da Col: A note from the editor Hau: Year one

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons | © Giovanni da Col. Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported. ISSN 2049-1115 (Online)

A note from the editor

Hau: Year one

Giovanni da Col, Editor-in-chief


If there is a mark of success of a creation, it has to lie in its appearance as a familiar item, the impression or awareness that it has been existing for a long time, if not "forever." “Hau? Yes, of course I know about it,” is the typical response one encounters when visiting departments throughout Europe or the United States, or during casual conversations at the EASA or AAA meetings.

Since its launch in December 2011, Hau’s articles and its intellectual manifesto for a return to “ethnographic theory” have been read, taught, and discussed in graduate seminars and blogs, and quoted in new articles and books. Yet, whereas in the last months blogs and top-tier subscription journals have been crammed by animated debates on the future of anthropological publishing—gold, green, and hybrid access models, funding and sustainability issues—Hau’s team remained fairly hushed. We focused our energies, rather, on exquisite editorial and fundraising tasks to deliver quite an important message: Open Access ethnographic theory is a reality, and it will be for the years to come.

To the ones who—at Year Zero—wondered whether we could last for more than a handful of issues, whether we could sustain the level of excellence of the inaugural volume, whether an open access journal could ever deliver professional quality editing or output, we are pleased to respond twelve months later with a towering third release of 25 pieces and more than 500 pages of high-end scholarship, all professionally copyedited. A double special issue on the paradox of “value(s),” with contributors such as Joel Robbins, Anna Tsing, Michael Lambek, George Marcus, Chris Gregory, Marshall Sahlins, André Iteanu, David Graeber, and other dazzling authors is currently in production, to be followed by a group of equally exciting accepted manuscripts. To the ones who were speculating on whether this lavish feast could last or not, whether Hau was a club for favoring certain departments, schools, theoretical orientations, or even cliques, we respond with a third issue hosting a body of junior yet brilliant scholars, whose names—we confide—you shall hear often in the years to come. To the ones speculating whether Hau was a project burning bright yet extinguishing swiftly, we are pleased to introduce a new organ of governance: an External Advisory Board—composed by a group of authoritative scholars, editors of esteemed journals, Chairs and Heads of anthropology departments, previous or current book series editors, a pro bono lawyer, an ex-president of the AAA, an open access pundit, and representatives of funding bodies—that shall guarantee the survival of the project way beyond the current editorial cycle and stamina of the creators. Within the space of a year the Hau project has released sixty-five manuscripts including peer-reviewed articles, colloquia, forums, unedited manuscripts, translations, and reprints. In less than twelve months, Hau introduced two OA book series—Masterclass in Social Anthropology and Classics of Ethnographic Theory—becoming a de facto OA anthropology press. Hau’s last issue received 24,000 visits and sits on the podium among the most liked anthropological pages on Facebook. Someone even inaugurated a blog for critically debating Hau’s intellectual project—awarding us the greatest possible honor. The Hau-Network of Ethnographic Theory (Hau-N.E.T.) is now composed of ten institutions from the United States, Europe, and Oceania, with more on their way. During the last year, Hau covered a wide range of geographical regions and intellectual topics, in true cosmopolitan fashion, hosting contributions by scholars from China and Japan (cf. this issue), debates on Open Access by leading figures in the field, and reprinting classics or translating work for easy access and use for students and teachers. We tried to do all this in the guise of independent publishers, refraining from academic politics, shunning nepotistic patronage and factions, and relying adamantly on an impartial peer-review process. The latter has been brilliantly carried out with the help of one of the most authoritative (and larger) editorial boards in the world, composed by members committed to supporting OA scholarship and safeguarding its intellectual rigor by acting as the first port of call for reviewing the journal’s manuscripts.

Today Hau receives more manuscripts (and special issue or themed section proposals) than it can publish, coming from a wide range of approaches and schools of anthropology. It is free for everyone, including your informants; it is fast, normally taking between six and ten months from submission to publication; professional, since copyediting and typesetting are performed by a proficient and salaried staff; it is indexed on Google Scholar, H-Index, Open Folklore, and by membership on the Directory of the Open Access Journals; and it is funded and supported by a worldwide network of universities and research foundations. Besides a peer-reviewed section of articles, Hau offers an unparalleled access to unedited work, reprints, translations, and lively Colloquia and Forum sections. And how is this all put together? By editors collaborating from the United States, Europe, Asia, and Australia. Our new Deputy Managing Editor, Sean Dowdy, did his editorial work while conducting fieldwork in an Assamese village in India. The Managing Editor, Stéphane Gros, coordinated the production efforts while tending to a newborn. Yours truly has been editing and planning this last issue while moving between Switzerland, Italy, Norway, and the United States.

The issue

This issue shows how great diversity can be achieved without sacrificing Hau’s ethos and intellectual project. The peer-reviewed articles contained in this issue are divided into two sections. The first includes a group of intellectually stimulating, original articles, many of which feature ethnographies of Western contexts. Sherry Ortner’s article deals with “movies that matter” by observing the American independent film industry as cultural critique of society-at-large. Caroline Humphrey’s article returns to Pitt-Rivers’ notion of gratuity/grace and the free gift to present that extra element contained in the notion of “favors” in postsocialist higher education in Russia and Mongolia. Hayder Al-Mohammad and Daniela Peluso give us a sophisticated analysis that conflates epistemological and existential inquiries into one by presenting the concepts of “entanglements of lives” and mutual care in the “rough ground” of the everyday in postinvasion Iraq. Jacob Copeman and Deepa S. Reddy elegantly present the dramatic ethical decisions and receptions surrounding two attempted body donations for organ transplantations in India. Susan Lepselter presents us with narratives of alien captivity in the United States, showing how even fuzzy notions like “the uncanny” can be critically unfolded through a nuanced ethnography and a reliance on a vernacular theory of power. Finally, we are honored to host David Graeber’s 2006 Malinowski Memorial Lecture—a lecture series traditionally published in the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute—which provides a revolutionary approach to bureaucracy as (the lack of) imaginary identification.

What is happening in French anthropology these days? I am sure many of our readers wondered. At Hau we are honored to host a group of brilliant—and junior—France-based scholars in a themed section, our second set of peer-reviewed articles. Their nuanced ethnographies explore situations of interactional uncertainty or situational misunderstandings, namely contexts in which the grounds of an interaction cannot be taken for granted, yet mysteriously act as productive ground for opaque forms of “sociality.” How can we ever be sure that a benign handshake does not in fact hide malevolent intentions? These are some of the issues the contributors address in this section, which is outlined in an excellent preface by the sections’ editors François Berthomé, Julien Bonhomme, and Grégory Delaplace. The contributors to this themed section deal with opaque situations that generate uncertainty from the participants’ points of view. Yet, they refuse to consider uncertainty exclusively as a problem to be solved, but rather as one that enables actors to negotiate or even create relationships. In brief, the contributions of Hau’s first themed section stress the productivity of uncertainty at the heart of human sociality. The ethnographies cover a wide geographical range and themes from Amazonian joking relationships and bureaucracy (De Vienne, Allard) to ideas of flirtation and lying in Morocco (Carey), ritual initiations and tricksters in Guinea (Gabail), rumors of penis snatchers and killer mobile phone numbers in Gabon and Senegal (Bonhomme), and reach out to transspecies ethnography from Siberia’s reindeer herding systems (Stépanoff) to beetle fighting in Thailand (Rennesson, Grimaud, and Césard).

One year ago, following Hau’s inaugural launch, we received an email praising the launch of the journal yet pointing out an analogy that the first automobiles looked a lot like carriages. Thus, the email continued, it was not a surprise that Hau looked like a printed journal, and still did not know how to use the internet for presenting scholarship, where printed text could be supplemented by motion pictures, sound, and extensive cross-references. Six months later, Hau introduced sound files on Amazonian myths and songs attached to Michael Uzendoski’s essay on Amazonian textuality, territory, and myth. This issue exploits further the potential of online scholarship by presenting a wonderful integration between ethnographic account and visual anthropology through Rennesson, Grimaud, and Césard’s outstanding article on the beetle-fighting scene in Thailand, where video clips are embedded within the text and supplementary files are available for download. Many other articles in our new issue extensively cross-reference other OA sources.

Who, in the rest of the world, would know what is happening in Japanese anthropology these days if not for Hau? The new issue’s Forum features a truly cosmopolitan discussion concerning the recent reception of the “ontological turn” in Japanese anthropology, its own ethnographic and theoretical inflections thereupon, and its unique intellectual genealogies. An introduction to this new field of scholarship in Japan (Jensen and Morita) is joined by Miho Ishii’s dazzling exemplary essay that takes on the predominant ontological approach of thinking through things by opening up the ground for thinking with things ethnographically, and an interview with Naoki Kasuga, one of Japan’s most preeminent anthropologists. Responses by Annelise Riles and Marilyn Strathern follow these articles with further insight, panache, and intellectual provocation.

The other sections in the new issue likewise emphasize the depth and breadth of ethnographic theory on a global scale. The Colloquia section includes a superb engagement with classic Maussian themes via an inquiry into Polynesian and Melanesian material from the Maori hau to the Samoan sau and other sacred gifts (Tcherkézoff), and a masterful analysis of anthropological discourses on Indian society (Berger), which argues how a detachment from ethnography may lead theory to lose its heuristic value. In an ethnography of Kwaio cultural exegesis, Roger M. Keesing’s unedited (and recently re-discovered) manuscript deals with a brilliant turn in symbolic anthropology: the idea that symbols are webs of signification as well as mystification, or how an anthropology of meaning should also foreground an anthropology of incomprehension. The translations are from two of the most brilliant Italian anthropologists ever: one from past, Ernesto de Martino, who deals with the construction of futures and “crisis of presence,” and one contemporary and very much active Italian anthropologist in France, Carlo Severi, who presents a tour de force on the arts of memory from Vico to Native American mental artifacts. This issue concludes with the overdue open-access release of Terry Turner’s seminal article “The social skin.”


As usual, our heroic team of copyeditors, editorial interns, editorial assistants, and proofreaders (Michelle Beckett, Teodora Hasegan, Bree Blakeman, Luis Felipe Murillo, Gun Shin, and Randolph Mamo) has been led by Stéphane Gros, and this time, supported by the skillful eyes of the reliable Sean Dowdy, our new Deputy Managing Editor. Phil Swift took great care of the Reprints and Forum sections. Gratitude goes to reviewers, editors of the themed sections, friendly presses, and organizations. This issue owes much gratitude and appreciation to the financial support of our new and old Hau-N.E.T. partners, the International Social Research Foundation, and the Sutasoma Trust. For granting permissions to reprint previously published material we are grateful to the journal Aut Aut, Éditions de l’EHESS, the Tuzin Archive at the University of San Diego, Felicia Keesing, Terence Turner, and Temple Smith Publishers.

Hau: Year Two shall bring more free gifts: a new website, an outstanding Book Symposium which shall cast a new light on what reviews are and how collective debates around a text are engaged, a move from two gargantuan to three large issues per year, a competition for special issues, and more exciting initiatives which we are negotiating with departments, publishing presses, funding agencies, and other research foundations. Yet above everything, Hau shall always host an open and accessible space for you. The gift will remain free.