The Newest HAU: An Embarrassment of Riches
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.
Don’t believe me? When was the last time you saw a journal — or a book, or really any form of scholarly communication — with names like this: Anna Tsing, Tanya Luhrmann, Webb Keane, Michael Jackson, Joel Robbins, Veena Das, Sydney Mintz, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Louis Dumont? And those are just the names that I think middle-brow American cultural types will recognize. People looking to the continent (including the UK) will find James Laidlaw, Alain Testart, Valerio Valeri, Chris Gregory, Ton Otto, and André Iteanu.
There are more authors in the latest issue of HAU and I don’t mean to skip their names here because I think their contribution is any less important (sorry Bob and Steffen!). I just don’t want to guild the lily. It’s ridiculous who is in this issue.
The reason there are so many authors is because many of the pieces are short. The reason the pieces are so short is because the journal, like Gaul, is divided into three parts: the first is a selection of articles organized around the theme of value, organized by Ton Otto. Otto is responsible for the important (and unfortunately over-priced) Experiments in Holism edited volume as well as a few other collections — he does a good job of rounding up talent. The next two sections are new book review forums: each one features a series of two to five page comments on a chosen book. This is not the first time this format has been tried — the journal Pacific Studies has given this sort of treatment to Pacific books for some time — but it is the first time in a while that it has become a regular feature of a major journal with a general audience. And of course, if Webb Keane, Veena Das, Michael Jackson, Tanya Luhrman, Steve Sangren, Tobias Kelly, et. al. have taken the time to write about a book then you probably have a good idea of what should be on your bookshelf, shouldn’t you?
And of course, this is just the journal. As I mentioned above HAU also has two other publication series: the classics and masterclass series. While some of this material may be more focused on specialists than a general audience, there is genuine value in getting important work out and in open access form. And of course I could be totally wrong in assuming that people won’t be writing about perspectivism for generations to come. The next few volumes that will come out will include, iirc, a book by Marilyn Strathern written in English, which I expect will draw a wide audience, and some collected papers of Valerio Valeri, who surely deserves far more consideration than he has received so far.
I know that some people at HAU sometimes worry that the journal is not being read as widely as it should be because people are not used to going beyond the entrenched two or three journals that they are used to. But if this really is a problem, I think they must surely be wrong about the cause. The biggest problem with HAU today is shear amount of good material the group produces: its overwhelming. And increasingly these days, its more and more important to more and more people. Do yourself a favor and check it out.