At the moment, the OAC includes a social networking site and a repository for self-archiving and other activities. Keith Hart and I would like to propose another initiative: the Open Anthropology Cooperative Press.

For us, the OAC is in many ways a re-invention of the small-triple-a, the amateur anthropological association, in the digital age. We would like to do the same for Prickly Pear Pamphlets: “We emulate the passionate amateurs of history who circulated new and radical ideas to as wide an audience as possible and we hope in the process to reinvent anthropology as a means of engaging with society.”

In the first instance, we would publish short and longer pieces online, while leaving future developments as open as the OAC itself. As part of the OAC, the Press would aim to remain true to the PPP prototype and would seek to give expression to new and radical ideas in anthropology from the young and old, the unknown and famous. We would like to open the idea to discussion and also solicit volunteers from the OAC membership to serve on the editorial board.

Justin

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Hi Keith,

I really appreciate your honesty and understanding of the two perspectives (insiders wanting to dwell outside and outsiders wanting to dwell inside). Yet as Karatani would put it, we should find a way to use the parallax gap between two positions which are not easily commensurable. I wonder whether the problem could be solved by convincing famous academics like you or other senior anthropologists willing to voice something unorthodox and original to go first and publish their works with the Press. That would reach your goals and at the same time allow the Press to establish a good reputation. Afterwards, youngsters/independent scholars/non-anthropologists could have their way. I believe that one can only change a 'host' by acting as a 'good' virus, meaning you need to find a good carrier, install yourself in it and then produce the metamorphosis.

Yours,

Giovanni

Keith Hart said:
Giovanni da Col said:
Thanks for your articulated response Keith. I understand my proposal may been seen as too close to the orthodox channels but I mainly intended to raise the issue of making the press attractive for anyone concerned with finding a job.

Hey Giovanni,

I like the way you fight your corner and you certainly have a point. Academic life is like flies on the window: all those on the outside are trying to get in and all those on the inside to get out. I have long been aware that my perspective on these issues is not that of most young job seekers and, as Philip says after you, it would be good here on the OAC to attempt some sort of synthesis of the two extreme positions. It's a question of dialectics and I oscillate between two strategies: 1. the only way out of here is to make a revolution at the expense of the status quo (I think my last post had a whiff of that) 2. Walk on two legs, one foot in the bureaucracy and one in the world (or market or whatever), shifting your balance as you move along. I'm up for both and would like to hear more from people like you and Kathleen, arguing the case for trying to get in at all.
Hi Philip,

thanks for your concern. To answer your question I would say that we have to face a real economy of time. No matters whether they have an Iphone or the new Mac software or Jstor or Google books saves you the trip to the library, people are increasingly busy, deadlines are often missed, one has to write papers, prepare lectures, develop funding proposals for YEARS of financial support in 1000 bloody words, emails to answer (and people fighting for NOT looking into their Inbox, an uncanny source of pleasure and anxiety). And there is personal life which is often BRACKETED out of the picture. One has to choose: would I publish a conventional piece who may help me to get more funding or a job and pay my bills or make happy my daughter with a nice holiday or go for an experimental project who will 'only' reach the goal of making me happy about my work? I believe that for junior academics priorities are critical and most would still choose the first option (=functional satisfaction or 'academic ataraxia' if you prefer). Having said that, you may find incredibly prolific young scholars (maniac writers a la Zizek) who can write 20 pages per day and are capable to multitask 5 articles and two books. Unfortunately, I'm not one of them.

Yours,

Giovanni

Philip Carl SALZMAN said:
Giovanni said "I guess senior anthropologists and established academics would not be very interested in my point."
Seniors such as myself do not undergo such reviews, and so we can publish were we want. Much of my recent publishing has been at Middle East Strategy at Harvard. But we are very interested in your point, first, because we remember being in the same situation, and, second, because we have students and junior colleagues who face such evaluations. I think you are correct to say that assessors in general will look to long established, prestigious, and highly selective publication sources for judging academic standing. They make take other things into account as well, but I would not put my reliance on unconventional sources. This makes it difficult to break out of the conventional pattern. I think OAC has got to ask what it can do comfortably, and how that can fit into intellectual and professional trajectories. Would it be too simple to suggest that conventional publication sources could be used for more conventional production, and OAC for more experimental attempts? A junior academic could participate in both without jeopardizing standing.
Giovanni da Col said:
Thanks for your articulated response Keith. I understand my proposal may been seen as too close to the orthodox channels but I mainly intended to raise the issue of making the press attractive for anyone concerned with finding a job. I guess senior anthropologists and established academics would not be very interested in my point. If people will understand the idea that the Press would publish original pieces including 'manifestos', critical and counter-tendency essays, the Press would establish a good reputation in the field and be useful for career purposes too. Indeed Prickly Pear pamphlets are still well regarded. Please don't take my emphasis on career as an obsession but as a call for keeping the feet on the ground. I appreciate the online proliferation of alternative forms of academic publications. Unfortunately, when Departments have to decide whether to shortlist you or not they will read your CV and look for big names such as JRAI, AA, CA or if you have a book in Press and think RAE, ESRC and AHRC. Correct me or not (you are definitely more familiar with the system than me) but if I published ten pieces of excellent work online or through alternative routes or unknown publishers, I would still be penalised towards someone who has 'just' two JRAI articles and one book in press with OUP. What I see around are concerns for Impact Factors, rankings of 'A', 'B' and 'C' journals and discussions of whether two articles in an 'A' journal would be worth more than editing a collection. Maybe it's because I worked in Tibet but I see similarities with my informants obsessions with a 'mathematics of merit'. Having said all this (again, take me as devil's advocate - I still remember that you published one of the first pieces on the concept of informal economy in Cambridge Anthropology, basically a student journal), your point is well taken: there should be a venue to publish unorthodox work. Unfortunately all brilliant junior anthropologists I know seems more concerned to send off articles to big journals than to write experimental or unorthodox pieces . I see broken Phd students at the last stage of their dissertations just concerned in publishing anything that could get them a Fellowship or a postdoc to write that book that could then get them a lectureship. In practice, unorthodox pieces seems a desire of more mature and established academics. Take me as a Bourdieuan here, Keith. I always search for the 'scholastic fallacies' and the material conditions which make certain tastes 'good'.

All best,

Giovanni

PS On another note, I think Berghahn has a series of pamphlets called 'critical interventions'.

Keith Hart said:
Hi Giovanni, Thanks for volunteering. The problem with your suggestion is that it boxes our initiative into expanding the options for careerists while remaining close to the existing model of academic publishing. I have experience, firsthand and secondhand, of the problems of dealing with these people and I have no desire to get involved with them now.
Justin mentioned the importance of the idea of 'amateur' in past and future efforts. Amateurs, whoever they are, do it for love, but usually they do it because the existing specialist outlets would not consider them. Among the first Prickly Pear pamphlets, I published an undergrad essay (Patrick Wilcken) and work by two unknown young West Africans (Ato Quayson and Gabriel Gbadamosi). Sahlins, Schaffer and Strathern all published stuff with us that was otherwise unpublishable in that form. So all I can say to you is, if you have great stuff you can publish elsewhere, go ahead. But we will establish a standard of originality and unorthodoxy, combining the unknown and the famous, that will make people want to be published by us. If I didn't believe that, I wouldn't be in this game.
As an aside, when I was at Yale in the 70s, I founded a programme for the Comparative Study of Culture and Society with David Apter and Fred Jameson. It is hard to credit today, but Fred was in it because the French department would not let him lecture on Levi-Strauss and Marx and had no place for his graduate students with similar interests. The academic division of labour always places restrictions of this sort on innovative intellectual work and my commitment is to creating collaborative spaces like this one where people have more freedom to express themselves. Your suggestion is too close to the conventional pattern for my taste and your question likewise.

Giovanni da Col said:
Thanks Keith but then my question (take me as the devil's advocate) would be: why someone (especially junior anthropologists) would publish great material with OAC press instead of going through the orthodox channels? What about striking a deal with some press and proceed like this: 1) quick online publishing in an online OAC peer-reviewed journal; 2) have a publisher printing the single issues or an annual collection of the articles the following year. At that point, the old issues could be taken offline and accessed only through the publisher's website. That would allow for a quick turnaround, open access for a limited amount of time and contributions would still be valued as 'official publications' (in press or published). Having said that, I am available for helping on this or other options...
Hi Giovanni & Keith & Everybody,

Giovanni -- obviously you are right, junior scholars looking for academic jobs and/or tenure would be out of their heads not to scratch and claw to get their best pieces in the best journals -- the system is too punitive & hidebound to reward alternative behaviors. But that's a minority slice of anthropologists (most are grad students or people working outside academia or people past that career stage); I think a journal can survive and thrive on the rest of the population. You probably did not intend it, but your question might suggest that the best, cleverest anthropologists are the up & coming scratchers and clawers and if you don't have them your publications won't be interesting. It's a debatable point (& I say this as a scratcher-clawer myself).

Better yet, though, a new publishing format could be a part of getting past the current system, which is both in terms of career opportunities (see Marc Bousquet on N. America, at least) and publishing is not working to promote the general good (which I think is kind of the happy aim of this-thing-which-cannot-be-named, currently known as OAC).

Keith, about the real work involved in all of this: you've mentioned a venue in France which got some French government support (yes? or did I misunderstand?), or maybe EU money? I know Canada's SSHRC has very generous funding opportunities, but is the general feeling here that we shouldn't be going to officialdom hat in hand but instead doing it on the goodwill and shoestrings of our collective? I'm not against that model, I'm just thinking it can help a lot to have someone like a clever paid undergraduate who knows web publishing to keep on top of mechanics, or some such set of persons.
Hi Kathleen,

no I did not intend to say that the cleverest anthropologists are the up & coming scratchers but just that we should consider that part of the population without a permanent post. I believe they are not a small minority, especially on the OAC.

Thanks,

Giovanni

Kathleen Lowrey said:
Hi Giovanni & Keith & Everybody,

Giovanni -- obviously you are right, junior scholars looking for academic jobs and/or tenure would be out of their heads not to scratch and claw to get their best pieces in the best journals -- the system is too punitive & hidebound to reward alternative behaviors. But that's a minority slice of anthropologists (most are grad students or people working outside academia or people past that career stage); I think a journal can survive and thrive on the rest of the population. You probably did not intend it, but your question might suggest that the best, cleverest anthropologists are the up & coming scratchers and clawers and if you don't have them your publications won't be interesting. It's a debatable point (& I say this as a scratcher-clawer myself).

Better yet, though, a new publishing format could be a part of getting past the current system, which is both in terms of career opportunities (see Marc Bousquet on N. America, at least) and publishing is not working to promote the general good (which I think is kind of the happy aim of this-thing-which-cannot-be-named, currently known as OAC).

Keith, about the real work involved in all of this: you've mentioned a venue in France which got some French government support (yes? or did I misunderstand?), or maybe EU money? I know Canada's SSHRC has very generous funding opportunities, but is the general feeling here that we shouldn't be going to officialdom hat in hand but instead doing it on the goodwill and shoestrings of our collective? I'm not against that model, I'm just thinking it can help a lot to have someone like a clever paid undergraduate who knows web publishing to keep on top of mechanics, or some such set of persons.
Thanks for the suggestion. I'd like you to know that I'm interested in this. Like so many others (represented eloquently from his point of view by Giovanni), I'm on the outside trying to get in. This means that I'm working in a 9 to 5 customer service job as well as writing applications, conference papers and publication material in my spare time. Therefore, time is a huge issue for me. I would love to participate in this, but how much I can do will depend on my livelihood issues.

Thanks!

Timm
Hey, sorry Giovanni, I shouldn't have suggested that you did. I do think whatever gets launched here could be good for long-term efforts to change the dynamics of academic anthropology, even if in the short term publishing in a non-traditional forum would be a bad strategy (unless it is accompanied by publishing in conventional fora) for job-seekers and tenure-pursuers. But the nature of that beast will only change if anthropologists of all kinds start putting whatever energy they do have (a lot or a little) into alternatives!

Giovanni da Col said:
Hi Kathleen,

no I did not intend to say that the cleverest anthropologists are the up & coming scratchers but just that we should consider that part of the population without a permanent post. I believe they are not a small minority, especially on the OAC.

Thanks,

Giovanni

Kathleen Lowrey said:
Hi Giovanni & Keith & Everybody,

Giovanni -- obviously you are right, junior scholars looking for academic jobs and/or tenure would be out of their heads not to scratch and claw to get their best pieces in the best journals -- the system is too punitive & hidebound to reward alternative behaviors. But that's a minority slice of anthropologists (most are grad students or people working outside academia or people past that career stage); I think a journal can survive and thrive on the rest of the population. You probably did not intend it, but your question might suggest that the best, cleverest anthropologists are the up & coming scratchers and clawers and if you don't have them your publications won't be interesting. It's a debatable point (& I say this as a scratcher-clawer myself).

Better yet, though, a new publishing format could be a part of getting past the current system, which is both in terms of career opportunities (see Marc Bousquet on N. America, at least) and publishing is not working to promote the general good (which I think is kind of the happy aim of this-thing-which-cannot-be-named, currently known as OAC).

Keith, about the real work involved in all of this: you've mentioned a venue in France which got some French government support (yes? or did I misunderstand?), or maybe EU money? I know Canada's SSHRC has very generous funding opportunities, but is the general feeling here that we shouldn't be going to officialdom hat in hand but instead doing it on the goodwill and shoestrings of our collective? I'm not against that model, I'm just thinking it can help a lot to have someone like a clever paid undergraduate who knows web publishing to keep on top of mechanics, or some such set of persons.
Hi Justin & other responders,

I think a publishing initiative is a tremendous opportunity to move past the prestige/quality-assurance/bureaucracy-oriented design of academic press and instead orient it around communities, shared interest, and engaged filters to anthropological insight. Speaking as a student, I rely heavily on social filters (like this internet community!) to direct me to anthro thinking worth reading about. But in addition to bridging student/junior anthropologists with the more established producers, why not provide a pathway for anthropological knowledge to be useful and relevant to the communities it describes?

I remember finding a xeroxed copy of David Graeber's Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology in a zine library/infoshop in Minnesota. I was totally blown away -- here was an academic's writing (maybe a little polemic, but still totally kickass) in the exact sort of space he strove to describe, in a medium that was intensely social. This distribution model happens to be quite compatible with anarchists, as the idea of 'community informatics' is already an essential aspect of their organizing. But why can't it also be possible, with appropriate amounts of nuance and effort, in a number of other contexts?

This is all to say, I think we should interrogate the value of a singular/cohesive journal if it is to stand outside of the academic publishing system. As participants in some concept of 'open anthropology,' what are our intentions with the information we are creating? How can the form of a press affect the argument over 'what is the value of anthropological data?'

I'd be really interested in seeing a press that publishes around specific interests, that collects knowledge that pertains to particular communities, and uses accessible mediums (the zine will always be my favorite method, but there are others, especially media and internet-oriented) that blurs crucial boundaries of audience, community, producer. Someone could propose a topic, say 'Japan in Crisis,' allow open membership into a nascent zine cooperative, build a collection of anthropological knowledge, deliberate on the best method of publishing/distro, and then get it out there. Such a publication can even review and link to pre-existing anthro essays and insight. How great would it be, when people read an article like the current debate over the 'burqa' (niqab) in France, for them to have access to an anthro-information cluster (a zine, a website, whatever) that would contextualize the issue with some cultural insight to the communities involved, similar debates across space and time, commentary on Frantz Fanon, whatevever. Anthro perspectives on HTS (hi Max Forte, et al!) intended for Afghani readers -- we not only can imagine something vastly different from the academic publishing arrangement we have now, but actually have the people AND the insight to make it happen.

I hope this resonates with at least some folks. In any case, I would love to help out with whatever vision of this press that is most valuable to the community.

Mark
Mark,

It is wonderful to encounter your fresh voice on this issue. I hope that you will be an active contributor to the discussion (and eventually the publishing initiative) from now on. I have always known that my own best chance is to hitch a ride with young people who can imagine possibilities I would never dream of.

One crucial component of your vision is to identify an audience or community. I have abandoned that idea for thirty years now, although it is probable that I should reconsider. Indeed I have an essay on the backburner, 'Death of the audience' (a sort of riposte to Barthes' essay). I have found that ones readers are unpredictable and what they read in ones writing is too. I have entered conversations with readers from the most unlikely places: a Swiss banker, a Brazilian editor, a California housewife. I ask myself what makes my writing social and I conclude that it is listening, when I write, to all the voices I have internalized by living in society around the world.

But all of this is perhaps solipsistic. I would love to learn more about your vision and that might make me modify my own.

Mark Saldaña said:
Hi Justin & other responders,
I think a publishing initiative is a tremendous opportunity to move past the prestige/quality-assurance/bureaucracy-oriented design of academic press and instead orient it around communities, shared interest, and engaged filters to anthropological insight. Speaking as a student, I rely heavily on social filters (like this internet community!) to direct me to anthro thinking worth reading about. But in addition to bridging student/junior anthropologists with the more established producers, why not provide a pathway for anthropological knowledge to be useful and relevant to the communities it describes?
I want to thank all the participants in this discussion for their interest in and ideas for the OAC Press. Now that it has slowed down a bit, I would like to move the discussion from this forum to the OAC wiki where we can begin to formulate a concrete vision and plan. I've already begun by attempting to organize some of your suggestions there. So, please join me!!

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