A doomed genius taken before his time. One of the last line of ancient Roman noblemen revealing his secrets. Hidden writings once known only to an elite few, now revealed for all to see. It sounds so much like a Dan Brown novel that you mistake it for an April fools joke, but it’s not. There were so many fake announcements and releases on April first this year that one thing got lost in the shuffle: the actually really real release of the second monograph in HAU’s “Classics of Ethnographic Theory”, Rites and Annals: Between History and Anthropology by Valerio Valeri. Valeri’s work deserves to be widely read today because of its own intrinsic quality, as well as for the kind of rigorous, sophisticated, and humanistic approach to anthropology it exemplifies. Valeri’s work combined ethnographic erudition with high-level theorizing, wrapped up with a sophisticated prose style and a commitment to scholarship that exploded American binaries of science versus the humanities, objectivity versus subjective expression. For that reason, the release of Rites and Annals gives us a chance not only to read Valeri’s work, but to think about how it fits into the current approaches our discipline is taking.
It was with a genuine sense of loss that I read over the weekend that Stanley Tambiah had passed away. Tambiah was a model anthropologist, a person whose personal life and work exemplified everything that our discipline can and should be. He was an area studies specialist whose monographs on life in rural Thailand expanded our ethnography of this area. He was a theorist who knit together British and American theories of symbolism and ritual at a key point in anthropological theory. And he also became a public intellectual who published substantive work on pressing issues of the day in books and articles about ethnic violence in India and Sri Lanka. Above all, he will be remembered by his colleagues as role model of the generous scholar and human being. His generosity, kindness, and humility seemed to combine the best of all the different cultures he lived in, from English gentleman to humble Buddhist to Sri Lankan Christian. His loss gives us a chance to reflect on the values he lived and that we, in turn, ought to continue to follow. Continue reading
In November, 2011 I watched a slightly wild-eyed Italian man mount the stage of a Montreal hotel banquet hall and announce to the world that he was launching a new open access journal that would fundamentally alter the world of anthropology, and perhaps the world at large. Having watched previous world-changing initiatives burn up when entering the atmosphere of the realityverse, I was a little skeptical. What I wanted to see, I claimed, wasn’t the first issue of HAU, it was the fifth. Starting something is easy — keeping it growing is hard.
Last week, the fifth issue of HAU appeared.
Congratulations and mahalo to Giovanni, Stéphane, Sean, Holly, Philip, and the people who worked to produce HAU. I think I owe Giovanni a drink.
I am not an artless enthusiast for the open access journal HAU. I didn’t post a fawning blog entry when they released the first number of their Masterclass Series, “Cosmological Perspectivism in Amazonia and Elsewhere” by Eduardo Viveiros de Castro” because, frankly, the meat of it has been published elsewhere and I don’t think perspectivism will have a big impact on anthropologists outside of VdC’s circle of trufans. I didn’t make a big deal of their reprint of Prytz-Johansen’s 1954 “The Maori and His Religion In Its Non-Ritualistic Aspects” because, despite my enthusiasm for the piece as a Pacifist, I don’t think (alas!) that tons of people were interested in it. But the latest issue of HAU deserves attention.