Total Information Awareness (for anthropologists)

(Recently there was a discussion on one of my listservs about how to ‘keep up’ with anthropology if you lived in the Pacific and didn’t have access to a fancy research university. I thought this advice might be helpful so I’m reproducing it here. Hopefully over time I’ll add illustrations and/or further installments if people find it useful. Publishers and others should feel free to add additional resources in the comments. -R)

Let’s assume that, for some reason, you want to keep up to date with academic anthropology as it is done in large, ‘prestigious’ first world universities. For large, prestigious first world anthropologists like myself it is easy to keep up with the latest books and articles because you can simply stroll over to your lushly appointed library and browse the stacks. But what if you don’t have access to such a library? The guide will show you how to use commonly available and completely free tools on the Internet in order to keep up to date with the latest literature in anthropology. Since I study the Pacific, I will focus on the literature in that area. However this guide will be useful to anthropologists who study other areas, and since these methods can easily be applied to any academic discipline, the system described here will be of use to non-anthropologists as well.

What you need is ‘alerting’
The good news is that a tremendous amount of journals and books are available on the Internet. The bad news is that much of this information is available only for those who can afford to pay for it. This guide won’t tell you how to get access to password-protected material. Instead I want to focus here on ‘alerting.’ Alerting (or ‘discovery’) is the process of finding out about new books and articles. It is different from ‘filtering’ (where you decide whether you actually want to read any of the things you’ve discovered) or ‘acquisition’ (where you actually get hold of the articles you want to read). You know better than I do what you want to read, and you also probably have a better sense than I do of how to request articles via interlibrary loan or simply just beg borrow and steal PDFs from your large, prestigious friends.

Luckily, publishers want to make it as easy as possible for you to learn about and want to purchase the anthropology they are selling — they consider it a form of advertising. There are lots of complex and clever ways to keep up to date, but here we will keep it extremely simple and use the “Table of Contents Alerting” (TOC alerting) that journals use in order to get publishers to send you emails with a list of all of the articles in the current issue of their journal. There are also similar tools for book publishers that I will discuss.

The goal of this guide, then, is this: to get a steady stream of emails into your inbox that will let you know about the latest books and articles in anthropology. So let’s get started.

Get an email account
If you are reading this on the Web, you may have an Internet connection but not an email account. The first step is to create such an account so you can send and receive email. Many people offer these accounts for free, so getting one is no problem. If you need a free email account I suggest you go to “”: and sign up for one.

Subscribe to American Anthropologist and other American Anthropological Association Journals
Let’s start with American Anthropologist, the flagship journal of the largest anthropological association in the world. Here is how to get alerts from them about new issues of American anthropologist.

  1. Go to the American Anthropological Association’s online portal “AnthroSource”:

  2. In the upper left hand side, click on the ‘register’ link to create a free account with them.

  3. Log in to AnthroSource

  4. In the lower right hand window, click the ‘alerts’ link.

  5. Choose “American Anthropologist”, and then at the bottom of the page click ‘submit’.

Notice that you can sign up for all AAA journals at this site — so you may want to select more than one.

Subscribe to the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
Let’s now get you signed up for the leading British anthropology journal.

  1. Go to “Black-Well Synergy”: , the company that published JRAI.

  2. Click the ‘register’ link to create an account on their site.

  3. Now click on the “Sign up for email alerts”: link.

  4. Navigate to “Social and Behavioral Sciences”, then “Anthropology”. You will see a dozen or so journals. Tick the box labeled “Journal of the Royal Anthropological Association”: .

Again, there are lots of other journals available here.

Subscribe to new book alerts at University of California Press
There’s more to life than journal articles. What are the hot new books in anthropology? Many publishers have alerting services as well. Let’s get you signed up to receive new book alerts from University of California Press, one of the top publishers of anthropology.

  1. Go to their “eNews subscription form”:

  2. enter your email address and click ‘anthropology’ (and whatever other topics interest you) — luckily, this press does not make you go through the rigamarole of establishing an account with them.

Voila, you are done.

Sign up to your other favorite publishers
By now you should have some sense of how this works. The steps are simple.
1) Find out who publishes your favorite books and articles
2) Go to their website and (probably) create an account)
3) Look for a link that says something like ‘alerting’ or ‘enews’ or ‘eupdates’
4) sign up to receive alerts from them.
There are many other publishers out there, including book publishers like “University of Chicago Press”: “University of Michigan Press”: “Princeton University Press”: and “Duke”: . There are also journal publishers with extensive offerings in anthropology like “SAGE”: (a bit harder to use — create an account to get started)and “Taylor and Francis”: (again, a little less user-friendly). Be creative and don’t be afraid to experiment — you’ll find plenty of alerting services.

Final Thoughts
Once you realize the power and ease of this method you will probably end up with a problem that is the opposite of your original dilemma: instead of being out of touch, you will find yourself deluged with too much information. So in closing remember that there are some simple ways to deal with information overload:

  1. don’t subscribe to everything: if you are overwhelmed with information, try unsubcribing to journals that are outside of your area of expertise

  2. Let it go: Another option would be to subscribe to everything under the sun, read the alerts, and then delete them without any follow up. Sometimes just browsing through things is a valuable way to learn what the situation of your field is, even if you never follow up on 99% of what you read. Just don’t be afraid to delete emails when you need to.

  3. Prioritize: One thing that being swamped with information makes you do is think seriously about what your intellectual project is, what is central to it, and what is not. You might have always had a lingering interest in Yoruba cosmology but how central is that, really, to your analysis of the textile trade in Tang China? Having too much to read is a great way to hone your sense of what is and is not key for you at any one point.


Alex Golub is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. His book Leviathans at The Gold Mine has been published by Duke University Press. You can contact him at

5 thoughts on “Total Information Awareness (for anthropologists)

  1. Better still – get a bunch of blogs like this one in your RSS feed and the filtering is done for you. As you build confidence cognitive load decreases unlike dealing with abstracts, and (god help us) summarisers.

  2. Thanks for this Rex! Alerts are great, because they let you read through the TOC of all your relevant journals pretty quickly, and then add them to to-do lists (to be read or not read later). This is probably the best improvement I have made to my coffee drinking procrastination in YEARS. I use the RSS feeds for the journals I follow, and I read them on Google Reader, which makes it super easy to just star the articles I want to follow up on later (or sometimes I put the citation in zotero, with a note, if it is super relevant).

  3. I have a dream of creating a blog aggregating services that would give academics the option to sign up from a huge picklist of journals and get emailed TOCs from them. It would be child’s play to build but… I don’t have time.

    For the record, a lot of more journals to email than RSS, and a lot more professors prefer email to learning a new tool like an RSS reader, so I did choose email as a delivery device for a reason.

  4. That service would be great, and not to hard, and take a little time to build. Oh, it would be cool. I agree that email is more accessible for a lot of people, and available for more journals. The major benefit of RSS, for me, is that it adds academic journals to my daily coffee-time perusal of oh, global commodities market news, and, uh, crochet patterns. In this way, adding the journals to my RSS is almost like smashing up vitamins into my pudding!

  5. Actually there is a website where you can sign up for lots of anthro journals and they have the feeds for all of them there. Then you just have to visit the site regularly and (if you have made a free account) you can review them all at one time without cluttering your inbox. Check out ticTOCs at

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