Introducing the beginnings of the Open Anthropology Project

OPEN ANTHROPOLOGY arises from a dissastisfaction with the state of knowledge in contemporary and classical anthropology, and is meant to significantly restructure and move anthropology beyond its current confines, beyond the constraints of professionalization and institutionalization, transcending the very “disciplinariness” of a discipline that has often foundered on its own shoals since its inception as “anthropology.” OPEN ANTHROPOLOGY does not merely speak of the demise of the Old Anthropology (that is, the classical and contemporary, professional and institutional), nor is it another attempt to “recapture” or “rethink” anthropology.

OPEN ANTHROPOLOGY is about unthinking anthropology altogether, while pursuing certain avenues of inquiry that resemble what has been developed in some quarters of the discipline.

OPEN ANTHROPOLOGY roots itself in the following principles:

  • OPEN BORDERS/NO BORDERS: an end to disciplinary confinement, and an openness to the other social sciences, humanities, and natural sciences, in a way that helps to erode the structures of knowledge instituted in 19th century Europe. Hence, it locates itself within the Open the Social Sciences “movement.”

  • OPEN MINDS: a critique of the hierarchy of knowledge expressed in the dichotomies of professional vs. lay, scientific vs. folk, emic vs. etic, and so forth. In other words, a new openness to otherness in its own terms.

  • OPEN ACCESS: free and full engagement with persons and groups constituting the wider world; an anthropology that is not just online, but primarily online; knowledge that is free, not property; a call for the democratization and de-commodification of knowledge.

  • OPEN SOURCE: knowledge production that is fully collaborative, integrative, that lays bare the bases of its own production, that is conscious of itself as knowledge, and that constantly incorporates thinking of its own knowledge production as part and parcel of the process of knowledge production; allowing partners and other “users” to freely appropriate and repackage one’s knowledge production, thereby drowning the private-property-approach to knowledge in the shallow and murky ideological pools from which it emerged.

OPEN ANTHROPOLOGY is an epistemological and political project radiating from multiple and sometimes contradictory quarters and sources of encouragement. OPEN ANTHROPOLOGY will be developed along the following lines:

  • CYBERSPACE: new arenas, new methods, new phenomena, new conversations

  • OPEN ACCESS: “open access” in its diverse forms, related to making “published” knowledge as freely and widely available as possible.

  • DECOLONIZATION: critique of the fundamentally colonial structure of the anthropological discipline, taking us well beyond the discussion of easy and obvious targets of discussion such as ethics and whatever institutional relationships.

  • LIBERATION: a critique of ongoing imperialism and capitalism.

  • RESURGENCE: against the “salvage mode” of ethnography, against “evolutionisms,” against extinctionist ideologies of the (neo)liberal and Eurocentric kind. An openness to resurgent indigeneities and to ideologies against the state.

  • COLLABORATION, ADVOCACY, ACCOUNTABILITY, TRANSPARENCY: making anthropology a public good, and not the preserve of professional cliques alone.

  • RESTRUCTURING KNOWLEDGE: beyond inter- or multi-disciplinariness.

  • RECONFIGURING SUBJECTHOOD: grappling with (not necessarily accepting nor rejecting) cosmopolitanism, creolization, locality, motion, and stillness.

OPEN ANTHROPOLOGY is not a project conceived by someone who wishes to be either a guardian or defender of the discipline, nor is it an attempt to demand, instruct, or admonish anthropologists into following a new agenda, or to pursue a new menu of topical inquiries. Indeed, these are some of the received traits of a discipline that this project abjures. Anthropology, as it currently persists, is indeed an exceptionally diverse, wonderfully self-critical (meta)discipline, one that already resists attempts to straitjacket its multiple agendas, to diminish its internal pluralism, or to place itself in the hands of a small group of quasi-proprietors, despite the attempts of “anonymous peer reviewers” of the “top journals” who staunchly defend the status quo.

OPEN ANTHROPOLOGY is a project in progress, developed by Maximilian Forte (currently a professor in anthropology in the Department of Sociology & Anthropology at Concordia University in Montreal). At different times, and in categories, the material presented will appear to be slim, underdeveloped, disjointed, and fragmented–which is not a problem since this blog is meant to present ideas as they are being developed, designed to elicit feedback from peers (fellow travelers and the wider public). This is a journal of ideas. The idea for this project arose from teaching a course at Concordia that is formally titled ANTH 601, Inter-Cultural Theories in Anthropology, and which I subtitled Decolonizing Anthropological Epistemology, Theory, and Practice. I thank my students for the many dense, skull-cracking, prolonged and intense discussions that we have had in class, and outside of class.

Lastly, and at least for now, OPEN ANTHROPOLOGY will be only an illusion of a “one man show.” Behind and beneath this project is a wellspring of criticism, enthusiasm, and vision that is brought to bear here from numerous sources of encouragement.