Let the Clone Wars Begin: How the Open Anthropology Project can be Cooperative

If you thought the dispute between Open Anthropology and the Open Anthropology Cooperative was just about a name, then there are consequences to that too. In my view, the only role that the name played was as a symbolic expression of a political affiliation that could never be realized, and the rejection of the OAC was the rejection of an attempt to assimilate my project into theirs, however remotely. (This post adds little now; its primary purpose is a necessary technical one, to close the loop.) By a “popular vote” members of the OAC affirmed that they thought the name of this project was the best one — I could not agree more, and I thank them for their compliments. It’s a great name, once you have a meaning for it. Unfortunately, Google, and the rest of the Internet, cannot easily distinguish between nearly identical names, and that will be a problem as much for the OAC as for the OAP, disclaimers notwithstanding.

Otherwise, certain issues were always of marginal relevance at best, such as: names (most people actually meant words, but they did not pause to reflect on the difference between “jack” and “smith” and Jack Smith…the first two are words, and “belong” to all speakers of a language, while the latter is a name belonging to a person, not a very unique name to be sure, but personal nonetheless); property (this has to do with ownership again, which is to misunderstand and displace the real, focal issue: respecting political difference) — this is very marginal, but not entirely nonexistent, since domain names are properties that can be purchased; and, copyright (this was the least relevant, as no claim of plagiarism or massive copying of contents was ever alleged by me, but it did become significant when some who misunderstood the issue were going to the extreme on this blog of asserting that I had no claim even to what I write). There was no legal claim, nor even a moral one, but rather a political one.

Of course, when the words are generic, relatively empty floating signifiers, meanings and the boundaries they mark do not matter. In the Western legal system, only highly unique identifiers can be protected by trademarks (and then lawyers), and there is no copyright for titles — this is why I said I would not be arguing about legalities. In addition, as so many in the debate swore (sometimes in the pejorative sense), no one can own “open” or “anthropology,” nor “open anthropology.” Everyone can have it, everyone is doing it — it’s the most successful project of all times. Some have been doing it since the telegraph was invented (cue to aging researcher to plug his or her own research here).

So in the festive spirit of openness, in the blandest sense, everybody Wang Chung tonight!

One can never own a name…

or at least not enough times.

More OAC networks to be added in the future?

Open Anthropology Co-operative

Open Anthropology Uncooperative

Open Anthropology-Cooperative

Open-Anthropology Cooperative


Open Anthropology Cooperatives

Open Anthropologists’ Cooperative

Openly Anthropology Cooperative

Open Anthro Coop

OAC Open Anthropology Coop

Open Anthropological Cooperative

Open Anthropology Community

Open Anthropology Collective

Open Anthropology Network

Open Anthropology Union

Open Anthropology Association

Open Anthropology Commons

legbazombie2Finally, before we go to some suitably obnoxious yet catchy 80’s music — a little note about what some missed. Open Anthropology, as understood by an anarchist site (that I cannot find again), rewrote the title as Open! (A)nthropology (the anarchist “A”) in a short article. They meant it as I intended it, as written elsewhere on this blog: as a command, a process, and a goal…not an activity such as merely placing anthropological information online, or being an anthropologist online, or open access publishing. It’s anthropology itself that is to be opened, so we can all get past it. (And by “opening” I don’t mean like opening the doors to a wonderful mansion filled with fine china and crystal chandeliers; no, I mean more like opening up the belly of a pig.)

“The words we use are strong. They make reality.”

“On the edge of oblivion,
All the world is babylon…
A ship of fools sailing on.”


* A very special thanks to Astrid and “MadAxe”

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6 thoughts on “Let the Clone Wars Begin: How the Open Anthropology Project can be Cooperative

  1. ryan

    Meanwhile, at the OAC…well….you can post photos of yourself and talk about anthropology in chat rooms. But it’s not just anthro Facebook. It’s “open anthropology.”

    I tried to stir up some folks to get them to think about what exactly they were trying to do there, but all of my posts ended up in the doldrums of theoretical nonsense. It’s like a big machine that curtails ideas with “the endless openness and possibilities of the internet.” So many possibilities that nobody does anything. Yay. It IS like an endless anthropology conference, just without the travel expenses.

    The “vote” was a joke, as was the defense of the name of the site. Since there is no agreed upon plan, idea, goal, vision, direction, or even conception of what to do with the site, the name doesn’t even matter. I ran into so many people who were telling me that I was being closed minded by asking what they wanted to do with the site–the answers I received were about some vague idea that there were no limits, and that people could do ANYTHING they want with “anthropology.”

    For me, THAT was part of the problem.

    Now my only issue is whether to join the un-cooperative or the union. hmmm. maybe the association. it’s all so WIDE OPEN max.

    1. Maximilian Forte

      Lol, but keep in mind those are joke sites, and I personally don’t have plans to become active in any of them, beyond getting a few of them started and collaborating with Astrid in other respects. The really funny irony would be if one day one of them takes off with a life of its own.

      Speaking of jokes, I agree that the vote was a joke. It was a deceitful way for Hart to finally pay some lip service to “democracy”, even though the choice of questions, voting threshold, etc. was done in the usual undemocratic fashion, and that was also pointed out to the administrators by some of their own members, who were promptly ignored of course.

      The original problem was not created by all of the members of the OAC, but by Hart’s rush to control. It was his mistake, and his alone to fix. It would be like you accusing an advertising executive of false advertising, and after he acknowledges there may indeed be a problem (mainly, the fact that you noticed is the problem), he says:

      No, you know what? Let me ask everyone in my company to vote on whether I should fix the mistake. How about that! They mostly agree with me.

      Most of those who commented had apparently taken little or no time to inform themselves of the issues, read both sides, reflect and balance opinions. It was like looking at one hand clapping and applauding itself for doing so. Nonetheless, there were still about 80 out of 210 people who agreed that they should change their name.

      As you say: “Since there is no agreed upon plan, idea, goal, vision, direction, or even conception of what to do with the site, the name doesn’t even matter.” It was merely an excuse for them to score some petty personal and cheap political points. Some of them don’t even know whether they really disagree with me, as in the case of those who praised my article…not knowing it was mine since it has been plagiarized.

      And yes, I withdraw my statement that I am not accusing them of plagiarism. I am now:


      Let me add these statements as well:

      Those who wish to understand better, can also see Jeremy Trombley’s post, “Why I Left the OAC,” and my responses:




    1. Maximilian Forte

      It was an old post, but to keep it from distracting from the Afghanistan articles, I dated the post to 1960. Now I put it back to its real date and so it appears in feeds as if it had been just published today, even if it is off the main page as I wanted.

  2. ryan

    ha-ya, i know those are all fake groups. but, ironically, they are just as functional as the oac is. it would be hilarious if one of them took off on their own.

    i just read through the post on jeremy’s site. just today i deleted my account there at OAC, and my only regret is that all of my conversations went into thin air with that deletion. i had kept the account for that sole purpose, but really do not want to be tied to their deal in any way. pretty sad that it all worked out like that.

    the responses that i got from hart and others were really disappointing and strange. there were also responses from some others that were extremely narrow-minded and one-sided.

    1. Maximilian Forte

      Just a note for others, I deleted the ones I created and asked others to do the same. I think the point was made long enough. The interesting thing that we discovered is that while there can be no copyright on titles, NING which itself recognizes that fact does not allow one to create a network with the exact same title as one that is already existing. It does not seem to be tied to any URL issue since one can choose a URL that is independent of the title, that is, it is not an automatically generated derivative of the title.

      Interesting, right? *Yawn*

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