[Footnotes is excited to present a guest post by Jules Weiss. Weiss is an MA student in the Applied Anthropology program at Oregon State University. They are a transgender researcher studying queer and transgender punk in the Pacific Northwest and are concerned about punk politics and research on transgender communities in anthropology. They use they/them pronouns and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]
During the early discussions launched by the #hautalk anthropological social media tag, Métis scholar Zoe Todd issued a provocation over Twitter: “Someone tell me how many times Black and Indigenous women are cited in this latest issue of ‘top’ anthropology [the journal HAU]”. Bharat Venkat, assistant professor at the University of Oregon, noted in response that it would be additionally useful to see how many times people were publishing in multiple issues of the journal. This post is a response to Todd and Venkat’s call to account for quantitative markers of coloniality and privilege.
As a graduate student-teacher (and researcher), if I’m good at one thing, that thing is library database research. Becoming familiar with your field and learning how to situate your research ideas into existing scholarship requires fluency in keywords and search parameters – learning how to find that one article, author, or bit of data you know must exist to support your argument or identify the gap you’re trying to fill. These library databases operate on a simple rule: the more times your keyword shows up in an entry, the more relevant the entry must be, and the closer to the top of the list of results it goes.
In addition to this simple ranking, databases like Google Scholar have a feature that allows you to view a list of articles that have cited a particular article. The assumption is that papers that cite each other will be relevant to each other. After a few hours (or days) down this social network analysis rabbit hole, many researchers find themselves at a point of data saturation on citations, when papers and books continue to cite each other.
Academic canons are produced and reproduced through citation. Authors attribute bits of their writing and arguments to other authors, acknowledging the contributions of their fellow scholars and the elders of their fields. That researchers tend to draw from the same databases (the ones university libraries pay for, the ones easily accessible) poses a problem for a field that prides itself on unpacking common sense: it becomes difficult for new scholars and new ideas to come into common use and common citation if having already been cited is necessary to being found in the first place.
Citation marks accomplishment. The logic driving this is circular: the more important an idea, the more often that idea will be cited; the more often an idea is cited the more important the person who first wrote it is taken to be. Citations are a metric used to determine promotion in academic circles. The old adage “publish or perish” has a corollary: “get cited in other publications or you won’t get a promotion or have authority in your field.” But if circular searching and citation-saturation mean new works are harder to find, how do new scholars break into the canon? How do scholars from minoritized communities or less-renowned universities, who don’t have the privilege of having their names attached to their already-successful advisors’ writings during graduate work get their works cited? How do you break into a circular, closed system?
This is a problem systemic to academia as a whole, but it’s come to light most recently in the controversy surrounding the open-access journal HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory. This has resulted in an overdue conversation led by the anthropological social-media-sphere about academic abuse, the use of decolonial methodologies, alternative pedagogies and the nature of audit culture, the nature of “open access” and the question of which voices are helped and hindered by such a system.
In its opening issue the journal Hau stated that its name referenced Marcel Mauss’s “The Gift.” Through this naming, the journal came to reinforce the existing canon of anthropology. For scholars at the discipline’s centers of power, there is the celebration of lineages of knowledge that continue to support them and their ideas. For minoritized scholars, there is a familiar erasure in the lack of space made for ideas not steeped in this lineage. For while “hau” was taken up by Mauss, the term comes from Māori, who never consented to its use:
“We note that on the front page of your journal’s website it does not mention the Māori origins of the word, hau, simply describing it thus: ‘HAU takes its name from Mauss’ Spirit of the Gift, an anthropological concept that derives its theoretical potential precisely from the translational inadequations and equivocations involved in comparing the incomparable.’” (Association of Social Anthropologists of Aotearoa/New Zealand)
If HAU was supposed to be a gift, the free and open movement of knowledge through the field, that gift was made unwelcome by this association.
If our first question was to ask where citations are drawn from and who is acknowledged in the citation process, we can use HAU to illustrate inequality of citation and acknowledgement within anthropology. HAU may have been an “open access” journal, supposedly monetarily accessible to all students and scholars, and designed – or so they said – to invite alternative points of view into the canon. But in actuality, the cast of scholars publishing in HAU is relatively homogenous: majority Western, male, educated in the US or UK, and, of the scholars whose names are seen in the journal most often, citation-saturated.
Lists of statistics can be difficult to understand and reading charts (instead of stories) can be alienating. I offer the following paragraphs as explanations of the notable comparisons of the charts and graphs I’ve made, to add context to the quantitative representations.
Over 8 years and 19 issues of HAU, there have been 590 articles published by 486 unique authors. Of these, approximately 88.8% of the articles were single-authored. 107 of the 486 authors have published articles in more than one issue of the journal – a repeat publication rate of about 22%. Graphing some of this data reveals more glaring statistics about this group of multiple-appearance authors: 66% male [F.1], 40% American, about 75% from Europe, the US, or Canada [F.2]. Additionally, there’s a strong bias to university association – at least 16 multiple appearance authors received their PhDs from the University of Chicago and 5 are current faculty members at Chicago, coincidentally the university press that HAU recently came under the jurisdiction of [F.3].
Of these 107, the top 3 authors have a combined 32 articles in HAU attached to their names. Giovanni da Col, the recently-suspended “Editor-in-Chief”; Michael Lambek, member of the HAU Society; and Jane I. Guyer, also a Society member. Notably, none is American (though Lambek received his PhD in the U.S. and Guyer currently teaches in the U.S.). As the authors most visible in and accomplished through HAU, their citations can tell us something about who they as scholars acknowledge through citation. For this analysis, I have purposefully chosen the most recent single-authored non-editorial article for each author.
Giovanni da Col, whose name is attached to 18 articles over 15 issues of HAU, has mostly authored or co-authored editorial pieces for the journal. One of his few single-authored, non-editorial pieces, “Two or three things I know about Ethnographic Theory”, cites 33 separate authors, 19 of whom are authors that have also appeared in HAU. About 88% of these cited authors are men – the highest of the top 3. Michael Lambek’s article, “The hermeneutics of ethical encounters: Between traditions and practice,” is one of his 11 articles in HAU over 9 issues. It features 39 cited authors, about 72% being men and 11 having appeared elsewhere in HAU (the lowest of the top 3). Jane I. Guyer’s piece, “Durational ethics: Search, finding, and translation of Fauconnet’s ‘Essay on responsibility and liberty’”, in comparison, cites the least number of authors – 15 – and about 53% of these are women. She has 8 articles in 8 issues, and is the only author of the “top 3” to cite one of the other “top 3” authors in the pieces analysed (one of Lambek’s, not from HAU). All 3 of the “top 3” authors cite themselves, and all overwhelmingly cite American, European, and/or Canadian scholars [F.4] [F.5] [F.6] [F.7] [F.8].
Professor Yarimar Bonilla and graduate student Dawn Wells-Macapia at Rutgers University compiled data on HAU Books based on race and gender of authors. Their accounting reveals similar data to accounting on the journal itself: of 21 books, 17 authors were male and 19 were white. Of the non-white authors, 1 was a co-author (a Yanomami shaman), 1 was male, and 1 was female. These books were featured in book symposiums in the main journal, and the discussions and responses to them are included in my accounting of the journal.
It is important to keep in mind that quantitative accounting, and the audit culture that follows, is flawed in many ways. While the analysis I have done points to systemic inequalities, these counts do not accurately account for all facets of personal identity. As a transgender person, I am wary of assigning gender to strangers, especially in a binary fashion, and I cannot think of a respectful way to count sexual orientation without self-reporting. Counts of nationality do not reflect race and ethnicity or issues of diverse cross-cultural practices of racialization. Academics do not often self-report nationality or ethnicity and the counts I have made don’t allow for scholars to be multiracial or multi-national (which, of course, many are). The university someone obtained their PhD from does not reflect their experiences while obtaining that degree, or any abuse they may have faced in academic circles because of other aspects of their identity. These facts are especially important to consider in relation to HAU and in discussions of abuse in academia and decolonial methodologies. I would be among the first to say that these particular counts may push us in directions we don’t want to go.
But this does not render this accounting useless. The path that academic anthropology is currently following is one that keeps pushing too many people to the sides, which makes this counting a useful experiment. I offer these numbers, statistics, and charts not because they are “true” but because this quantitative data helps make visible the qualitative inequalities that are, to many of us, clearly wrong. To consider accounting and audit culture further, a different framework may help to identify and shake apart these tensions. In the remainder of this post, I want to offer an alternative framework, one that incorporates insights from punk music.
I have spent much of the last year among the punk music community in the Pacific Northwest region of the US, specifically with other transgender people who are members of this community. I study the ways that transgender punks embody both transgender and punk identities and how queer-positive and politically leftist punks dismantle conventional political practices. It is my sense that there is much that to be learned about accounting and citation from the methods of these queer punk communities. I offer the following analysis as an experiment in “punking” the gift of citation.
Punk is, at its core, political, and queer-focused/inclusive punk communities are moreso. “Being” a punk is about taking action, creating and continuously creating communities that provide space for minoritized populations. This work always needs to be done, and actually doing it is what makes someone punk. Real punks consider whose voices are being heard, when, and why, and they take action to uplift the voices of those who are often spoken over.
Many punk communities in the PNW follow the “DIY” mentality – the work of making the community, making bands, booking shows, etc. is done for the sake of doing it, not to make it big or sell out, but fair compensation for labor is not neglected. Normative divisions of labor are destabilized and people are recognized and celebrated for their contributions. The products of this labor are shared with the community in an open way. Music sets and shows often conclude with public thanks, for the audience for attending and donating, the organizers for organizing, and the bands for playing. Shows are often all-ages, designated “safer spaces”, and while donations for venues and bands are encouraged, people are usually not turned away for lack of funds. People make and are given a space to learn and grow through their shared experiences in the community.
Punk also acknowledges and uplifts the marginalized in communities by creating platforms that make people feel welcome and important. Posters for queer-centric and leftist shows often contain some variation of “femmes and queers to the front, safer space, no jerks, no creeps” and similar phrases. Punks stand up against injustice in their communities and amplify (as a music device) the previously unheard. Citation could be this space, a space to uplift and celebrate the voices of minoritized scholars, a space to promote applied research, and a space to engage in activism. This space-making itself could be a gift. We can punk citation by making it gift-giving and a space for activism work, and by making citation into an act of accomplice-ship instead of accomplishment-making.
The Journal for Ethnographic Theory was not this space, and this failure should be a call to action. HAU, or journals like it, can be made into this space. The audit culture can be punked. Scholars in positions of privilege and safety can take action to provide space and opportunity for minoritized scholars. Important work can be done because it is important, not only if there’s compensation attached. Academic writing and publishing could be the opportunities for learning and growing we have often envisioned them to be. Punk often seeks to be different and to find new ways of doing and making, especially in musical production. Accounting and citation can be remade and be different.
In the spirit of listening to alternative perspectives, click through for a short playlist of feminist, female-centric, queer, and transgender punk, in no specific order – folks seeking to make space for themselves and uplift the voices of minoritized people within punk. If you have the time, look further into the bands and the people behind them. Also, look up the song lyrics themselves, many of which are posted on bands’ Bandcamp pages or on various lyrics websites.
The ethic of DIY is central to the punk community I study. In this spirit, I offer you a link and some instructions, below, to an incomplete version of the spreadsheets I created over the course of this research. Download and change them as you wish. Comment or correct them. Use the spreadsheets for further analysis. Because of a lack of self-reporting and the nature of much of these identity categories I attempted to play with, I wasn’t able to directly address the provocations Todd and Venkat made over Twitter. Perhaps with more (or different) data and self-reporting on the part of interested members of the anthropology community, we can collaboratively build more thorough analyses and help make room for more diverse scholarly communities.
Suggestions for use of the spreadsheets:
- This link takes you to a folder that contains a spreadsheet labeled with the name of this blog post. The folder itself is open to editing, so you can upload additional documents to this folder to share with others. I encourage you to do this, especially if you generate any graphs or analysis based on this data.
- Documents added to the folder will also be able to be seen by people who access the folder, but the authors of individual documents can set sharing settings for view only, commenting, or editing by anyone with access for those individual documents.
- The spreadsheet is open to commenting, but not editing. Comments can be seen by other users but do not make permanent changes to the body of the document. This is intended as a way to keep the document intact and prevent deletions of large pieces of data.
- The spreadsheet can be downloaded as an Excel file and CSV, among other formats. You can also save a copy to your personal Google Drive account.
- Please be aware that the spreadsheet contains multiple pages. Scroll through at the bottom of the web page to see all of the individual data sheets.
- If you use this data elsewhere, please to link back to the original folder and/or this post so others know the original source of the data and can add to this conversation.
Thanks to those who have helped me, especially the folks in the Corvallis DIY community for teaching me about what it means to be a true punk. The featured image is compiled from event posters made by Indiana Laub and Caitlin Garets. The research for this post was sponsored by a department research grant to Dr. Emily Yates-Doerr from Oregon State University, and was conducted under the labor protections of the Coalition of Graduate Employees.
Linked Articles (in order of appearance)
- Hilary Agro, tweet with link to document “outlining the issues in #hautalk”. https://twitter.com/hilaryagro/status/1011356377095139328
- Patrick Neveling, “HAU and the latest stage of capitalism”. http://www.focaalblog.com/2018/06/22/patrick-neveling-hau-and-the-latest-stage-of-capitalism/
- Zoe Todd, “The Decolonial Turn 2.0: the reckoning”. https://anthrodendum.org/2018/06/15/the-decolonial-turn-2-0-the-reckoning/
- JS Rubin (and others), tweet thread about decolonial methodologies in introduction-level anthropology classes. https://twitter.com/js_rubin/status/1010204501918265344
- Nayanika Mathur, “Shocked, Not Surprised #hautalk”. http://allegralaboratory.net/shocked-not-surprised-hautalk/
- Mahi Tahi, “An Open Letter to the HAU Journal’s Board of Trustees”. http://www.asaanz.org/blog/2018/6/18/an-open-letter-to-the-hau-journals-board-of-trustees
- Mahi Tahi, A response, and second Open Letter to the Hau Journal’s Board of Trustees”. http://www.asaanz.org/blog/2018/6/21/a-response-and-second-open-letter-to-the-hau-journals-board-of-trustees
- Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research, “Equity in Author Order”. http://howtowriteanacademicpaper.com/equity-in-author-order.html
- Hilary Agro, tweet with link verifying suspension of Giovanni da Col from HAU. https://twitter.com/hilaryagro/status/1012718439612346368
- Ruth Gomberg‐Muñoz, “The Complicit Anthropologist”. https://anthrosource.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/nad.12070
- Spotify Playlist: https://open.spotify.com/user/mizzymouse/playlist/32boFq8f3WWEdGnuwg9UwY
- Google Drive folder link: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1TQghmBWwVqd5eA_74myFgvKIhMQDvd-y?usp=sharing