taylor

Board of Directors, Society of Ethnographic Theory

1 November 2019