HAU and the future of anthropological communication, pt. II

One of the problems plaguing anthropology today is its state of perpetual indecision. This is probably not a new problem, but it does have serious consequences for how we write and publish. What is the center of sociocultural anthropology today? Where is the discipline going? What standards can we use to assess the work of young scholars? No one has the answer to these questions, or at least not enough people have the same answer. We are resistant to rely on quantitative measures of citations because we are allergic to quantifying social life, and we seem to be willing to go to any length to avoid carefully reading and judging scholars work on the basis of our own evaluation of it. As a result we fall back on reputation and use ‘prestige’ of a few journals to measure a job candidate’s (or tenure candidate’s) strengths. As a result people are forced to publish in Wiley-controlled journals until they get tenure and finally get a chance to publish what they want, where they want it.

Where is our discipline going? The good news is that because we can’t currently answer this question, we have a chance to try to do so in open and transparent forums.

In other words, we need to not just notice open access publications, and just resolve to cite them, we need to read them and talk about them: the key activity that comes between these two moments. The key to publicizing open access scholarship is to make it part of the conversation.

I’d like to get the ball rolling by trying an experiment. Every week for the foreseeable future I will (if all goes well) point to a piece of open access scholarship and suggest that everyone read it, say on Wednesday. On Friday I’ll post an entry saying what I think of it, and ask you all to comment. I’ll let the comments run until Wednesday, when I’ll post another piece. Sound easy enough, eh?

There’s no better place to start than HAU, which as come out of the gate so strongly. In particular, David Graeber and Giovanni Da Col’s introduction to the first volume is well worth reading for the vivid prose and possibly-groundbreaking paradigm of ‘ethnographic theory’. Best of all, the presentation is very brief, only three pages long. Are you telling me you can’t read three pages before Friday? So come on and grab an OA PDF of the introduction, read the first three pages (and of course as much of the rest as you want) and stop by the blog on Friday afternoon (Honolulu time) to tell me what you think. Who knows, it could be the start of a beautiful relationship.

Alex Golub is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. His book Leviathans at The Gold Mine has been published by Duke University Press. You can contact him at rex@savageminds.org

8 thoughts on “HAU and the future of anthropological communication, pt. II

  1. For purposes of fairness – it was mainly by Giovanni, and I think the first three pages entirely was. Not that I wouldn’t love to be able to take credit because it’s great but fair’s fair.

  2. Rex, great idea. I am totally on board. One small problem. When I clicked on the OA PDF link what I got was what looks like a great piece by David Graeber on Shilluk Kingship, not the introduction you mention.

  3. I accidentally included the wrong link initially, but corrected it about 5 minutes after I posted – please refresh your browsers to make sure you get the latest version. From this computer the links work properly now.

    If that doesn’t work let me know and I’ll see if there is something fancy I need to do with the cache.

  4. I agree where you say that, “we need to not just notice open access publications, and just resolve to cite them, we need to read them and talk about them: the key activity that comes between these two moments. The key to publicizing open access scholarship is to make it part of the conversation.” I’m not sure if you’re aware, but the The World Council of Anthropological Associations (WCAA) is working towards exactly that goal–to make anthropological research openly accessible by accumulating a list of anthropological journals, many of which are open access, at http://www.wcaanet.org/publications/mem_pub.php, you may also want to check out this post on their blog at http://www.wcaanet.org/blog/.

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