One of the big objections to the AAA’s move to release material ‘open access’ is that it is useless because it
does doesn’t include ‘the latest research’ which is, supposedly, what ‘science’ is ‘all about’. This is my reactionary post against this assumption.
‘Old’ material is valuable for a number of reasons:
- For some reason, sociocultural anthropology does ‘theory’ historically — theory classes are taught by reading chronologically from the beginning to the present. If/When the AAA makes good on its promise to release this material, we will no longer have to pay US$50-100 for theory readers (unless the editors really ‘add value’ to them). And this at a time when it seems students will have less and less money in their pockets in the forseeable future.
Historians of anthropology now have a freer hand in the archive. Over are the days of Regna Darnell lamenting the fact that Sapir’s rejoinder to Kroeber’s article on the superorganic was not ultimately included in his collected works and thus never figured as prominently as it should in our historical understanding of Sapir. Soon — supposedly — you will be able to download it for free.
(2a. I for one would much rather read Sapir’s response to Kroeber than What’s Fashionable This Month in Anthropology. But I recognize that is just me. Sapir was smart. Really really smart. Reading him makes you smart. I promise.)
- It matters what happened in Palau in 1940. Human societies change over time — anyone who takes seriously the idea that social science must have a diachronic dimension will recognize the value of making older ethnography more widely available.
The ‘latest results’ can always be delivered to us if their authors know about OA and are proactive in archiving their preprints. The older material has no such advocate, so the earlier we get the wall moving the better.
That’s it for now but I’m sure I can be even more reactionary if given more time….