Hopefully this new post will not bring to an abrupt end the discussion that continued in the comments to the last post. One of the administrators of the “Open Anthropology Cooperative” has issued the OAC’s first coherent statement regarding “the name issue,” which as I have explained is about much more than just a name. There are particular errors in fact and interpretation, as well as important omissions that I will point out below. My intention is not to make the issue any more complicated than it is, and I will therefore sideline for now any of the denser political and ethical issues involved.
Error of omission:
“Early conversations via Twitter, email, blogs and The Memory Bank Forum, before and after the establishment of the Ning network, included the administrators as well as other contributors and observers (Max Forte among them). In the early stages, we floated ad hoc lists of the attributes that might make up a useful site for anthropologists (a place to share ideas, to collaborate, to raise questions, to publish and discuss, etc) and several possible names. No-one then raised the possibility of a conflict of interest or a significant threat to other sites or projects on the web.”
As I have already shown, my participation in that discussion amounted to a grand total of five minutes. I do not blame anyone for that fact, but it is a fact that I was not anything more than a very late latecomer to the discussion. That “No-one then raised the possibility of a conflict of interest or a significant threat to other sites or projects on the web,” is in fact true, and that is what led to the current problem. That should have been discussed, and now it is being discussed. Before considering the name, the OAC had become a fait accompli. I was not provoked into questioning the name then, because what immediately followed were statements of affinity, discussed before, and below once more.
Error of interpretation:
“Max agreed to act as administrator with this title in place and did not contest its usage.”
I volunteered to act as an administrator, while I thought that some linkage was being formed between the Open Anthropology Project and the Open Anthropology Cooperative. As demonstrated in the last post, there were concrete reasons for believing that some form of linkage was being constructed. Indeed, the idea of one of the administrators, approved by two others aside from myself, was to use parts of this project’s own “mission statement,” to build theirs. Abimbola confirms this much.
This confirmation ought to shift the discussion to a new plane, one above the suggestion that the two names merely, accidentally, sound alike. In addition, my mission statement is a political one, so there are political implications to using it.
Then Abimbola adds (now I will add my own emphases instead of theirs):
“Max sent the following private message to the rest of the admin team as part of a discussion in which he was an active participant:
‘Some of you have been referring, I think, to this page on my site, https://openanthropology.wordpress.com/about/. It is rather long, and a lot of it will be very contentious for many people in this network. I am not sure which parts of that page attracted people the most, but you can feel free to cut and paste and reword as you like, if it helps to move things along quickly. Michael MD Fischer has already taken me to task on the blog for the ways I use ‘open’…so there will be some debate about “what does open mean” (I think some understand it to mean *wide open*).”
Here are I am acknowledging their interest in building a bridge, but also expressing some uncertainty about what that bridge should be exactly. They never clarified the issue. I am reaffirming there that in two key ways, they might not want to build such a linkage, given the political implications, and the debate about what “open” can mean to others, especially if it is taken out of its original context (the very mission statement on this blog to which they referred.) Again, nothing was said to address those concerns.
Error of fact:
Regarding the beginnings of building a link between the two sites, Abimbola says:
“We are not aware when this offer was rescinded or other conditions put on it.”
If you are constructing a connection with a political project, which is what the Open Anthropology Project is, then the conditions are political ones. Those political conditions were not, to my knowledge, ever observed or understood, or part of a dialogue. The conditions would not have conveyed themselves on their own, they required a political actor to project them. I am that actor, and I left the OAC. That should have been a firm expression that any intention or plan to link was now over.
As I was reminded, immediately after leaving I wrote this, in response to an updated article about my actual leaving. On 10 June, I stated, in response to an OAC administrator, Francine Barone: “you guys need a new name.”
Therefore, it is incorrect to say that they were not aware that the offer was rescinded or that any other conditions had been presented. They had, and they were ignored, at least back then.
What I fail to understand is why 1,500+ people are being given the right to decide whether they should appropriate the name of this project. They are being asked if they think the OAC should change its name, which in light of the facts presented through three posts now — undisputed facts — implies that they may feel entitled to retain my project’s name. My question is: do they then concede that others may feel entitled to the OAC’s name as well, and may act on that sense of entitlement?
I have also been asked about whether a formal statement on the OAC, indicating that the OAP and OAC are two separate and distinct projects, would meet with my approval. I think that such a statement merely acknowledges what is already a fact. But then the question is: if you acknowledge that they are separate and distinct, and I would maintain opposed as well, then why does the second site have to mimic the name of the first one? And, to repeat the above question, would they be happy with the potential consequences of setting that precedent?
20 thoughts on “Response: The OAC’s Name”
This discussion may give everyone else a chance to observe how communities of anthropologists behave.
It would be optimistic for anyone to assume (and I’m not saying you are) that anthropological training or an anthropological viewpoint would result in a different outcome than from any other group of humans.
For example, Max’s request that his name not be appropriated by the OAC does not seem to be specifically informed by anthropological thought… or is it? I would not expect it to be. He is defending his work and his brand, a reasonable position for anyone in any field.
The discourse (both civil and otherwise) that we’ve seen on this issue looks just like the debates I’ve observed in college classrooms, between engineers, in fantasy football leagues, on political websites, and .
I don’t expect anthropologists to somehow elevate themselves above any other group, or even distinguish themselves in any way. This looks like yet another turf war, with a few highly invested players and a whole bunch who don’t care too much but always have an opinion.
I take no joy in my part in this (I’d rather be an uninterested observer), but I’m gonna stick it out to the end while trying to respect all views and find common ground (Oddly enough, I have always credited an increased desire on my part to consider all viewpoints a result of my anthro training). Ah well. Let’s see what happens.
To comment again, while my pie is baking, the whole matter is exasperating. It’s about retyping three words in the title of a website. It should take no less than 5 seconds. It’s not like they’ve even developed an identity around the title. It’s too bad the network wasn’t created on a wiki.
Although, I’ll admit I’m anthropologically interested in conflicts and decision-making.
What’s even more sad is that how they’re proceeding isn’t uncommon. Have you heard of the book Robert’s Rules of Order (http://www.robertsrules.com/)? It’s how most community organizations around here operate and was the bane of my existence. “Robert’s Rules of Order says this..” “Robert’s Rules of Order says that…” “Oh no, we can’t vote by email because there’s no precedent set in Robert’s Rules of Order.” Give me a break!
Earlier in the year at the museum, I was trying to get some changes to bylaws passed so the organization could operate more effectively. ALL board members agreed with the changes. Even so, due to a couple members, they spent an hour arguing whether or not the drafting committee followed “procedure.” Had the bylaws committee been appointed by the board? (no, but there’s no such written rule). Did we send the changes out ten days in advance? (we did ten calendar days but not ten 24-hour days). Did everyone get a notification? (It was sent by email and those who didn’t have email were called, but some complained because they hadn’t checked their email). Did we print out the bylaws changes side-by-side with the old by-laws and have a copy for everyone at the meeting? (Shit, no, I just passed around a couple copies of the old and new versions, and I wasn’t about to spend my own money printing more.). Some of these rules only existed in peoples’ heads. All of this occurred on top of the fact that the president refused to set the meeting date. Was she deliberately stalling? I couldn’t get a decision from her, so other board members told me to call around and see what day works for everyone else. I did so, and then was accused by the president of usurping her power to call meetings. We ended up having the meeting and passing the by-laws, but boy was it an ordeal! And all we produced were more rules, although slightly better than the ones before.
I stopped getting board permission for the majority of things that I work on when I realized that asking the bureaucracy would slow everything down. And guess what? No one cared. They were just happy that work was getting done.
The current situation is analogous to me asking every single member of that now-deleted “open anthropology” group on OAC if they were ok with deleting it. Do you see anyone protesting after the fact?
But, if the administrators and other members refuse to work in any way other than through an undefined set of higher “rules of fairness” it’s almost impossible to get around it. You’re forced to work within that framework. Yes or no? Maybe I’m not thinking outside the box.
To tell the truth, I am :
1) Drunk, but what ?, it is my wife’s birthday, and dare anyone tell me they do not get drunk sometimes.
2) writing here, while having a party, so I guess it is something I have strong feelings about.
3) amazed the problem was not solved through click-type-gameover-mybasesarenotbelongtoyou, as Stacie suggests.
4) Pissed-off there is such vampire-like behaviors in the academy.
5) wondering if I won’t regret writing these few sentences (or do I ?).
6) thinking that if the the issue is not quickly solved, the “clone war” will be much more fun than the pitiful and hypocritic spectacle we are all witnessing on the (O)AC’ part.
7) I’ll leave that Ning network as soon as the issue is resolved.
(I only hope those thoughts won’t harm your site, Max. I am confident in the victory, and thank you for the Peter Tosh’s video, amongst many other things).
Hello Frenchguy, your comments do not come even close to some of the rampages of rage that this blog has seen, and will see again, so no apologies are necessary. I doubt that I could write such a decent set of comments if I were at a party.
Meanwhile, Stacie must be baking a gigantic pie, otherwise it would have burnt to a crisp in the time it took her to write that post :) Thanks for those points Stacie. By the way, that is an interesting observation, and a question I had not thought of asking, regarding the lack of complaints from anyone after you deleted that group. I know people, I mean knowing in person here in Montreal, who were members of the Anarchist group. That too was deleted some time ago, I don’t know when, they never mentioned it even in passing.
Paul, I am ambivalent about your opening paragraph. That anthropological training does not have much or any input in this debate is one thing. That it could or should have is another, and I think it should. For me, questions of ethics, respect for difference, and understanding a point of view that does not neatly square with discussions of copyright, trademark, plagiarism, etc., were always foremost. In social anthropology many if not most of us have had to deal with indigenous cultural property issues, questions of sovereignty and autonomy, boundary-negotiation, and the implications of assimilation, homogenization, and hegemony. I see all of these at play here, and I referred to most myself, while others (especially Enrique) referred to others.
For some ethics are a matter of procedure, observed through formal instruments presented to informants. For me anthropology is ethics. I would go as far as saying that should “the university” ever be wholly restructured, leaving its 19th century legacy behind, that one of the cornerstones should be “ethics,” incorporating at least some people from all of the current “disciplines,” and wholly subsuming anthropology.
By the way, that doesn’t mean none of this was a “turf war,” hence my ambivalence about your statement. It’s just that when some people use that expression, they use it as a way of essentially dismissing or trivializing a dispute — which is alright, except that afterward maybe some of those same people expect *their* disputes to be taken seriously.
Didn’t mean to trivialize the situation or what’s at stake– sorry. I’m saying the larger patterns of behavior are starting to LOOK like just another turf war.
I’m in complete agreement with you that one should be able to expect more from anthropologists. But I’ve been watching people interact for a lot longer than I’ve been formally studying anthro, and I’m afraid my own longitudinal observations of human nature leave me more than a bit cynical.
Just out of curiosity, what did happen to that Anarchist Anthropology group? I was off-line when it went away, but then came back and realized that it was gone. Does anyone know the circumstances? Is this another case of “the user who created it left” or was there some other issue?
Not to derail the conversation – I’m just wondering.
If you find out, let me know, because right now I cannot even remember the name of the person who launched it. It may have been Adam Wiese (?), someone I have not been in touch with since I left Facebook.
I have been in agreement with Stacie a lot the last two days. Ha. Why not just change the name? It’s as easy as logging in and changing some letters. Presto. Then it would have been done and over. Instead, they are waiting for a response from about 1470 people who never really write anything there. There really are only about 20 or so active users there, if that. Most people will have no idea what this is even about.
For me, it was an obvious problem (two sites with the SAME NAME) and a simple solution (change site #2).
Anyway, I’m supposed to be reading about political ecology right now. Hmmm.
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Indeed – a pie for forty days and forty nights. Once I start eating it you may not hear from me for a while.
I’m glad others agree. On ethics, ethics in philosophy struck me as having too much decree about what should be done and not enough talk about how to achieve it or the more messy aspects of ethics in practice, but I admit I’ve never taken a pure “ethics” course, only seen it as applied in other areas of philosophy, like social justice. I almost majored in philosophy, but there’s something about anthropology that’s closer to what’s going on the world. I can see the parallels/potential in anthropology, as you mention.
Ive read all the various threads across both sites (including the deleted ones still available) and yes its taken a good few hours over a couple of days. im also a avid reader of this blog and have been for a long while, not to mention a visitor to most of the blogs of various posters here and on the OAC admin side.
I joined the OAC early and later after consideration of its pluses against its minuses deleted my account when i felt personally it didnt represent what i thought it might in its nascent state.
Personally im not keen on persons acting for me when i felt i wanted things to be done in different ways. And obviously the 1500+ members are not some coherent entity who the admins can make decisions for without dictating and directing the resource for their own worldview and purposes. Furthermore, i believe many people do not interact on the OAC precisely because many people feel uneasy about the type and form of hierarchy embedded in a NING format. Finally, I also feel regret for suggesting, in the early days that many of my departmental colleagues join. I posted the idea to a listserve or two which i now wish i hadnt because it indicated a suggestion on my part of approval when really i had not come to understand the OAC yet.
A reason for this i believe was my affection for and solidarity with Max’s Open Anthropology Project. Hence i threw a bit of caution to the wind and embraced the OAC believing it was something it is not. With hindsight i now feel misled and chose to silence myself rather than continue to converse. A shallow position perhaps but one i felt removed me from any unhealthy commentary and squabble.
Without doubt, Max’s contributions to public anthropology, and in particular a form of ‘open anthropology he believes in, has shaped deliberately and spent countless hours developing and supporting needs to be respected professionally. It needs to be understood for what it is – a successful form of anthropology that confronts, asks questions often others can’t or won’t, and extends what i believe is a core principle of the anthropology i practice: an effort not to reproduce lines of power, hierarchy and format that the current academic system of publications, tenure and a majority of poor classroom professors do both implicitly and explicitly as the ability to think critically erodes.
If i were to stand back and put on my favourite Gramscian lens i would not hesitate to claim the conversations taking place about naming are the bubbling to the surface of a land grab between those fixed by a particular Euro-American world view (the meaning of Euro-American used here has been debated on Savage Minds often) over the world view of others who write from different traditions, in different languages (not just non-English) and ultimately understand global and local social inequalities as a fight between those invested in the status quo (consciously or not) and those seeking to disrupt it.
Perhaps this is too stark a statement, binary, but sometimes questions do become that simple. I would like also to take the time to stress i am in no way declaring deliberate intention by those i disagree with but rather the subtlety of ‘common-sense,’ education and ‘weltanschauung,’ in the defensiveness of those at the OAC when Max asks that his hard work and intellectual architecture is acknowledging, respected and defended.
As one no doubt can imagine I do not agree with the OAC as currently conceived nor its claim to the label open anthropology. I also believe the question it wants to ask “Should the OAC change its name in light of Max Forte’s complaint?” – is disingenuous and politically problematic. If that isnt a land grab by a few people who are enlisting the weight of many without full disclosure (there are many people who will never read all this background) against an individual and his intellectual property im not sure what to say. I do not mean this in any legal sense either, but in one that is culturally obvious: the formation of dominant social groups requires actors, those actors often believe in the righteousness of their actions, until down the line it becomes clear they were conduits for the erasure of heterogeneity and difference. It is how the colonial to post colonial to neo colonial has always worked and it is interesting to see it play out publicly as the first commentator Riversider noted, in communities of anthropologists.
Kind regards to one and all.
ps. Hi Max!
I especially appreciate your commentary because, even without taking the time that you did to read the now many threads, comments, etc., you are one of the few who would not need to since you were aware and understood from the start that what is being done here is not some bland “anthropology online,” nor another restatement of vague ideas of “open access” or “open education.” Some people see the phrase “open anthropology” and pretty well stop thinking beyond superficial generalities, some of which (as Enrique Betancourt argued) are not even realizable because they have no shape and no theory.
Paul Wren raised the issue of whether anthropological training could make a difference to this debate/conflict. I note that some insist on commenting on this subject, without first informing themselves in the same ways you did. Do we do ethnography like that?
As for the creation of a great wide open commons, all openly accessible and remixable without attribution and recognition — wonderful. What anthropological knowledge do they plan to put in play? Is any of it derived from the hundreds of indigenous societies that do not want their specialized knowledges to be openly circulated and appropriated? Do they have their permission for this quest to open them to the world?
I have noticed one positive change in the debate, where those who were most openly right wing did some reading, discovered the politics of this project, discovered that without their knowledge Keith Hart and the other administrators were building links to this one from the start, and now very quickly shift gears in reverse. Those are the individuals who were loudest in demanding no change in name, who are now quite eager to see a marked separation. They took the time to inform themselves, and now understand.
Still, some are writing statements such as this: that the two endeavors “share a common object and focus.” One would think that by now we had established that this is not the case.
To make matters more ironic, it is clear from the outset, the “about” statement that commentators should have read by now, and the nature of this project (some such as yourself would be more familiar), that this project is about getting past anthropology. The whole thing was motivated by a public revulsion against the anti-indigenous and imperial streaks that still run deep and hard in anthropology. Some might have noticed…the post that launched this blog was:
Anthropology’s Dirty Little Colonial Streak.
Thanks very much Dylan. Don’t regret your good intentions in advertising the OAC. I still have a post on this blog that begins with my praises for the launch of the OAC. As we see now, quite a few of us have drifted away from the OAC, groups have disappeared, and administrators have resigned.
I am curious about the possibly deliberate confusion between ownership and authorship. Some seem intent on disrespecting both. In an academic setting, dismissing authorship is the root of plagiarism, so I wonder if these folks really want to go down that path, or if they in fact do go down that path in their professional writing, or if they think that totally different rules of respect and intellectual honesty apply online.
It’s not fight to defend a claim to the word “open.” People who repeat this simply do not understand the issue and prefer knee jerk reactions. (Again, I am not the one who is showing up what kind of anthropologists they are when they do this.) What we have is a specific project, with specific contours that it has set for itself. We also have another effort, not quite a project, that overtly claimed an affinity to this one. In instances that I have documented and demonstrated in these last three articles on this blog, when people such as Hart speak of “open anthropology” they partly/mostly speak in the name of this project, and the persons attached to it, which they simply have no legitimate claim to do.
If they dismiss the claim, as rudely and brusquely as Fran Barone has, with her repeated performance of speaking with a forked tongue, or perhaps she just has two mouths, then as I asked before: are they prepared to live with the consequences?
Because surely, what can be done to me, can be done to them.
Sorry for taking up this space, but one more thought to add:
Let’s say that this is a dispute about “property” infringement of some sort. Good. Then does the problem solely lie with the persons making the case that there has been an infringement, or is the problem shared with those who left themselves open to such a claim?
In addition, if like some who play at being “Internet cool and savvy online” like to pretend, that we should basically sneer and snicker at property claims of all sorts and thus dismiss them as petty and retro, then do they understand the consequences?
I have not yet seen Owen Wiltshire’s survey or interview results, but most of the people I know who are reluctant to archive their work online, or to publish in open access journals, say they fear to do so because they think that someone will “lift” their work. The fear is expressed much more strongly by students when responding to the suggestion of blogging their research. Do you know why “intellectual property rights” matter to students? It’s a question of respecting and valuing their labour, not simply expropriating it and alienating them from their labour. Something about the twisted way “the commons” is deployed smells of old-fashioned capitalist usurpation. You work, you work for free, and without thanks.
What this episode tells students and older colleagues is that they were perfectly right to have those fears all along, only now they even know who to fear: other anthropologists, a whole big gang of them.
Well done, I salute your efforts at promoting “openness.”
Apparently, according to some — those whose view of “the commons” amounts to “all your base are belong to us” — I am not even allowed to claim authorship over what I write here. In the more generous view of others, I can, but I cannot claim that the project I designed is my project, anyone can say “yep, that’s our project too,” even when what they do is completely at odds with this project. So either there is to be no attribution, or there is to be no respect and political honesty.
Again, well done.
Maybe part of the problem is that online material is still not taken very seriously? As if the rules that are so rigorously applied to books and journal articles do not apply because it’s just the silly and free internets?
Who knows? But I do know that proper citation and attribution are taken pretty seriously by some of the same folks over there who are up in arms about the whole intellectual property part of it. Talk about irony.
I was arguing that it’s even more basic than being about intellectual property: they have the same site name, period. To me, it’s all pretty simple. But now it’s caught in the bureaucratic anthropological mosh pit, so we’ll see how that works out.
Anyway, in other news, here are some book titles that I am working on for future publication:
Writing Culture, Etc.
Another Outline of A Theory of Practice
Amazing Patterns of Culture
Tristes Tropiques Plus!
Pedagogy of the Oppressed Reloaded (My favorite)
Everything just got easier.
If I may….
I second that! Hilarious!
(You know that now others will be dreaming up whole stacks of alternative clone titles. This whole affair will end up being written about in illustrious outlets, such as the Uncyclopedia entry for anthropology.)
Have you noticed that the continually repeated theme over there is about “ownership”? Is it the modern limits of literacy at play, or simply a lack of intellectual depth? Do these people have only one word in their vocabularies? Have they heard of “affiliation,” “affinity,” “linkage,” “connection,” or words such as parallel, branch, offshoot? If so have they ever dreamed it possible that someone might not want to be associated with someone else, politically?
The question in McCarthyite America was “are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party.” If you answered yes, for some reason, the next question was not, “Oh so I suppose you claim to own the Communist Party too then?” If “ownership” had ever entered the discussion, it might have been that the member was “owned” by the CP. The point is that even for McCarthy, such a word would have been too stupid and irrelevant to be used in the discussion. Do these people really wish to be affiliated with “Open Anthropology”? Those who read what this project is about have quickly changed their minds, and ask that the name be changed.
The point I am making is that they sought to affiliate with, incorporate, and draw on a political project.
Really, Chris Kelty, stop being such a bloody dweeb.
As for the ideas that I write on this blog, of course I claim authorship, otherwise…hello, raise your eyes…there is a god damned BIBLIOGRAPHY in prominent view and I reference sources throughout. Personally, I think Kelty is full of crap and I would like to see someone call his bluff. There is no need, because while he accuses me of being “ironically possessive” (ironically?), he is, it seems, “ironically permissive” — see this from his statement, on just how non-possessive and open and free he really is:
Apparently, only some of us are allowed to establish boundaries, assert our authorship, and defend our claims with various licenses, and so forth. Others have to just give it up.
I will not be selling out my collaborators because some unscrupulous ass is possessed by an imperialistic notion of the commons. Maybe I should forgive Kelty: one can’t expect Savage Minds (if he speaks for all of them), to defend something it does not have.
If anyone missed it, and it seems at least some have, the OAC statement referred to in this post states quite clearly:
“We are not aware when this offer was rescinded or other conditions put on it.”
That is with reference to developing an “OAC mission statement,” that draws on the politics of this project. Since they have never either understood those politics, and definitely do not apply them within their network, the question they ought to be answering is: what is the purpose behind their lingering statement of intent above? Do they think they can claim that their politics of open anthropology are the same as this project’s, and then do things that are very different? Instead of “ownership,” broaden your vocabularies to include “misrepresentation.” Misrepresentation, at the very least, is what poor scholarship does. At the very worst, it’s what liars do.
The statement adds immediately after: “the admin team acknowledges Max’s current wish to distance himself from this project.” Current wish? I would think that I had established distance the day I resigned as an admin, followed by leaving their network altogether. And why is it just my wish? Is it their wish then to be affiliated with this project?
Does anyone still want to spin their top in the mud of “ownership,” or is there some other hidden theory at work, for example that this project wrote itself?
This is why the OAC statement misleads the very discussion that follows: they begin by talking about a political affiliation, and then without rhyme or reason, immediately switch to a name issue. The name is merely symbolic of the linkage. It’s the linkage I am talking about, and they are too, because the only statement they quote from me is about designing a common project. That would still have been true even if their name had been something completely different.
So I must broaden the still unanswered question — “if you acknowledge that they are separate and distinct, and I would maintain opposed as well, then why does the second site have to mimic the name of the first one?” — that question should first emphasize: “why would they wish to claim any affiliation, when there is none?”
The final response to the non-resolution of this issue by the OAC can be found here:
Those who wish to understand better, can also see Jeremy Trombley’s post, “Why I Left the OAC,” and my responses:
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