Online anthropology, specifically that rare variant Open Access - Open Comment, should be flourishing, what with the freedom of expression of social media.  Instead, it seems to be faltering.  This site, which I've long regarded as the gold standard for in-depth intellectual discussion of anthropological issues, is on permanent hold.  Its banner announcement that it is "migrating to NEW site!" has become a bit threadbare, since it was made over a year ago.  And when you click on, that takes you nowhere.  Surely the worst way to promote activity here is to tell visitors and participants that they're wasting their time on a soon-to-be extinct site.  And, especially, then failing to deliver.  What gives?  The only comparable Open Access - Open Content anthro site I know is (like that dead rock star) formerly known as "Savage Minds," but now given the ludicrous neologism, "anthrodendum."  The name change was precipitated by sensitive souls who found the punning allusion to Levi-Strauss offensive and threatening.  Now that the change has been made, however, three of its prominent editors have left or are leaving.  Hardly a promising move after having tuned the site to political perfection.  It remains to be seen whether the reduced editorial staff will carry on as before.  So, all in all, not promising developments for online anthropology.  

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Hi, Lee. Good to see you still up and kicking. Saw the notice about the publication of your new book. Looks good, and had there been an ebook, I would have bought it straightaway. Truth be told, I hardly ever buy a dead tree book any more.

Re online anthropology. It does seem to be in the doldrums. The brave few who set up sites like OAC when the idea was fresh and exciting have mostly, it seems, burned out and moved on to other things. Rex and Carole Macgranahan have both left Anthro{dendum}. Activity on PopAnth has slowed to a crawl. Facebook pages have thousands of nominal members, but very few of them post anything. 

Have you thought of setting up your own Peripheral Anthropology site, where folks would be free to debate in an Open Access-Open Comment environment? There are now lots of services that make it easy to set up a website. The problem is, as always, finding someone to take on the labor of love it takes to set it up and keep it going. 


   Many thanks for the kind words about Heading for the Scene of the Crash: The Cultural Analysis of America. Actually, it is available at other e-locations, including Google Play and (a Euro site); don't know why Amazon doesn't have it yet. 

   Regarding online anthro, it's occurred to me that a h-u-u-g-e improvement could be made if prominent journals that have already taken the plunge into an Open Access format would now add Open Comment.  Outfits like HAU and Cultural Anthropology.  The best online discussions seem to happen when a specific topic is in hand, a book or journal article for example.  Plucking a general topic out of the blue more often leads, predictably, to meandering exchanges.  Also, that way the author of the piece under discussion can contribute and get lots more commentary than would come from a review that appears a year or more after publication.  In any case, something needs to happen. 

Hi, Lee.

If we ask why Open Access journals don’t add Open Comment, isn’t the answer pretty simile? As OAC on Ning demonstrated, open comment produces occasional interesting discussion; but the norm is a flood of trivia and disinformation. The signal to noise ratio declines rapidly. 

What would happen, if for example, someone were to create an Open Comment forum separate from the Open Access journals. Contributors  would suggest articles found elsewhere online as topics, explaining as they introduce them why they seem particularly interesting. Discussion would be uninhibited and continue for at least one week, more if at least three participants continued the debate. (Three because discussions of interest to only two individuals can be properly taken off line and handled by email, etc.)

For readers the benefit would be that provided by curated sites that filter material and make it possible to find especially interesting items without having to slog through everything in, for example, the latest massive issue of HAU. For Open Access sites, it  would attract new readers while keeping the site itself unburdened with the trivia-and-disinformation flood mentioned above.

Just an idea. What do you think?

HAU.  Another one bites the dust.  See "HAU is dead. Long live OA initiatives" by caogris, June 13, at

Although a personality issue was involved in the disciplinary uprising against HAU, former proponents of the journal should reflect on three points: 

  -- any publication directed by editors, esp when they are answerable to an Editor-in-Chief (how un-HAU is that?) is already an example of power and prerogative at work.

  -- Although being Open Access until it sold out to Univ of Chicago Press, HAU was never Open Comment.  Writers and readers, however egalitarian in spirit, were consigned to an institutional relationship of seigneur vs. serf.  

  -- HAU proudly insisted on peer review.  As I've written at length, peer review in anthropology is a ludicrous fiction that requires one to believe that there exists an anthropological canon buttressed by shared standards of research -- of the means of producing an anthropological "truth."  Once you've bought into peer review, you've sold the farm.  The coin of Caesar.  

Hau; an interesting case where people wanted to do 'open access' but keep all the academic deckchairs in place: Hau was London-based and attracted established academics in the Golden Triangle who could claim they were doing something principled. All this reinforced the story that this group wanted to 'tell themselves about themselves' as the man said. Now we note a concerted attempt to sacrifice one 'personality' to the wild beasts as a blood sacrifice, while shifting the power play to Chicago.

You are right--Hau was never open access. In fact the whole initiative was atavistic.


   Judging by the anthropology community’s reaction to the HAU scandal, I may have mislabeled this Forum.  It should have been, “Hard Times for Anthropology.”  Forget the “Online” part. 

   A social body in crisis, here the HAU scandal, reveals the internal conflicts and contradictions that it masks in everyday life – as I recall Victor Turner made that point, which we must now renounce, with extreme prejudice as the CIA boys used to say, because he was, ah yes, an elderly white male insulated by white privilege (just imagine, a grubbing anthropologist elevated to the status of hobnobbing with the likes of Saul Bellow on that bastion of white privilege, the Univ of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought – they wouldn’t get away with that today).  With its nerves and muscle tissue laid bare for all to see, it should have been possible for critics to pursue the foundations of contemporary life that are implicated in the singular act of da Coll’s authoritarian rule.  As his critics claim – in the shrillest of tones – he didn’t bring all this on by himself.  But the explanations – I stop well short of calling them analyses – for the crisis are one shabby stereotype heaped on top of another:  all can be set right in the anthropological tribe if we embrace the sound bites of #anthrosowhite , #whitesettlertoxicity, and, cut to the chase, simply, #male`toxicity. 

   The phenomenon we describe as “humanity” is experiencing a fundamental transformation.  Social issues that are absolutely crucial to what counts as humanity going forward – the phenomenon of Trump, race/ethnicity, nationalism, religious zealotry, migration, biotechnology, abortion (US, not Europe) demand deep, i.e., serious treatment by individuals invested in the value of social thought rather than polemic and sound bites.  Regrettably, anthropologists don’t seem to rise to that occasion. 

   Rather than debate the ins and outs of the HAU affair, why not embark on a deeply serious discussion of these foundational issues surrounding what we are prepared to call “humanity”?  Anything else will be a cop out.   


Having said that, discussing humanity is what this website is for.

Just to add that Hau is now a pay-per-view journal run out of Chicago U.P. It is no longer in any sense open access. The oxymoronic 'free gift' perhaps showing its colours again.


   Regarding HAU, Bruce Kapferer has an incisive, measured treatment of the scandal:

“The HAU Complicity: An Event in the Crisis of Anthropology.”


There Kapferer refers to the embroiled editor of HAU as “anthropology’s Trump.”  Happily, a bit of light relief amidst the gnashing of teeth and bitter renunciation of those Old White Men who have dragged our tender discipline through the gates of Hell. 

    In proposing the topic, “Hard times for online anthropology” for this OAC Forum, I may have sat down in the middle of a process that has to be seen as a whole:

 -- The stodgy old PRINT relics (you’ll catch the allusion) authored by DWM (the fate of all us OWM) and published under the regal imprimatur of Blackwell are being displaced by Open Access online DIGITAL works (HAU, Cultural Anthropology, a couple of others). 

 -- Now, however, that Open Access format is found to be pre-arthritic, HAU being a prime example, controlled by the same hegemonic paternalists who were keeping us down.  The solution?  Go to blogs, second-generation DIGITAL avenues to escape the oppression baked into anthropology.  Hence, Footnotes Blog on Twitter:


“Anthropology blog for the multimodal, anticolonial, iconoclastic. | Strong supporter of ‘destabilizing efforts’.”


I’m clearly behind the times here, because I thought colonialism was a thing of the past, one awful system of oppression replaced by the shiny new ones of globalism and authoritarian social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.  Apparently not, since the banner of liberation, Footnotes, proclaims itself as “anticolonial.”  Aren’t we all?  Or, clearly, the insidious message here is that DWM and soon-to-be DWM have internalized it to the point that the entire discipline must be “decolonialized.” 

   A clarion call in this effort is from one Hannah Gould, who tweets:


Hey #anthropology I'm running a summer reading group for undergrads to upset the"traditional" (read: DWM) texts they're assigned. We start w/ @culanth "Towards a Fugitive Anthropology". Where would you go next? Looking for UG friendly papers that challenge @FootnotesAnthro

6:46 PM - 19 Oct 2018


So, a foundational text is to be a long essay proclaiming a “fugitive anthropology.”  This caught my attention, since from time to time I have called for an “outlaw anthropology” that attacks established knowledge and runs roughshod through the “safe spaces” – bastions of intellectual cowardice – that have sprung up across the land.  A “fugitive anthropology” would go in the opposite direction.  What does a fugitive do?  Runs and hides.  And in the current wisdom, the fugitive is, of course, a victim.  Victimization has pretty much become the lynch pin of what passes for anthropology today.  Social-cultural anthropology in the U.S. could more accurately be renamed “victimization studies.” 

    Print, digital one, digital two – indeed, hard time for anthropology. 

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