Open Secrets: On Power and Publication (#hautalk)

Open Secrets: On Power and Publication (#hautalk)

This is a Guest Post about the #hautalk by Emily Yates-Doerr

Hau’s Editorial Board has just released its second response, this time unsigned, to the grievances aired by former staff. I am concerned that Giovanni da Col’s name remains listed at the top of the board and I am compelled to share my experiences with Hau publically.

Last year, just before an article of mine was to be published in Hau, Da Col contacted me about funds for the publication. I am pasting the relevant part of his message below. For context, my article had been under review since May 1, 2016 (I had one round of fabulous, thoughtful reviewers that I responded to quickly, but it was lost in review). I heard the piece was accepted in late August 2017 and just prior to October’s issue it was allocated a space in the October publication. For the first time, Hau’s managing editor requested that I contact people at my university for open access funds. I was in the process of doing this when Da Col wrote to tell me to ignore correspondence with the managing editor and to talk directly to him. He was after money. For an excerpt from a longer correspondence, see below:

 

“3) if nothing comes through of the above we’ll still let the article go, providing that Amsterdam confirms their HAU-Network membership (they haven’t paid yet their 2017 fee). If not (for whatever reasons) we’ll have to either stop the publication or remove the article later if the membership is not confirmed or the article invoice is not covered (by your personal or any other funds).

Our policy on the submission page is very clear: ‘Though publication is not usually contingent on the availability of funding, the Journal is generally under no obligation to publish a work if funding which can be destined to support open access is not made available.’

I regret that your university has Byzantine policies towards open access. But it was clear there are or were funds that can or could have be channelled towards supporting open access publications. For example, your NWO  grant could have been easily channeled towards covering the HAU article. I don’t see any ground for ineligibility. Yet, despite our submission policy and your early submission of the article, you didn’t think about applying for HAU and chose to use the grant for your book. I’m afraid that is not a journal concern since you should have been aware of the policy before submission.

This might seem a strict approach but it should be clear to all authors that publication in non-subscription journals (and high-prestige and ranked ones like HAU, we are now the nr 1 anthropology journal in Europe according to Google Metrics) cannot be free. It is grotesque that any sensible scholar, especially anthropologists, could expect that journal staff should fundraise, work and publish them for free.  In my example your 6,000 euros could have been used to cover HAU’s invoice but you decided them to give them to another publisher…”

 

Da Col was incorrect. I did not have other funds at my disposal. When I submitted my article I was on my fifth year of temporary post-PhD contracts. Earlier, I had grant funding for open access publishing but this had been spent. In the end, the University of Amsterdam managed to provide a sustaining member contribution of £1000 to Hau and my piece was published (Hau never promoted it on their social media feeds and misspelled my name in the announcement of the issue’s launch). In the months following the publication I secured a European Research Council starting grant that helped to facilitate job security in Amsterdam and I have also taken an Assistant Professor position in the US. Years of precarity take their toll and I did not have the structural security or confidence to challenge Da Col at the time of his email. Responding to requests for people with concrete details and evidence of misconduct at Hau to come forward, I am motivated to do so now.

It might be useful to add that the book Da Col mentions above is an experiment with public peer review that seeks to add transparency to the process of academic publication. A few years earlier I initiated another collective piece examining how emerging discussions about “the good” of open access publication in anthropology risked using the language of openness to produce longstanding intellectual closures. I have also worked as an editor with Somatosphere, where I have helped publish work by numerous — often precariously employed — feminist anthropologists. I have been inspired to dedicate my time to these projects, in large part, because of my experiences with Hau.

You see, this is not my first time publishing in their journal. My first publication, in their very first issue, was co-authored with numerous colleagues including a senior academic in our field. It went smoothly; the senior scholar handled correspondence and was treated with respect. Then I started to hear stories — many stories — about how badly junior scholars, particularly women, were treated by the journal, and then I was treated badly myself.

It has long been an open secret that Hau, even while publishing some creative and inspiring pieces, has been a platform for privileging conventional anthropology (read: conservative, eurocentric), and with this certain kinds of people as the “high-prestige, highly ranked” scholars in our field. Da Col states several times that the technicalities of open access scholarship should have been clear to me. This is an odd claim given that the terrain of open access in anthropology — as well as the legal structures of Hau — are rapidly changing, and not, in fact, clear at all. What is clear is that the belittling tone in Da Col’s correspondence is endemic to the journal, if not the broader anthropological community to which it belongs. Hau’s Editorial Board must now reckon with how to transform an intellectual project that has, by design, abused and excluded female, junior, and other historically marginalized scholars. Given that Hau has been sustained by broader institutional and affinal structures of anthropology, this is a question that should be asked, and asked loudly, far beyond Hau’s Board.

I have heard some people link Hau’s failures to failures of Open Access, but, in good company, I think this explanation is too simplistic. Instead, I see tremendous successes in open scholarship happening everywhere I look (I’ve collated some of this work here; also consider the recent CA annual conference). Anyone following the controversy has heard the voices of numerous brilliant, feminist and BIPoC anthropologists, who are navigating conditions of precarity and abuse while still producing  powerful,  transformativeradical  stories. Hau — an Indigenous word that perhaps we should no longer associate with the Society of Ethnographic Theory — has taken up enough space. It’s time to substantively rework how we organize our scholarly organizations and publications. I am going to start by listening, reading, and citing communities of anthropologists who are not well-represented in Hau. I hope that those of you following will do the same.

Emily Yates-Doerr

Assistant Professor of Anthropology

Oregon State University & The University of Amsterdam

June 16, 2018

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16 Replies to “Open Secrets: On Power and Publication (#hautalk)”

  1. Dear Anthrodendum Team

    I am a member of HAU’s social media team and in order to pursue the ideal of full transparency I wish to add further context and details to the above quoted email by HAU’s Editor in Chief. I have been forwarded the full letter that is reproduced in part above, and I wish to describe the information contained in the remaining unpublished paragraphs of this email, in order to avoid misunderstandings of HAU’s open access policies and their purpose, which at its core includes international solidarity so that HAU would never pursue the request from scholars in impoverished institutions or who are based in the Global South to pay APC. The new APC policy which had been in place since 2014, was only requested from those of us based in wealthy and endowed first world universities (the University of Amsterdam is the recipient of the highest numbers of ERC grants) and whose libraries have an established programme for supporting open access publications. In the spirit of international solidarity and redistribution, about 15% of our authors have successfully sought out APCs from their institutions (consisting usually of an email or simple application to the Open access bureau of their libraries). All the remaining authors, the vast majority, who could not access funds were published for free. I also take the liberty to paste below our open access policy, which is very common amongst similar open access journals, for example please see Wiley-Blackwell policy, which controls most anthropology journals or Open Access publishers, including Mattering Press, whose model was supported by the author and discussed in the full version of the letter.

    https://www.haujournal.org/index.php/hau/about/submissions

    “After acceptance, authors and Special Issue guest editors whose institutions have an Open Access library fund must commit to apply to assist in article production costs. Proof of application will be requested. Though publication is not usually contingent on the availability of funding, the Journal is generally under no obligation to publish a work if funding which can be destined to support open access is not made available.”

    Thank you for your consideration
    best wishes

    HAU Social Media Team

    1. Nice attempt at reframing and minimizing, HAU social media team, and good going trying to shift the discourse away from the point of this post — which is obviously NOT a critique of garden-variety economics of open-access publications. But nice try for optics of respectability while ignoring and trying to detract from the real issues Emily’s post brings to light.

    2. I disagree that HAU’s policy is similar to other publishers, as the website provides little detail on how HAU assesses article production fees and how those funds are used. As you suggested, I looked into the other organization’s policies for open access charges, and all of those institutions dedicate more space to describing their policy and do so in much more detail. HAU’s policy on the other hand is unclear and up to the editor in chief’s (i.e. GDC’s) discretion: “After acceptance, authors… whose institutions have an Open Access Library fund must commit to apply to assist in article production costs…. For the amount of fees, please contact the Editor in Chief.”

      Cultural Anthropology clearly states on their website, “Cultural Anthropology does not use article processing charges to support the cost of publication,” and goes on to clarify that one must either be a member of AAA and SCA or pay a $25 submission fee.

      Mattering Press has even more detail on their funding model, clearly stating that the standard fee is 6,000 pounds, of which 3,000 is allocated to cover production costs and the other 3000 for funding authors who do not have access to publishing funds. They further note that authors can contact them to negotiate a discount between 25 and 100% of fee.

      While Wiley’s general policy is buried behind a series of webpages and downloads, they also list their prices for each journal and define the process for applying for discounts.

      When some of the most serious charges against HAU are a lack of financial transparency, HAU’s policy does little to assuage any concerns about how APCs are assessed and how the funds are used. Even in the correspondence posted here, GDC fails to provide a fixed charge and implies that HAU’s charge could be as high as what the author paid for her open access book, 6,000 pounds.

      Further, your response ignores the other critique here—that GDC created a toxic environment at HAU for women and people of color within the organization and for those submitting to the journal. The aggressive and belittling tone GDC used in communication with the author is just as concerning as the lack of financial transparency at HAU.

  2. It took me a while to figure what that reminds me… and then it hit me – my “awesome” boss in a publishing company back in 1996 when I had a side designer job. :))))

    In those times pretty much all business in post-soviet countries had to have “a roof” – a sort of either mafia, either police (corrupt) protection against the extortion – you paid the mob and they had to make sure you paid only them and not the competition. Publishing business was not an exception and our “boss” was actually quite proud of his connections, you know, it was a “best practice” publishing at the time. :))) The problem was, he occasionally “forgot” to pay his employees and used to come up with all sorts of bs excuses, about some kind of mystical publishing expenses, investments, bla bla, when in reality he just took money from the clients/grants and kept it all for himself, sometimes even failing to deliver an actual product. Needless to say, the business on the long run was not entirely successful and everyone with a bit of self respect left for the greener pastures – after resorting to the same best practices of extortion, to get him to pay the money we have earned in like last 3 months . Those were interesting times…. 😉

    But back to the present… self respect and dignity is an important thing. People still working in the academia should not be pushed to develop a correct beggar mentality and accept the scarps, sort of thrown under the table in a rather disrespectful technocratic way. It hurts the discipline as a whole, it hurts the respect people have for the discipline in the outside world. Recently I got invited to speak in an event in a festival, together with a score of people still working in academia, in the humanities field. Turns out I was expected to pay for my own trip, organize the tent in a foreign country and find who could drive me to the location somewhere in the middle of the woods… To which I replied something along the lines “You are kidding me, right?” because well, it is absurd to pay yourself for the trip someone else actually needs and then still take care of the logistics of the trip, which they can easily organize, if they can be arsed. The reply was the interesting part “Why it is always so difficult with you? Academia people never complain about the conditions! They are happy we invite them and fight to be here, even if they have to pay themselves for the participation! We normally pay only for the music bands!” So there you go, when a teenager who barely know how to play a guitar is worth more than a senior researcher… there must be something in the academic system that reduces people to that sad state of fighting for the scraps.

  3. “providing that Amsterdam confirms their HAU-Network membership (they haven’t paid yet their 2017 fee).”

    I am puzzled by what GdC might be referring to as “Amsterdam.” A few years ago, I made a donation of a few thousand Euros from my ERC grant because I thought it was a worthy project and because I am in agreement with the principle of open access, and so did, if I recall, Annemarie Mol and perhaps a few other ERC PIs. As far as I know, neither the University of Amsterdam Department of Anthropology nor the Amsterdam Institute of Social Science Research committed to supporting HAU. At no point has there been discussion that my one-time donation would be an ongoing commitment, simply because as PI I cannot predict what I need publications funds for — and in any case grants are time-limited. In addition, it is doubtful that ERC or other funding agencies would agree to budgeting general donations to a journal independently of a specific publication emanating from the project. Since I have never submitted a full manuscript to HAU and have not encouraged my team members to do so, given the widely-known problems that have arisen with submissions of which Emily’s is an example, I allocated the donation from my budget at the risk of being questioned by auditors (it did not happen). It is truly unfortunate that scholars like Emily are being made to suffer because the EiC distorts the nature of financial contributions made to the journal (which I now regret to have made).

  4. The Hau social media team don’t address the actual problem, which Dr. Yates-Doerr makes pretty clear: Da Col was dismissing her, calling her “uninformed” and even says “It is grotesque that any sensible scholar, especially anthropologists…” belittling her. Any attempt at recontextualizing from Hau only makes the claims about inaction made in the previous letters all the more credible, since this correspondence confirms what others say about Da Col.

    1. to me, i don’t know enough, but i have seen this same purposely fragmented snippet we are all seeing and some more ‘tone’ reports about emails with the man, from twitter, and it frankly doesn’t make sense where to draw the line; a lot of it is awkwardness with prestige and feeling ‘pressured’, and all interactional ‘pressure’ along asymmetric axes in this late capitalist hyper-individualist revival is equated with ‘abusive-force-violence’. yes that makes sense!

      The undertone is primarily gendered power relations, something like he ‘forced us to please him while we were secretly unwilling to’, by which is meant things like making edits and incorporating suggestions for improving an article or meeting HAU’s open access policy which asked to at least try to seek out open access funds from libraries, which is obviously how almost everything currently works. If y’all are setting yourself goals these need to include changes to the entire system, and to men from practically all over the world, except highlight educated scandinavians.

      This is an easy game, poking mostly pointless holes as if we are just learning what critique is, spot a hierarchy I have experienced, and if its a big-headed white man with power it is ‘abusive’, those who say it are ‘brave’, and everyone else is snacking on continuous ‘scandal’ ‘gossip’ and ‘call out’.

    2. It starts to look like an ordinary Internet drama to be honest, which, apart of being mildly entertaining, usually does not lead to any actual improvements. So far the suggestions to “solve” the problem are mostly to burn the wicked white man and replace him with someone of “correct” social status (aka preferably black, female, gay). Ironically, I don’t think anybody even mentioned an ability to do the editor’s work, as if that was completely irrelevant to the issue… :))))

      Also, communication in the social media has its own rules, it seems that the discrimination discourse with its three horses of apocalypse (racism, sexism and homophobia) is fairly prone to invoke a Godwin’s Law of the discussion analogies (aka reductio ad Hitlerum, aka play the Hitler (discrimination) card). In the historical reductio ad Hitlerum setting, when a Hitler comparison is made, it signifies that the discussion is finished and whoever made the comparison loses whatever debate was in progress (essentially because it derailed and has no critical value whatsoever anymore, so there is no point to continue). I wonder if all this social justice online discussion is not heading the same way, after it runs its popularity course over the next few years.

    3. To “it’s an unbecoming tone,” I encourage you to read the multiple accusations on the Internet before running to GDC’s defense. GDC is accused of the following:

      financial fraud and lack of financial transparency
      physically assaulting a colleague
      harassing employees, including threats of violence and legal action against them, and people submitting to the journal (such as the tone in this email)
      wage theft
      violating HAU’s open access policy (some of which is documented in the email)

      These allegations are serious and are detailed here (https://haustaffletter.wordpress.com) and here (https://footnotesblog.com/2018/06/13/guest-post-an-open-letter-from-the-former-hau-staff-7/).

      The reason GDC’s race and gender are coming into play are because society as a whole, academia, and anthropology as a discipline give more leeway to white men to act this way. If this were a witch hunt of big-headed white men, then a lot of other big-headed white male anthropologists would be implicated in this scandal. The “witch hunt against white men” argument is often circulated by the right-wing media anytime a white man is publicly accused of sexism or racism in order to deflect from the actual accusations. We should be more careful about reproducing those arguments.

      As to Aurelija Drevel’s comment that people are advocating for GDC to be replaced by somebody “preferably black, female, gay” regardless of qualifications, I have not seen a single person advocating this. People are advocating for GDC to step down from his editor-in-chief position and for the journal as a whole, including the Board of Trustees and the Editorial Board, to better represent the diversity of the discipline in terms of geographic reach (beyond Western Europe/USA), less elitism (at the moment primarily top institutions), academic rank (few contingent faculty and graduate students were included, besides GDC himself), race, and gender. Let’s not assume that scholars from those underrepresented groups are not qualified for those positions or for publishing in the journal.

      (It is revealing, I think, that some are questioning the qualifications of the potential “black, female, gay” successors to GDC, without having ever questioned the qualifications of a white, male graduate student who never received a PhD and who hadn’t had extensive publishing experience prior to his role as editor-in-chief. Graduate students are underrepresented in top positions on academic journals and certainly should be included, but the dissonance of that comment is striking.)

    4. @grad student ” Let’s not assume that scholars from those underrepresented groups are not qualified for those positions or for publishing in the journal.” So, on one hand, you are trying to say that qualification has nothing to do with color, gender or whom you prefer in bed… and then, on the other hand, you suggest we publish more “underrepresented” groups, that underrepresentation based on… color, gender and whom you prefer in bed? So far the only argument is just that, we do not talk about the subject of a paper X, we do not talk about an unpublished awesome study Y, we just say ok, this author has a correct set of biological parts, lets represent it more… Well… as long as it is not the right wing, right wing is bad, lets not publish right wing women, because those are the wrong kind of women. 😀

      … and that is exactly what it is about, not about women, not about race, not about gay people, it is about pushing a bit more of the left wing genderist/feminist colored anthropology approach, under the guise of “anti-discrimination”. Yes ofc it is useful for the people stuck in that kind of studies, which often are not taken seriously by the big names, but personally I am not interested in seeing more of that, simply because I see too many shortcomings in that branch of the theory and would like to see more studies drawing on the neurology and behavioral psychology material, which have some pretty interesting stuff going on at the moment questioning the “culture is socially constructed” idea. But that is just that, personal preferences.

      Also imho there is no big difference in wicked white man approach, aka women are more stupid than men and have no idea what they are talking about (I think every woman in high lvl jobs met at least a few of those big egos, it is fairly unavoidable) , and in the hardcore feminist approach aka right wing women are racists and have no idea what they are talking about (I think every woman in high lvl jobs also met a few of those, it attracts them like a honey) . They both still try to tell me what I am supposed to think, they both dismiss any idea by default, because you know, them of wrong affiliation cannot be right. 😀 So in short, as a woman who is very critical of gender studies and feminist anthropology, I see no real point in expand that direction, because I just end up with a double discrimination and have to work around two set of the problems instead of one. 😉

    5. Underrepresented groups in academia are underrepresented DESPITE their qualifications, not because other people are more qualified than them. The Board of Trustees at HAU consists of 5 white men, one white woman, and one woman of color. That’s over 70% of the board that is white men. If you look at anthropology as a whole, you’ll see more of the same—white men occupying a disproportionate number of positions of power. Are white men genetically better anthropologists? Or perhaps we (I am myself a white man) have a superior “culture” which prepares us to be better anthropologists? Or maybe society systematically favors white men, allowing us to rise to positions of power throughout society, including in anthropology as a discipline, despite the fact that women and people of color have similar abilities and qualifications.

      Again, the fact that a white, male graduate student is still at the helm of this project despite the numerous accusations against him evidences the point that HAU is a boys club that excludes other voices.

  5. There is a mistake in the text. The statement shared above is not from the journal’s Editorial Board, but from the Board of Trustees. The latter is a governing body of the journal, the former is a list of about eighty anthropologists from around the world who could be asked to review articles, but had no access to any processual activities at the journal. However, the Editorial Board did issue its own statement, which is different – it is here: https://docs.google.com/a/berkeley.edu/document/d/1Sa3a_PolkqmCYnnnwRkZEC1JXr2ONPoW1kGEEHpL63I/mobilebasic

  6. to Grad Student:, unbecoming tone here.

    I saw and absolutely believe the allegations in the letters; for sure, they’re concrete, but not concrete enough: what step by step happened?:

    I have worked outside of academia, and well horrid is business as usual, as neveling says in focaalblog anthropology is not outside this. I know a group of supercool queer, feminist and progressive phd students, and i’m imagining them going to lets say a start up venture somewhere, wether silicon valley or Shenzhen, and seeing toxic overwork, delays in pay because thing is broke or in investment phase, out of pocket or rerouted allocations for work into the project-these people are all workaholics, quite a few sleaze-bags at the top, some wrangling as to the licensing and ownership issues a la facebook, with possible legal liabilities hung over those who want to bail to finish their own professional certification but who were part of the starting the venture and signed legal documents in their own name, some personal physical fights amongst former deeply acquainted friends outside the workplace because of high stress and work-unrelated problems-people have issues!

    this group of phd students would be in shenzhen or palo alto and of course feel good about trying to halt the entire operation and call for a strike! but unless its done across the board in industry, we change nothing of the structure.

    what i have just listed there is the only things that have been alleged to have happened at HAU, a run of the mill late capitalist start up in publishing; one could use general worlds and say “financial fraud and lack of financial transparency; physically assaulting a colleague; harassing employees, including threats of violence and legal action against them, tone in this email; wage theft” they are all true in the abstract, but it is not exceptional, and it is a way to get rapidly growing ventures of the ground in late capitalism; not the only way, i agrees, lets try other ways, but they are less likely to succeed in competitive capitalist environments.

    1. There are personality traits and there are work capability issues. If one ever worked in highly creative environment (and I hope academic publishing has at least a bit of creativity), it always comes with issues of personality, ego, drama, etc. That’s where often management comes in (if they are at least trying to work), essentially to make sure everyone gets along and finish the project. Yes, it turns into a kindergarten sometimes, and yes, women only environments are not better, if not even worse, as far as the manipulation and bad work climate is concerned (and yes, I had to separate a few nasty hair pulling cat fights in some of my jobs…).

      The point is, you deal with it on the floor and see whom you want to fire, for the benefit of the team rather than well, who pushed whom first. In any conflict there always are two sides, some are violent physically, some terrorize the team psychologically and some just need to leave because they do not believe in the project anymore.

    2. I don’t find it very convincing to argue that HAU was a start up and so it’s not exceptional that GDC exhibited similar abusive characteristics to any other start up founder. Do we need to run our journals like Silicon Valley start ups? Should we accept abuse in our discipline simply because it’s no worse than the abuse at Uber? I would argue no on both counts. Some flaws I see in that argument:

      First, an anthropology PhD recipient working in a Silicon Valley start up is going to be earning close to a 6 figure salary and/or have some kind of renumeration through stock in the company. They may be overworked, stressed, and overruled by tyrants, but they’re still much better off than the staff at HAU.

      Second, high-stress start up cultures sometimes succeed, but they often blow up in disaster. Two recent examples: Uber having to sideline its founder Travis Kalanick over abuse and sexual harassment allegations and Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes getting indicted for fraud. (Similarly, some of the allegations against GDC, such as wage theft, are illegal, even if no one on the staff will take the career-ending move of pursuing those charges.) That seems like a poor model on which to base our expectations of anthropology open-access journals.

      Third, resigning ourselves to accepting abuse in anthropology because it is pervasive in the business world seems to me an unacceptable political position. As Neveling notes in Focaalblog, the accusations against GDC are certainly extreme in the context of anthropology (or at least what we expect of anthropology as a discipline). Further, the only way we combat the systemic abuses in the workplace is by demanding more accountability and better organizational structures when specific accusations of abuse arise. As the teacher strikes over the summer proved, even against monumental odds, an isolated strike action can create material improvement in the lives of workers. Individual actions can also spark change across an industry, just as the teacher strikes spread from one state to the next. (Or perhaps more pertinently to the role of social media in the HAU scandal, the #metoo movement created systemic change, but originally arose out of specific accusations against one abusive personality, Harvey Weinstein.)

  7. Inaccurate information: This is a statement of the Board of Trustees, a governing body of the journal – not of the Editorial Board which is a list of 80 anthropologists from around the world who were asked to serve as potential peer reviewers but were never privy to the journal’s governance