An Open Letter to the HAU Journal’s Board of Trustees

Tēnā koutou katoa, 

Recent concerns about HAU provide us all with an opportunity to reflect upon some deeper issues regarding our discipline’s engagement with indigenous perspectives and voices. 

Mahi Tahi is a collective working under the auspices of the New Zealand national anthropology association, ASAA/NZ. Mahi Tahi seeks to foster a space for exploring the relationship between Māori and anthropology, and to recognise the important role Māori scholars have played and continue to play in shaping our discipline in Aotearoa.

We note that on the front page of your journal’s website it does not mention the Māori origins of the word, hau, simply describing it thus: “HAU takes its name from Mauss’ Spirit of the Gift, an anthropological concept that derives its theoretical potential precisely from the translational inadequations and equivocations involved in comparing the incomparable.” 

We have several questions we encourage you to consider as you address the systemic issues you face. We pose these to encourage you to think critically about your use of te reo Māori, and engagement with indigenous knowledge more broadly. While our concerns are not tied to recent accounts of abuse and mistreatment within the journal community, we see them as stemming from a similar set of issues regarding the presence or absence of an ethics of care, respect, inclusiveness and openness within HAU’s leadership. 

  1. How well have the journal’s recent practices, decisions and approaches lived up to the Māori concept of hau, a concept that the journal has continually stated is its central ethos? In other words, has the word become a misappropriated marketing tool or do members of HAU meaningfully engage with contemporary discussions and understandings of this Māori concept?*
  2. What are your thoughts on the systematic mispronunciation of the word hau by members of the journal community internationally?
  3. In the spirit of genuine reciprocity, what types of mutually beneficial relationships do you hope to foster with Māori scholars and communities? 

We understand you must first deal with some pressing issues regarding the treatment of staff and volunteers, but we look forward to hearing your responses in due course.

Ngā mihi nui,

Mahi Tahi Steering Committee
Dr Lily George (Western Institute of Technology, Taranaki)
Dr Marama Muru-Lanning (University of Auckland)
Dr Lorena Gibson (Victoria University of Wellington) 
Dr Catherine Trundle (Victoria University of Wellington) 
Dr Fiona McCormack (University of Waikato)
Dr Tom Ryan (University of Waikato)

ASAA/NZ members in support
Professor Brigitte Bönisch-Brednich (Chairperson of ASAA/NZ, Victoria University of Wellington)
Professor Ruth Fitzgerald (University of Otago)
Dr Trisia Farrelly (Massey University)
Associate Professor Jeff Sluka (Massey University)
Dr Susan Wardell (University of Otago)
Tarapuhi Vaeau (Victoria University of Wellington)
Associate Professor Jeff Sissons (Victoria University of Wellington) 
Dr Nayantara Sheoran Appleton (Victoria University of Wellington) 
Dr Caroline Bennett (Victoria University of Wellington) 
Associate Professor Sharyn Graham Davies (Auckland University of Technology)
Dr Robyn Andrews (Massey University)
Dr Carolyn Morris (Massey University)
Dr Graeme Macrae (Massey University)
Jacinta Forde (University of Waikato)
Dr Sita Venkateswar (Massey University)
Dr Eli Elinoff (Victoria University of Wellington)
Dr Piers Locke (University of Canterbury)
Dr Jesse Hession Grayman (University of Auckland)
Dr Graeme Whimp (Victoria University of Wellington)
Rob Thorne (Te Kōkī - New Zealand School of Music, Victoria University of Wellington)
Dr Samuel Taylor-Alexander (Monash University)
Dr Courtney Addison (Victoria University of Wellington)
Dr Lynette Carter (University of Otago)
Michelle O'Toole (La Trobe University)
Associate Professor Susanna Trnka (University of Auckland)
Margaret Kawharu (Victoria University of Wellington)
Emeritus Professor Julie Park (University of Auckland) 
Sally Raudon (Victoria University of Wellington)

*An excellent first step for thinking about Māori perspectives and critiques of the Maussian gift literature is Georgina Stewart’s 2017 article 'The ‘Hau’ of Research: Mauss Meets Kaupapa Māori.''Hau'_of_Research_Mauss_Meets_Kaupapa_Maori

You can read more about Mahi Tahi, its creation, and what has emerged from the space so far here: