HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory

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HAU: The Journal of Ethnographic Theory  
Logo of HAU Journal
Edited byEditorial Collective: Luiz Costa, Deborah Durham, and Mariane Ferme
Publication details
Publication history
University of Chicago Press and Society for Ethnographic Theory (United Kingdom)
2011-2017, subscription and "free access" journal from 2018
H Index: 18
Standard abbreviations
Hau J. Ethnogr. Theory

HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory is a triannual peer-reviewed academic journal, published open-access until 2017 by the Society for Ethnographic Theory.[1] The Society also publishes HAU Books,[2] a Book Series with over 37 titles which remain committed to open access anthropology.

HAU took inspiration for its name from Marcel Mauss' usage of the Māori concept of hau in his book The Gift, partly to suggest the way in which the journal itself is a gift and partly to place productive, open-ended ethnographic encounters with conceptual difference at the center of anthropological knowledge production.[3][4]

HAU was founded in 2011 by Giovanni da Col (2011-2019) and Justin Shaffner (2011-2012). As of January 2019 the journal is ranked seventh in Google Scholar's top publication list for anthropology (fourth among the socio-cultural anthropology journals).[5] The journal is abstracted and indexed in Scopus, with a 2017 citescore index of 1.51.[6]

Ethnographic theory[edit]

According to Giovanni da Col and David Graeber, ethnographic theory entails "the destruction of any firm sense of place that can only be resolved by the imaginative formulation of novel worldviews”.[7] Ethnographic theory differs from theoretical approaches where situations are bracketed out, described in vague or misleading terms, and occasional or ritual statements are erected to “cosmologies” and couched in the idiom of reported belief, and we are never told who said what, when, and in which context a certain statement is generative of a wider cultural insight.[8] HAU has attempted to return to what it considered to be anthropology’s strongest intellectual suit: its ability to take up the fruits of ethnography and value this participant observation in other people’s lives to enrich the sense of what being human means. It wanted to ask again the big questions that once animated that manifold branch of knowledge called anthropology.

Open access model[edit]

The journal was founded with a commitment to open dissemination of anthropology "...HAU is committed to becoming an Open Access alternative to commercial publishing in anthropology by taking advantage of the lower costs of production that internet distribution allows".[9] The open access publishing model, called HAU-NET, relied on income from key supporters to meet publication costs - mainly anthropology departments and libraries, totaling about 40 by 2017.[10] It was reported in 2017 that this had not gone well in several respects with some core funding diminishing. The shift to a large university non-profit publisher and a sustainable hybrid model which could offer both free access after each issue release and gold open access to each issue’s key articles was the outcome of the HAU Advisory Board deliberations.[10] In a turnaround, commitment to OA publishing then took second place to the intellectual project: "Even if the current funding could allow open access to the journal and the book series for another one or two years, the difficulties of ensuring long-term sustainability encountered by other open journals and projects ... do not offer much hope at this historical conjuncture."[10]

Allegations and Controversies[edit]

In June 2018, the former and founding Editor-at-large, David Graeber posted an apology expressing regret at not having previously publicly denounced a work environment considered to be abusive by a group of staff and volunteers.[11] Immediately thereafter, two anonymous letters by possibly up to 11 former voluntary interns and staff were released containing allegations against the current Editor-in-Chief of habitual acts of bullying [12]. Shortly thereafter a report was leaked from the former HAU Executive Council describing an earlier "close investigation of recent complaints against HAU and its editor", that had considered the now publicly aired complaints. The report concluded that there was no evidence of bullying, sexual harassment, nor of financial misconduct.

Carole McGranahan, the Chair of the executive council then oversaw the correspondence of the Editor-in-Chief for six months, and judged the problem of any potentially abusive communication to have been solved. The former Executive Council concluded their investigations, and said the allegations of bullying had shown "the disturbing extent to which these complaints are shaped by negative gossip, hearsay, and personal animosities." The report added that the Executive Council of the journal had considered taking legal action against the allegations which they considered defamatory, but chose not to pursue the case.[13][14]

On Twitter #hautalk quickly gained a following. A number of members of the editorial board resigned their posts. On June 29th 2018, the Board of Trustees of the Society for Ethnographic Theory (which had replaced the External Advisory Board) published a statement announcing that to restore public confidence in the journal the editor was suspended, the terms of his resignation were being negotiated.[15] Further there were external calls for a new investigation to be launched into the allegations of financial and personal misconduct. The Chair of the Executive Council who investigated the case in December 2017 and January 2018 reported that "there appears to have been a concerted effort from individuals outside of this Board, but associated (currently or formerly) with HAU’s editorial team" to demand the editor's "resignation under threat of public scandal" and that HAU had hired a new treasurer in late 2017 who found "no evidence of any financial improprieties. Other allegations are either new to me or are ones for which I have yet to learn of any evidence or have already received counter-evidence, and thus appear to be based in rumor, exaggeration, and possible fabrication."[16]

The collective critique of HAU generated on #hautalk precipitated a wider-spread discussion and the acknowledgement across the discipline of the precarity of junior scholars who work in volunteer positions, as did those on staff at HAU. Well-attended roundtable discussions held at professional meetings (AAA 18 November 2018, San Jose; 14 August EASA, Stockholm[17]) considered the claims by HAU staff to be important as examples of an 'industry-wide' problem. The controversy sparked statements of concern over labor practices in the discipline of anthropology, and practices of open access by several groups of scholars,[18] [19][20][21]. A public statement called for the suspension of HAU's EiC and an external inquiry into the allegations, the publication of the new constitution and details of governance of both HAU and Society for Ethnographic Theory (SET) to allow for wider membership, as well as the full reconsideration of the limits of the newest version of the Open Access policy. The statement was signed by more than 600 scholars, including a large number of doctoral candidates.[22]

In a statement dated 25th October 2018, the Interim Board of Trustees unsuspended the Editor-in-Chief and responded to the allegations by stating that "a) HAU never had a physical office, members of the editorial staff were scattered across the globe, and almost all interactions were (and are) virtual. Hence, former staff were asked by email to submit complaints and documentation of misconduct. The EAB found no evidence of financial wrongdoing or sexual harassment. Those who had been hired on an honorarium basis were financially compensated. What remained were complaints about the quality of the EiC’s interactions with staff, which have subsequently been addressed". The Board added that, following the allegations, the former Chair of the Board of Trustees, Carlo Severi, sent emails to all current employees of HAU and asked if they had any concerns with regard to work environment issues. No employee came forward with any complaint.[23]

On November 14th, the Board of Directors announced a number of important changes to the organisation, including the introduction of a radical separation of the editorial from the executive domain; the elimination of the position of the Editor-in-Chief and the introduction of editorial collectives, the appointment of an Ombudsman, the introduction of a whistleblower policy and the elimination of any volunteer unpaid work.[24] The statement also aimed to clarify a number of falsities circulating on social media by disclosing the articles of the original constitution of the old HAU unincorporated association, approved by the External Advisory Board. According to the Constitution, the External Advisory Board had the power to remove and sanction any editor or to refuse the renewal of the Editor-in-Chief's mandate every three years. The statement added that the Editor-in-Chief was resigning both as editor and director of the company and offered to remain a member of the editorial collective for a transitional period.[24]

By late 2018 two different boards, composed of a diverse group of eminent professors claimed to have reviewed all the gathered evidence and testimony and decided to exonerate da Col. On 14th December 2018 the Board of Directors issued a final statement clarifying that da Col was fully reinstated as Editor-in-Chief on November 11 and was cleared of all allegations. [25]

Use of Māori religious concept "Hau"[edit]

Also in 2018 a collective of New Zealand and Māori scholars published a statement criticizing the journal's choice of name, since hau is a Māori religious concept, and since no Māori scholars had been consulted or involved in the process of establishing the journal.[26] Arguing that this Maori concept has become anthropologist's common parlance and the journal had stated the original inspiration came from Marcel Mauss's usage of the term, the Board of Trustees responded with a statement apologizing for not running a thorough consultation. They also clarified that a Māori scholar, Paul Tapsell, was invited to join the journal's first editorial board and endorsed the project.[27]


  1. ^ "Letter from the new Board of Trustees". Haujournal.org. Retrieved 7 September 2018.
  2. ^ "Home - HAU Books". HAU Books. Retrieved 7 September 2018.
  3. ^ Golub, Alex (February 3, 2012). "HAU and the opening of ethnographic theory". Savageminds.org. Retrieved December 6, 2016.
  4. ^ Da Col, Giovanni; Dowdy, Sean M.; Gros, Stéphane (2013). "Father Christmas rejuvenated". HAU. 3 (3). doi:10.14318/hau3.3.000.
  5. ^ "Anthropology". Google Scholar. Google. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
  6. ^ "Content overview". Scopus. Elsevier. Retrieved 2016-12-12.
  7. ^ Da Col, Giovanni; Graeber, David (2011). "Foreword: The return of ethnographic theory". HAU. 1 (1). doi:10.14318/hau1.1.001.
  8. ^ Da Col, Giovanni (2017). "Two or three things I know about Ethnographic Theory". HAU. 7 (1). doi:10.14318/hau7.1.002.
  9. ^ DA COL, Giovanni; GRAEBER, David (1 September 2011). "Foreword". HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory. 1 (1): vi–xxxv. doi:10.14318/hau1.1.001. Retrieved 7 September 2018.
  10. ^ a b c Col, Giovanni da (1 December 2017). "Free gifts that must be invented". HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory. 7 (3): i–vii. doi:10.14318/hau7.3.001. Retrieved 7 September 2018.
  11. ^ "HAU Apology". Davidgraeber.industries. Retrieved 7 September 2018.
  12. ^ https://www.gov.uk/workplace-bullying-and-harassment. It is a complex problem in workplaces, which ACAS discusses in it most recent position paper as a challenge for management to resolve with wider measures, http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=1864
  13. ^ "HAU 15 June". Pastebin.com. 6 June 2018. Retrieved 7 September 2018.
  14. ^ "Statement from the former HAU Executive Council 18 June 2018". Pastebin.com. 7 August 2018. Retrieved 7 September 2018.
  15. ^ "Statement of Hau Board of Trustees June 29th 2018". Haujournal.org. Retrieved 7 September 2018.
  16. ^ "HAUleaks on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 7 September 2018.
  17. ^ https://www.easaonline.org/conferences/easa2018/events
  18. ^ https://culanth.org/fieldsights/1525-from-reciprocity-to-relationality-anthropological-possibilities
  19. ^ Graan, A., Hartikainen, E. I., Kallinen, T., Laakkonen, V., Tammisto, T., Tuominen, P., & Eräsaari, M. (2018). on open access publishing. Suomen Antropologi: Journal of the Finnish Anthropological Society, 43(1), 1-5.
  20. ^ "Respect, care, and labor in collaborative scholarly projects". somatosphere.net. Retrieved 7 September 2018.
  21. ^ Flaherty, Colleen (June 19, 2018). "Anthropology Journal's Editorial Board Responds to Abuse Allegations". Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
  22. ^ Gershon, Ilana; Graeber, David; Green, Sarah; Martin, Keir (n.d.). "Public Statement on Hau and Open Access Publishing". Google Docs. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
  23. ^ Borneman, John; Fardon, Richard; Haeri, Niloofar; Kapila, Kriti; Pottage, Alain; Taylor, Anne-Christine (25 October 2018). "Statement of Hau Board of Trustees October 25, 2018". haujournal.org. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
  24. ^ a b Kapila, Kriti; Borneman, John; Haeri, Niloofar; Taylor, Anne-Christine (14 November 2018). "Statement of the new Board of Directors, November 14th 2018". haujournal.org. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
  25. ^ Kapila, Kriti; Borneman, John; Haeri, Niloofar; Taylor, Anne-Christine (13 December 2018). "Statement of the Board of Directors, 13 December 2018". haujournal.org. Retrieved 15 January 2019.
  26. ^ "An Open Letter to the HAU Journal's Board of Trustees". Asaanz.org. Retrieved 7 September 2018.
  27. ^ "Answer to the Māori scholars - Mahi Tahi". Haujournal.org. Retrieved 7 September 2018.

External links[edit]