da Col: A Note From The Editor

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A Note From The Editor

Giovanni da Col


“First thing to realize about editorial forewords: very few people will ever read them.” Such was the intimation of the editor of a celebrated anthropology journal whilst I was struggling with some preliminary musings on the foreword to Hau’s inaugural issue. Notwithstanding the utmost respect I have for this mentor, I am very much pleased we have proven him wrong (and he is also pleased we did). “The return of ethnographic theory,” written by David Graeber and I, has been one of the most successful pieces of Hau’s opening volume, sparking debates in anthropology departments around the world from Japan to the United States to New Zealand and China, and provoking the curiosity and imagination of graduates and senior anthropologists alike. Speaking off the bat, the Editor-at-Large and I managed to touch upon a few key issues that haunt contemporary anthropology: the “publish or perish” torment; the self-marketeering stance that trades “old” yet radical ethnographic reflections for the hip concept or theorist of the day (or of the 1960s); the protection of the author’s intellectual ownership over his or her work; the promotion of open access scholarship in times of financial hardship. Hau’s unprecedented response for a newly founded anthropology journal proved that the finances and logistics of open access are indeed a Gordian knot, yet one which can be severed by sharp passion, the help of a hard-working and brilliant editorial team, and a group of visionary institutions capable of looking beyond immediate self-preservation.

Developments. In the last six months, Hau’s progress has been fast-paced. More institutions have joined our Network of Ethnographic Theory (Hau-N.E.T.), including the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History, the Institute of Social Anthropology at the University of Oslo, the Department of Anthropology at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, and the Department of Anthropology at Cornell University. We received generous support from the Sutasoma Trust and, most surprisingly, institutions worldwide are now spontaneously asking to join the network. A new External Advisory Board with representatives from the sponsor institutions, Hau-N.E.T. members and the discipline’s eminent scholars, open access pundits, and legal consultants is being constituted to guarantee the continuity of the journal, supervise its governance and accounting, and secure its sustainability in the long term. The Masterclass series was inaugurated last April. The first volume of the Classics series is being finalized and will soon be released with a new website. More deals are in the making. Still and all, we are not sure that Hau deserves to be hallowed as “the future of anthropological communication,” but we are confident that we are on a good course.

The second issue will hopefully prove that miracles can be repeated and still come free of charge and academic simonies. The 542 pages—twenty-four manuscripts and thirty-four authors—you are about to browse, read, and hopefully enjoy and/or circulate prove that Hau is much more than an open access and “copy-left” journal: it is state-of-the-art anthropological scholarship. Hau is: steadfast and careful editorial processing, strict peer-review, swift turnaround, professional quality layout, personable communication with authors, and a taste for ethnographically inspired theory, keywords, disjunctures, equivocations, stranger-concepts, and their trails. The editors of Hau Journal and associated book series have, as their explicit intellectual aim, to encourage authentic interdisciplinary dialogue through the recovery of its own conceptual wealth—to indigenous concepts anthropologists bring from the field. Reader beware, there is no hubris of believing that we gear for all tastes and preferences. Fortunately, some people dislike us. Few, however, completely ignore us and what is more rewarding is that Hau manages to remain outside any corporate or academic logic; Hau does not respond to any career-driven call but a cry for first-class anthropological thought-experiments, both familiar and exotic.

Editorial Matters. Hau’s papers are reviewed by a prestigious editorial board. The number of members is flagged as a reminder of their promise to help towards the cause of open access by reviewing submissions we receive. Are Hau’s articles good for tenure or the REF? Why not? All of our published manuscripts are indexed on Google Scholar and hence accounted by the H-factor. Hau’s policy for both invited and volunteered articles involves a double-blind anonymous peer review. After an initial editorial screening, manuscripts are assessed by three external referees. The Editor intervenes only when reviewers’ reports present starkly different recommendations about the acceptance of a manuscript. The journal’s standard turnaround time for reviews is six to nine weeks and the journal aims to publish manuscripts accepted with minor revisions in the following issue, usually within six months from their initial submissions.

Someone noticed that the first issue was intimidating and one of the purposes of Hau’s second volume is to clarify that the journal is not just a receptacle for “big names,” ancestors, exotic ethnographies for Euro-American authors, or a main host to “the ontological turn.” We shall be publishing more brilliant and junior scholars (note down the names of the young contributors to this issue and wait a few years). We also continue to encourage submissions from different scholarly traditions. This volume features an article by Wang Mingming (Beijing), a representative of the new Chinese anthropology, and the next issue will host a section on new developments in Japanese anthropology. Hau is not just the place of academic stars or anthropological ancestors but any scholars keen in engaging with our reviewers, ambitious to make their work highly visible whilst retaining all rights to future publication. So if you have a monograph or work in progress, do send us a chapter.

The presses who have been supporting Hau’s vision (Cambridge University Press, Chicago, Verso, Manchester University Press), offering us reprints at reduced fees and free translations of forthcoming volumes, shows that more and more publishers are not afraid to engage with open access initiatives. Neither is there much sense to distinguish between printed and online-only journals. Increasingly, students and scholars are at ease with electronic sources and show a preference for reading materials that are easily and openly accessible. Likewise, online access has changed the face of academic publishing: academics know that it is their most accessible publications which are the most widely read.

Alongside state-of-the-art peer-review articles, other forms of communication are also encouraged as well as new arenas for the (re)discovery of hidden gems or works of historical value. A new section Colloquia will include non-peer reviewed research papers and review essays addressing themes of theoretical relevance.

The issue. The peer-reviewed articles contained in this issue are divided into two sections. The first presents some musings on language and belief beyond the semantic or the performative domains, beyond propositional (Holbraad) or political truths (Green). Force is not just about doing things with words but forcefully challenging everyday conceptual determinations (Course, Favret-Saada), and feeling-fearing encounters with beings that reconfigure subjectivities (Viveiros de Castro). A few papers in the first section could also be grouped and named as Prolegomena to an ethnographic eclipse of affects in that they exhibit a nuanced engagement with emotions or value beyond the “affective” mana-terms which, by parasitizing on secondary philosophical literature, employ fuzzy notions that remit explanations to skilful paradigmatic substitutions. Native ethnographic nuances surrounding everyday moralities or emotions are consigned to hyper-floating signifiers such as “energies,” “flows,” and other transcendental spiritual terms that often do little to enrich the knowledge of the life of our informants.

The second section delves on some updated engagements with notions of alterity and the cosmological imagination. We are honored to host both the 2008 Raymond Firth Lecture and the 2010 Curl Prize Essay of the Royal Anthropological Institute as well as articles that demonstrate how ethnographic theory can challenge prominent philosophical arguments on sovereignty (Fiskesjö), notions of the divisibility of personhood and possession (Santos-Granero), and art, creativity, and copyright law (Leach). Sahlins’ lecture scrutinizes the critical concept of wonder and marvel in accounting for encounters with alterity and the social imagination of sovereignty. McGranahan and Swift’s deployments of ethnographic theory highlight some creative and destabilizing engagements with the premises of historical anthropology, political leadership, and the sociology of religious conversions.

The Colloquia include a dazzling engagement with South Asian conceptions of personhood and spiritual kinship that will spark debates for some years to come (Copeman and Ikegame) and a nuanced historical ontology of keywords and sovereign cosmologies in pre-modern China (Wang).

This issue’s Forum includes an outstanding team of eleven prominent anthropologists, current or previous editors of top-tier journals from the United States (Brenneis, Fortun, Golub, Kelty), the United Kingdom (Green), India (Baviskar), Japan (Morita), Australia (Macintyre), Brazil (Fausto), and France (Severi), all gathered to discuss an exquisite incipit by Daniel Miller on the meaning of open access, digital anthropology, and the future of academic publishing within their own academic realities and paradigms. The result has been refreshing and illustrates how an engagement beyond the North Atlantic juggernaut can cast new light on this much-debated issue.

We are honored to host in the Translations section some seminal French scholarship which hitherto has remained inaccessible to the English speaking world: “Being affected,” the conclusive chapter of Désorceler, Jeanne Favret-Saada’s sequel to Deadly words, her unparalleled monograph on witchcraft; and two of the most exciting chapters of the long-awaited translation of Philippe Descola’s magnum opus, Beyond nature and culture (Par-delà nature et culture, forthcoming in 2013 with the University of Chicago Press), a seminal reading for all anthropologists. We are also buoyed to offer you in the Reprints section three gems of ethnographic theory: Pitt-Rivers’ classic essay on the “Law of hospitality” (a.k.a. The stranger, the guest and the hostile host), Ardener’s pearl “Remote areas,” as well as the acclaimed “Figure-ground reversal among the Barok” by Roy Wagner.

Acknowledgements. Ethnography teaches us that what is contained or concealed often grows and provides prosperity to a community. Hau exemplifies this maxim in the figure of Stéphane Gros, our managing editor. Stéphane’s agency and eyes inhabit all manuscripts: he is the hidden backbone of the journal, relentlessly processing articles in the background. The Editorial team has been heroic and includes a large group of superb editors, dazzling editorial assistants, and committed interns. Similarly, Hau could not flourish without the support of our Hau-N.E.T. partners, meticulous reviewers, co-editors, patrons, external copy editors, authors, friendly presses, and organizations. This issue owes gratitude to The Association of Social Anthropologists of the U.K. and Commonwealth (ASA), Georges Braziller publisher, the University of Chicago Press, Éditions de l’Olivier, and the John Rylands Library of the University of Manchester. Warmest thanks should be extended to Harriet Boulding, Susanne Brandstädter, David Brent, Matthew Carey, Jacob Copeman, Jeanette Edwards, Jeanne Favret-Saada, Marcio Goldman, Sarah Green, Ingjerd Hoëm, Signe Howell, Julene Knox, Piers Locke, Carole McGranahan, Françoise Pitt-Rivers, Amiria Salmond, Andrew Shryock, Marshall Sahlins, Justin Shaffner, Karen Sykes, Marilyn Strathern, Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, Richard Vokes, Halvard Vike, and Rane Willerslev. It cannot be anything but a good sign that the acknowledgements keep occupying an increasingly relevant space in our introductory notices. One travels hopefully and is not concerned about arriving when accompanied by such a gifted and generous fellowship of the Hau.

Giovanni da Col
Monte Verità, Ascona, June 2012