Why an open access publishing cooperative can work

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons | © Giovanni da Col. ISSN 2049-1115 (Online). DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.14318/hau5.2.001



Giovanni DA COL, SOAS and University of Cambridge


In Lost in translation: An illustrated compendium of untranslatable words from around the world (2014), Ella Frances Sanders introduces the Japanese word tsundoku, uttered to conjure the feeling of “leaving a book unread after buying it, typically piled up together with other unread books.” For four years I have been asked why HAU issues had to be over 500 pages and contained far too many articles, making it impossible to read them exhaustively. I have two reasons that justify my choice, which I deem constitutive of the journal’s success. The first is that a display of prosperity and affluence generates further prosperity and a fellowship of affluence. I am afraid, dear readers, but this is a phenomenological truth—an asthetic event—running from feasting through cornucopias, and it keeps people in awe. The fact that some readers are even considering to delve into a whole issue of HAU is nothing but flattering. The second reason for HAU’s opulence draws on Umberto Eco’s (1995) famous reaction to the question posed by the visitors of his vast library, “What a lot of books! Have you read them all?” Obviously not, but he always knew where to find the knowledge he needed. Indeed, a collection of books is not a possession but a research tool. This leads me to an astute reflection by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (2010): the more you know, the more you grow older, the larger is your accumulation of unread books. Taleb calls such a collection of unread books an antilibrary, and someone who focuses on unread books an antischolar. Why? Because a scholar conscious of the power of his antilibrary is not concerned with treating knowledge as a property to possess or consume; rather, he is soothed by the unknown. An antischolar does not care about how much you know, but how much you don’t know—and how to find out that information when you need it. So let me conclude this divertissement by saying that one of the great advantages of open access publishing is that the lower cost of production generates more genuine possibilities of an open antilibrary. The long editorial manifesto co-authored by [ii]Alberto Corsín Jiménez, John Willinsky, Dominic Boyer, Alex Golub, and myself that follows this short note—the shortest since the journal’s foundation—highlights a possible scenario of an open antilibrary of 30 journals that may someday inhabit the current AAA journal portfolio.

This HAU issue inaugurates a new Debates section with a shrewd riposte by David Graeber to Eduardo Viveiros de Castro’s pungent comments in his Strathern Lecture, “Who is afraid of the ontological wolf?” Andrew Kipnis’ debate contribution follows with a defense of Latour’s theory of agency against some “detractors” who contributed to the special section “Anthropological Knots,” edited by Sarah Green and published in HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, Volume 4 (3), 2014.

In our Articles section, Nadia Fadil and Mayanthi Fernando inquire into the proliferations of the notion of “everyday” in the anthropology of Islam by examining the epistemological consequences of this approach, which reverberates with the recent focus on the “ordinary” in anthropology’s so-called “ethical turn.” Laura Deeb and Samuli Schielke respond to the authors’ provocations. Jane Parish challenges the umbrella-concept of “occult economies”: rather than being in awe of the mysterious workings of the marketplace, Akan occult practices fully engage with American mass production and neoliberal orthodoxy. Through an ethnography of bogus elections in Nagaland (Northeast India), Jelle Wouters reestablishes the value of Needham’s concept of polythetic categories for the study of modern democracies. Laurel Kendall and Jongsung Yang engage the relation between the religious and the material through Korean shaman painting and their capacity to animate images, while posing a nuanced distinction on what “animating” a thing actually is—an especially important distinction in a scholarly world dominated by an animistic frenzy. Leo Hopkinson presents a dazzling ethnography of boxing gyms in Montreal and Edinburgh. While skilfully rehabilitating the value of dualistic selfhood, Hopkinson shows how the Cartesian body has been employed as a straw man, and thus inhibited the possibility of studying the value of the mindbody dualism as a social construct.

The large special section that constitutes the core of this issue is edited by Jonathan Mair and Nicholas Evans. The contributors successfully question and reconfigure the hackneyed notion of “incommensurability” by rethinking its epistemological extension through a scrutiny of conceptual fields that will be familiar to HAU readers: ethics, value, borders, affinity, comparison.

The book symposium on Gabriella Coleman’s Hacker, hoaxer, whistleblower, spy: The many faces of Anonymous displays HAU’s desire to engage with crucial contributions in public anthropology, in particular with an ethnography of digital activism of enormous communal relevance. Nigel Dodd’s The social life of money, featured here in a book symposium edited by Gustav Peebles, is a brilliant compendium to decades of anthropological theories of money and a text that can be hardly ignored by students and faculty alike. The issue closes with a reprint of Robert McKinley’s classic essay “Human and proud of it!”—with a new appendix from the author—on the cosmologics of headhunting rites and the social definition of friends and enemies throughout Southeast Asia.


Eco, Umberto. 1995. How to travel with a salmon & other essays. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Sanders, Ella Frances. 2014. Lost in translation: An illustrated compendium of untranslatable words from around the world. Berkeley, CA: Teen Speed Press.

Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. 2010. The black swan: The impact of the highly improbable. New York: Random House