Bruce Kapferer: The Hau complicity: An event in the crisis of anthropology

Hau is a phenomenon. It burst on the scene of the relatively small academic scholarly world of anthropology capturing scholars from around the globe into its spirit. Hau rapidly established itself as a premier journal in the discipline with an increasing defining role for anthropology. It was becoming a power in the field legitimating reputations and concerned with building them. Perhaps most surprising (but less so on reflection) was the speed of its ascent within the academic community largely through the efforts of its inspiration, the founding editor whose journey describes a kind of Rake’s Progress (or threatens to do so). The ambiguities and hesitancies in defense and attack, reported injuries, moral ire that are surrounding the characterization of his alleged behavior refracts critical features of Hau’s rise and not least the complicity, intentional or otherwise, of those who aided and abetted the rise of Hau (David Graeber’s public confession being an egregious example). The whole sad story (in some ways reflecting the current tragedy of anthropology as a discipline) manifests the sociopolitical crisis affecting global realities that has particular effect and expression in the plight of Hau. The progress of Hau embodies a critical moment perhaps a turning point in the history of the discipline that is not reducible to the responsibility of the editor (although he might be described as anthropology’s Trump), regardless of the fact that so much blame seems to be piling up around his feet (see also Kalb, Murphy, and Neveling on Focaalblog).

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