Audiences, Artic Men, AnthroNow and other AAAs

Rex and I shared a walk through Rite-AID at this year’s AAA. I forgot to call him on the whole Arctic scent thing (I think it’s a bizarre Hawaiian Costco phenom which doesn’t exist on the mainland), because I was too focused on finding the Perfect Award for our Best two out of three categories contest winner (i.e. Greg Downey and his multiple crews at Culture Matters and Neuroanthropology). During our chats, I asked Rex who he thought our audience was at SM. The discussion was enlightening (for me at least, but I’m a slow thinker). What I found interesting was how he characterized the two moieties making up (at least some of) our audience. On the one hand: borderline academics. Those who are not career anthropologists, but may have degrees at various stages, jobs outside the academy or just a healthy interest in the subject. On the other hand: professional academics in anthropology. The former are people who do not have broad access to the discipline’s official research (as we repeatedly point out in our discussions around Open Access), and may (mistakenly) view SM as an emissary from the professional center of the discipline. You read the posts and you comments freely. Without you we would be nothing. The latter, however, may read intently, and may also mis-perceive who we are, but are unlikely to ever post a comment. I would never know that such people exist if I didn’t get regular email from them responding to me directly, instead of posting publicly on the blog.

After talking with Rex, I had a conversation with Emily Martin about all the success of the new Anthropology magazine AnthroNow. Along with discussing how it would be possible to get the clothing store Anthropologie to carry the mag (there is an article in the 1st issue on the store), we talked about the role Savage Minds played as inspiration, and the differences between a blog and a professional magazine. AnthroNow’s publisher is Paradigm Publishers, and apparently, though books are not a growth market, magazines continue to be. I’m not surprised, and I won’t be surprised to see AnthroNow take off in the next couple of years. Given the amount of attention that this blog has gotten, I think a good, well-designed anthropology magazine is a no-brainer, and my conversation with Rex about our audiences confirms this for me… both of those audiences are likely to find AnthroNow a desirable thing.

Which raises an interesting question: why are magazines taking off in the era of blogs? My answer to Dr. Martin was that search doesn’t work. Despite Google, I still turn to magazines as arbiters of taste, as collectors of the arcane and obscure, as vehicles for connoisseurship, and I suspect others do too. Add to this simple pleasures of reading a magazine, the self-fashioning associated with displaying it on a coffee table, and the ability to keep it on view on a bookshelf. Obviously magazines serve a different purpose than search on the net… but that doesn’t quite explain why they should be getting more, rather than less profitable (assuming of course, this is true… I haven’t actually checked this fact). In any case, I view AnthroNow as a huge step in the right direction for the discipline, and once more confirmation that anthropologists should look elsewhere than the AAA for guidance in how we run our discipline.


Christopher M. Kelty is a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. He has a joint appointment in the Institute for Society and Genetics, the department of Information Studies and the Department of Anthropology. His research focuses on the cultural significance of information technology, especially in science and engineering. He is the author most recently of Two Bits: The Cultural Significance of Free Software (Duke University Press, 2008), as well as numerous articles on open source and free software, including its impact on education, nanotechnology, the life sciences, and issues of peer review and research process in the sciences and in the humanities.

29 thoughts on “Audiences, Artic Men, AnthroNow and other AAAs

  1. The AnthroNow website has its articles as pdf only, there are no feeds, the graphic design is sluggish (look at the drop shadows in “Becoming Monsters…”), and the code is horrible. It looks like it’s just flat Dreamweaver with no extensibility, no commenting, no awareness for search engines, no syndication… I’m sure the journal is going to be great, but the website is a little painful. It’s like Anthrosource, only worse. I hope they have something better in the backhand.

  2. Yeah, I have to agree with Mike. Took one look at just went “blegh”!
    That’s interesting about the comments coming through on email. Are you ever tempted to share?

  3. Mike, if you think the website is terrible you should check out the magazine itself. The problem is the layout. It looks more like “Ethnology” than Wired. Should look more like the latter…

  4. 1) The arctic breeze thing is TOTALLY on the mainland, too.
    2) I like your spam protection method. It automatically doubles as GoogleGoggles at certain times of the day!
    3) Attention spans are going down, (for example: I forgot I was writing this comment for at least 30 minutes), and so formats that are better for skimming, skipping around, and re-entering after interruptions are obviously going to do better. Magazines are the closest thing “real” academic writing has to Twitter (for now. The revolution is waiting for you!).
    4) I agree with what you said about arbiters of taste, but there are certainly digital equivalents of this practice as well. search? Google Reader shared feeds (if you trust your friends?) Even Google’s pagerank is SOMEWHAT indicative of “quality” in a certain sense. Jason Scott wrote a pretty good blogpost on this if you haven’t read it:

  5. Like any good anthropologist at the AAAs in SF, I went shopping at the nearby Anthropologie. I was talking with the sales girl about whether she knew all the anthropologists were in town that week. She said she didn’t know that — and she asked me, “So, what does an anthropologist do?” Perhaps I stared at her bug-eyed for a few seconds too long (Wasn’t this in the employee training guide?!). She backed up, “I mean, I know they look at cultures and stuff.” I told her I studied women’s health issues in Africa. She continued, “…Because I’ve always been fascinated in learning about cultures.” I pointed her in the direction of Berkeley, thinking they must have an introductory course she could enroll in. But the moral of this story is that there is most definitely a market niche for AnthroNow in the Anthropologie.

  6. On the launch of Anthropology Now. I have been contemplating a blog post motivated not only by the launch of Anthropology Now at the AAAs, but by the remarkably high number of new journals generally and especially the number launched at the AAAs this year. For now, this comment will probably have to suffice.

    I like magazines. I like anthropology. Inspired by similar publications in neighboring fields, I have long wished for an anthropology magazine that was both serious and Border’s magazine rack friendly. I have not had the luxury of speaking to any of the excellent people who are throwing their weight behind Anthropology Now, but I would like to ask them to explain publicly their business model in a way that is both clear and that allows the community to compute the costs and benefits of their approach. On the surface of things, I am disappointed that such excellent people are working so hard on a project that seems both late 20th century in approach and potentially harmful to the ecology of scholarly communication in anthropology.

    They would like me to pay $55 a year to subscribe as an individual. This is a bit steep for me, but it is within the realm of the possible. On the other hand, they would like me (as would all of the non-OA journal publishers) to go pester my university librarian to subscribe. The rates for this range from $341 per year for online only to $394 per year for print and online combined. This institutional rate is, of course, modest when compared to the costs of big science journals, but it still arrives in a time in which excellent R1 universities find themselves canceling a significant number of anthropology journal subscriptions each year. Who is taking this toll and what value added benefits will my library be getting when it invests this much money and, along the way, subsidizes either my below-cost subscription or provides the profit margin for a for-profit publisher?

    I have nothing against Paradigm Publishers per se. I am glad that they care enough about our field to publish books in it and to, now, engage with this journal/magazine effort. But why them? Were no university presses willing to undertake this effort? The Anthropology Now PR materials compare the new effort to “sociology’s Contexts”. If the goal is to be the anthropological equivalent to Contexts, wouldn’t it have been great to have worked with the University of California Press–Contexts’ publisher. Or if that were too close to home, with a not-for-profit publisher with similar experience working on scholarly magazines? Maybe Paradigm Publishers will be able to offer something that other publishers will not (or would not) be able to offer, but before pressing our libraries to buy in, I would like to know a bit about what the upsides here are. On the library side, aren’t we just making a bad journal ecology worse?

    I do not want to make this about open access, but I do want to point out that there is another zone in which clarity is needed. The journal’s promotional brochure is a standard for-profit “you won’t be able to live without us” pitch. Not surprisingly, the journal is offering inaugural content online. It would be exceptionally useful if this could be explained. One possibility is that the journal intends to make all of its content available free online. This would be wonderful, but in the absence of a clear declaration of OA principles, this seems unlikely. Comments on Chris’ post above suggest that readers here are expecting such access to content, but this does not square with the standard subscription pitch to libraries. (I am holding the launch brochure in my hands right now.) Were this a gold OA start up, the whole launch would surely have been handled differently and the IT infrastructure would have a different look and feel from the get go. My guess is that we are being enticed to subscribe with content from issue one but that if things work on the subscription (and product placement) front, that this content will be withdrawn in large part, with, I would anticipate, an article or two provided free each issue as an online enticement. The comparable comparative literature magazine World Literature Today uses the web in this way. I could be totally wrong with all this guessing, but again a clear statement articulating the business plan would allow those of us with strong preferences for supporting gold OA and reservations about supporting gated, commercial projects that harm (1) the future of OA, (2) the research libraries on which we depend, and (3) the not-for-profit university presses that have long been our partners in seeing important but not-commercially-viable scholarship into print to make informed decisions.

    The confusion over Anthropology Now’s OA status is reflected in Peter Suber’s 11/11/08 post regarding it on Open Access News. He titled the post “New anthropology magazine appears to be OA” He then wrote the following. “Anthropology Now is a new magazine for lay readers. (Thanks to” He then quoted “From the editorial in the inaugural issue:” providing the following excerpt “…Anthropology Now will build on a growing commitment among anthropologists to make our research findings open and accessible to the world outside of the confines of the academy….”

    He closed with this Comment: “I’m guessing that this is OA, but I wish I could be sure. At the moment, all the articles are at least gratis OA. (I couldn’t find any licensing information.) The excerpt from the editorial suggests a commitment to OA. But the magazine doesn’t call itself OA or free. It also has a subscription page, but it doesn’t mention prices.”

    Peter had done a fine job of condensing the available information and of pointing to the question that I am raising. I hope that the Anthropology Now editorial team will confirm Peter’s hopes and wipe away my suspicions, but I think that it is likely that “open and accessible to the world” is a way of characterizing the textual quality of work by engaged public intellectuals but is not necessarily a commitment to open access as a strategy for getting engaged and accessible writing in front of the largest number of readers.

    Anthropology Now has a spectacularly talented editorial team and it has gathered first rate authors for its first and second issues. Imagine if, as happened for communications studies in the case of the International Journal of Communication, this much gravitas had been deployed in the service of a new flagship anthropology journal combining both significant in-kind support and a strong, self-conscious commitment to gold OA. It could have been transformational from day one. Instead, we’re still doing the convince your librarian thing.

    As a coda, I would just note further that it is remarkable that so many colleagues with deep involvement in the leadership of the AAA are associated with Anthropology Now. This is a sign of the project’s intellectual vigor but it also raises the question of why they are pursuing this project outside the confines of the AAA. The closest thing we have now to Anthropology Now are the similarly named Anthropology Today (the magazine-like newsletter of the RAI, which is published by Wiley-Blackwell) and Anthropology News (the almost magazine-like newsletter of the AAA, which is published by Wiley-Blackwell). With its commitment to extending the voice of anthropology, was there any discussion of articulating the impulse behind Anthropology Now with Anthropology News or as a new project within the AAA framework? In the paper “Anthropology of/in Circulation” we argued that various innovative projects were taking root outside the AAA for reasons that had to do with changes in social organization, technology, and scholarly society governance. With an editorial board made up of key AAA leaders, how does Anthropology Now fit within the disciplinary field that includes AAA outreach and publication efforts. (Note that AAA President-Elect Virginia Dominguez is among the supporters quoted in the brochure. Past AAA presidents and current officers are on the editorial board.)

    Despite my concerns, part of me hopes that this works none-the-less and that this project can be so good that it does succeed on the magazine rack next to The Nation and Wired. If nothing else, that could drive down costs for me and for my library. Beyond enriching the field and hopefully reaching new audiences, maybe we really need Paradigm Publishers to succeed in the for-profit anthropology publishing space just to counter-balance tendencies toward consolidation among the other firms.

    I was in business meetings almost constantly at AAA and missed the launch event, so perhaps some of my questions have already been answered. It will be interesting to see where this effort goes.

  7. When I got my first look at Anthropology Now on line, it struck me as, to put it gently, dull. That might, however, have been the weather affecting my sinuses, which makes everything seem dull; so I reserved judgment.

    Now, however, I have taken the precaution of comparing Anthropology Now to two well-established competitors, Smithsonian and Scientific American. Anthropology Now is dull, and the reasons are pretty clear. Smithsonian and Scientific American offer their readers stories; they plunge straight in with provocative questions and interesting people doing interesting things — things that are interesting to readers outside of academic disciplines. Anthropology Now offers essays that read like watered-down academic prose, of the sort typically found in undergraduate textbooks. The topics have potential, Margaret Mead was a character and women’s breasts are, indeed, a subject of endless fascination to all sorts of people. But both are described in informative, clear, and ultimately totally boring prose.

    Will this kind of writing attract readers and excite them about anthropology? I have to say I doubt it.

  8. the nice thing about being an author on this blog is that I can rely on y’all to raise the hard questions while I play good cop 🙂

    The website sucks, no doubts there. I mentioned to several people involved that it’s gonna be an issue. I have no idea whether paradigm is responsible, but whoever is, is going to have to answer for what they have done.

    The print version, however, does not suck. At least not in the ways Trudy or John suggest. People here are comparing it to Wired, The Nation, Smithsonian or Scientific American. I don’t think this is right. I think it fits into the ecology of literary journals and specialty magazines, and I sincerely hope that it enters that field at the elite end (i.e. not next to “Cat Fanciers” at Walgreens). For instance, I was at American Apparel on Westwood today buying some underwear (true story, for people who think they need more info about my private life) and behind the cashier was an array of magazines. Predictably it included Vice and several zine-looking things with pretty women on them that I didn’t recognize. But it also included the “Journal of Contemporary Culture” “Monocle” and “n+1”. In my mind, AnthroNow might fit there nicely. It might compare favorably both in terms of content and in terms of design with these mags. So the Anthropologie quip is only half-joking.

    Which brings me to Jason’s comments, which are all true and right, as usual. I disagree, however. I’m not sure AnthroNow is either a journal of research, or needs to be open access. I think its about making anthropology hip. At least I hope it is. And if that’s the case, I don’t care if it’s open access or not. I care that our research articles are open access, and maybe some of our books, though probably not all of them. I don’t particularly want libraries to buy AthroNow… i’d rather they spent their money on obscure folklore and biological anthropology journals… i’d rather let AnthroNow succeed or fail based on individual subscriptions and in the marketplace. In this respect, I hope the editorial staff and Paradigm can figure out ways to do this, and yes, stop asking us to beg our libraries to pay for it. I totally agree that this is borderline offensive, and not the right strategy. I think however, that AnthroNow could be cool enough to find a different market and source of revenue. I fully expect any of my colleagues who complain about the lack of a publicly accessible version of anthropology to sign up for a subscription immediately. Before they finish reading this fragment of a sentence. If they don’t, they must stop complaining, right now, and immediately become fanatical open access supporters instead.

    All that being said. If they need someone to help them fix the broken website and give them ideas about how to make the online version a) cool b) open access and c) different than the print magazine… well, I think there are some people out there who might want to help. starting here, in this thread.

  9. bq. I’m not sure AnthroNow is either a journal of research, or needs to be open access. I think its about making anthropology hip.

    But its current incarnation is about as hip as a Sunday School class.

  10. For what it’s worth, I’ve been finding _Two Bits_ a good read. Nice descriptions of key people and their struggles and interesting new ideas, too. I’m still thinking about recursive publics. I feel like a worm has invaded my mental CPU.

  11. I am sorry that my comment was too long.

    If things go the way that Chris describes, I will be happy. If something like that is the goal, then I am not asking for OA. I just would like to know what the game plan is. If someone in authority can explain it using the appropriate terms of art, short of giving away trade secrets, then I will pay my $55 in the spirit of Chris’ comment, even if I am disappointed by what I hear.

    The PR brochure has not helped, as it says standard journal things like “This peer-reviewed journal offers important and cutting edge research to specialists…” This is not the way to sell a hipster zine. The barely functioning Paradigm Press website (where in a buried bit of text they describe Anth Now as a “journal”), their two other journal titles (a regional sociology journal and a start up social science journal without a web presence that can be found in 38 worldcat libraries), the weak brochure, the library angle… the whole gestalt prompts doubts in me. Maybe Chris is right and this can be a labor of love zine rather than our Smithsonian, but even this goal seems under capitalized and under planned. You only get one launch.

    To avoid mixing apples and oranges, I withdraw the example of IJC, which clearly wants to shift the journal landscape in its field. Is American Ethnography an online attempt to be the hip anthropology zine we are talking about? What can be learned by other attempts to reach this space?

    I hope that it works. I want a hip anthropology. I will pay my $55 as soon as the speculation period ends and we can stop guessing what the game plan is.

  12. I think lots of good ethnographic writing, and cultural analysis, is presently distributed throughout different mainstream publications, some of them hip, others unhip, some anti-hip, etc. My own take on the pressing issue of eliciting a larger public for anthropology is that anthropology has in fact been very successful: ethnographic sensibilities have been mainstreamed into journalists’ feature-writing, sharp cultural analysis occurs in the pages of WSJ (read the Marketplace section). The New York Times Magazine follows commodity chains. Miss America tells us to respect other cultures. Over the 20th Century, anthropologists were actually pretty good at winning over the US and other publics. I think this victory is overall to be celebrated rather than fretted about, and I suspect actually that the collation feature of blogs and FB pages and so on actually help ‘sift’ this material (compare: ‘search’) for ethnographically-inquiring minds.

  13. “I’m not sure AnthroNow is either a journal of research, or needs to be open access. I think its about making anthropology hip.”

    I agree, especially if the stated goal is to get anthropology out there in public discourse. It has to mix anthropological content with good graphic design/web design.

    “All that being said. If they need someone to help them fix the broken website and give them ideas about how to make the online version a) cool b) open access and c) different than the print magazine… well, I think there are some people out there who might want to help. starting here, in this thread.”

    Agreed. There are plenty of people to turn to, and plenty of examples to get some inspiration from. And I agree that this is a good place to start, since so many people who come to this site are really interested in this whole subject.

    Contexts, the sociologists’ project, actually has a pretty nice look to it overall. I think that AnthroNow and other related projects can definitely get some ideas from other publications–such as Adbusters, Colors, Aperture, The Sun (of course, I am a little more biased toward the graphic arts mags as someone who started out in photography, but I think this would be a good time to bring the visual anth folks on board). Who knows? There are so many places to look.

    I think it’s important to look at why National Geographic, Time, Newsweek, and other pop magazines sell–what is appealing, etc. In order to present a competing viewpoint to a lot of popular media, anthros need to know how and why it’s appealing to large audiences (opinion). Then the whole trick is presenting it well without diluting the message. But I think it can be done.

  14. Here’s a shameless self-promotion, but no let’s instead, in light of the current discussion, call it a request for feedback. American Ethnography Quasimonthly is ’s an open access (yoo-hoo…but seriously, anything else would be ridiculously ballsy, wouldn’t it?) online magazine, and sooo hip, too:

  15. bq. American Ethnography Quasimonthly

    Graphic: The illustration is eye-catching. It embodies the theme of male gaze and naked female bodies in a way that is literally in your face. It feels, however, more Boing-Boing than academic and may play too effectively with anthropological associations with National Geographic and naked boobs. This could be off-putting for some readers. I wonder if one of the photos in the photo series might not be more effective.

    Text: Good stuff. The topics are interesting, the first-person I-was-there-I-did-this perspective nicely balanced with academic distance. I especially like the Web device of providing excerpts. Why not add links to sites where readers can buy the books?

  16. Thanks for your thoughts, John!

    Why not add links to sites where readers can buy the books?

    There are actually links to, where that applies, but I guess the links might be a little well hidden, since I do not get a lot of action there.

  17. Martin, my pleasure. Just went back and looked at some of the previous issues, fascinating stuff. The “hip” hook of the opening paragraph and the pivot to classical texts works for me, really well. It’s a fabulous way to mine the history of anthropology for topics of perennial interest.

    As for the book links thing: Since you are using a tabloid newspaper style format, why not include a small but highly visible box on every front page. Make it a regular item. You might call it “Dig Deeper” or “Explore Further.” The content would be the links to the books mentioned in the issue: free sources where these are available, links to Amazon (or Powells. com, that might be more in tune with the effort) for those which are not free.

    Just brainstorming. But congratulations. A truly original and interesting take on the anthropological Webzine.

  18. I spoke with the publishers of AnthroNow and they said they would be moving the site to new servers and making articles available as HTML as well as PDF.

  19. Will there by any archaeology (or physical anthro) in AnthroNow? The goals statement is pretty broad about “anthropological theory and research,” but then it goes on to say that archaeology does fine in public media so the magazine will focus on cultural anthropology. Well, most archaeology in public media is either sensationalist junk, complete garbage, or research blown out of perspective by university publicity offices. But yes, there is some decent archaeology for the public out there.

    But my question is whether the cultural anthropologists who run AnthroNow (or Savage Minds, for that matter) consider archaeology as part of anthropology. If the answer is yes, does that derive from the realities of US academia (where 4-field departments are the norm), or from an intellectual rationale?

    I’m an archaeologist, and I am ambivalent about the question (i.e., is archaeology part of anthropology) and can argue both sides. But I did see that American Ethnography Quasimonthly did include an issue on the Codex Nuttall–not exactly archaeology, but pretty close for us Mesoamericanists.

  20. A lot of Jason’s questions are right on point. The reason that Taylor and Francis or Sage or Wiley-Blackwell keep founding new journals as if they cared about emerging sub-fields, is that they care about the revenues. Journals don’t make money from individual subscriptions, they make money from libraries, and precisely because of that institution/individual cost difference cited. Duke University Press books are supported by our journals — we have lots of innovative books that win prizes in their field, or are cited all over the place, that don’t hold up their share of the sky. The 37 journals we publish earn enough to cover the 115 books, so the press as a whole can break even. So, Paradigm is presumably looking to get something started that will fit and sustain their list (and to make connections with good people in the field).

    The idea that a new journal could get out to Borders or hipster locales in the way that Giant Robot or Wax Poetics do seems far-fetched and like a different fantasy, better placed in the 80s or 90s when there were more bookstores. Someone with a lot of money to spend could found a smart but avant looking journal (like “Cabinet”) that could get around while money wasn’t an issue, but depending on retail distribution now would be the worst possible business plan for a journal. You give half the price to stores and distributors. Will Borders even stay in business???

    On the other hand, it’s an interesting cultural situation that journals have an institutional price and an individual one and books don’t. On simultaneous cloth and paper editions the cloth ones were the unofficial institutional version until most libraries decided they would buy the cheaper paperback instead. If there was the same type of organization price split for books as journals there might never have been a so-called-crisis in book publishing (or at least it would have looked very different from what happened).

  21. “But my question is whether the cultural anthropologists who run AnthroNow (or Savage Minds, for that matter) consider archaeology as part of anthropology.”

    Hopefully they do. It’s a good question these days–with so many departments splitting up and all–although I have to admit that sometimes I don’t understand the whole debacle. Sure, I have heard the arguments for the split, but as someone who places a lot of value in both cultural anth and archaeology, I would prefer that they remain under the anthropological umbrella. To me they can be very mutually informative. I don’t see the problem between the two; they seem pretty compatible to me.

    Sometimes the reason for splitting sounds a lot more political and personal than anything else–at least from where I see it as a grad student.

  22. It is gratifying that someone with as much inside knowledge of academic publishing as Ken Wissoker found merit in my notes and queries. Maybe the organizers of Anthropology Now approached Duke and thus a public conversation is not in order, but I’d be interested in how Ken and his colleagues would have reacted to a pitch to them to publish a sophisticated anthropology (cultural anthropology?) magazine. Both fans and critics of hipness in anthropology (and I am a fan) would probably agree that Duke University Press is the gold standard for this variable. Ken echoes my sense that a newsstand magazine is probably too late in coming, but what could be done short of making just one more (enclosed) journal? (I admire Duke’s book and journal program very highly and I am glad that Ken participates in the publishing conversations here.)

    What does the community think of the name Anthropology Now? It emphasizes the discipline, in contrast to Contexts (cited as the model to emulate) and Society (not previously mentioned) where the title does not immediately exclude/include particular disciplinary positions. To what extent is this a good thing and/or a bad thing? If policy makers, for instance, were seen as a potential audience, what will this title mean? (BTW, UNESCO already publishes a magazine called _Cultures_ so that potentially divisive choice was unavailable.)

  23. Would non-anthropologist readers of a popular magazine want hipness, or would they want information? My guess is that they would want anthropological information that is, or seems, authoritative and accurate, perhaps presented in a hip format. But what kind of information would they get? When I hear people complain that anthropology does not get the press that it deserves, I recall the following brief item from the Anthropology Newsletter in the 1990s:


    Projecting Points
    As Others See Us
    By Boyce Rensberger (Washington Post)

    One of the questions frequently put to me by anthropologists is why the press doesn’t capitalize more on anthropological insights and expertise about various stories in the news. In my experience, anthropology is still so riven with rival “schools of thought” that it is almost always possible to find well-credentialed anthropologists to dispute anything said by any other well-credentialed anthropologist. This gives the impression that anthropology hasn’t got its act together or isn’t a mature science. Consequently, science writers tend to think that readers (and viewers) will not be well-served simply by putting up contrary points of view that explain nothing.
    There is controversy on the frontiers in the “hard” sciences but not on a steadily growing body of accepted textbook knowledge-hard facts. In physics no one doubts that F=ma. In chemistry, redox reactions always happen the same way, and nobody claims they don’t. In biology, RNA always transcribes DNA the same way.
    It doesn’t seem that anthropology can point to a large body of knowledge that explains a lot about human beings and is solidly accepted by all anthropologists.
    I offer this commentary from a point of view of great sympathy with anthropology. I spent a year in Africa with paleoanthropologists and know most of the key figures in that field (used to cover it a fair bit). Aside from description, I’ve concluded that there is very little that this branch of science can explain persuasively.
    –Anthropology Newsletter, October 1996, p.12


  24. Jason, thanks for the nice words about the list. I don’t think we were approached, though I wouldn’t necessarily know. It could be the journal was invented in conversation with the folks at Paradigm. An interesting question is how important the disciplinary label is. In a certain way, public culture is that intellectually leading-edge anthro magazine that is widely read, but it doesn’t identify with the discipline (or worry about AAA, or whether the editors come from different disciplines). It does focus on some set of theory questions more than others, so there is definitely room for lots of mags, but it seems closer to what AN is looking for than Monocle, which I read and love (in an ambivalent way) but which was started by the original Wallpaper editor. Part of the question would be who does one want to reach with an journal/mag? Artists? Architects? Smart hipsters outside the academy? People in other disciplines who could be interested in theoretical questions in anthropology if they were in the discussion? The last is obviously the easiest to reach in practical circulation terms. Do people have to be interested in “anthropology” or just the questions we are interested in?

  25. So, one thing no one has mentioned here, and which is also not clear from AnthroNow’s press release, is advertising. If magazines are taking off (assuming they are), I doubt it is due only (or at all) to individual sales. Flip through Monocle sometime and look who advertises there. My copy starts with Prada, Panerai, Emirates airlines, Rolex, and (duh duh duh, evil music) Thomson Reuters. Now, I obviously don’t think that AnthroNow should go this route… but the question of getting revenue from advertising as well as sales of copies seems to be on the table if what we are talking about is a magazine, not a journal.

    I think part of what I can’t articulate here is the difference between the presumed legtimacy that comes with work published in a journal (and the hierarchy of legitimacy and prestige therein) and the more fluid, hard to capture, legitimacy that comes with being something that powerful Rolex-owning, prada-wearing, Emirates-flying people read and talk about. Or more likely American Apparel-wearing, VirginAmerica-Flying, fair-trade-drinking people read. In any case, there is a difference between the high-mindedness of being an academic journal editor, and the more craven, realpolitik of being the editor of a magazine with the goal of making anthropology hip. Maybe Jason is right and there is no such discussion happening amongst the AnthroNow editors… but I kind of think there might be. And I think it mightn’t be craven enough to accomplish such a thing.

  26. Chris expresses his (our) hope well. My doubtfulness is not the same as being certain. There is too little evidence to go on as yet. It may take time for the right people to find and to join the conversation. (In the U.S., it is a holiday weekend and many sensible people are throwing balls in backyards and recovering from pumpkin pie overdoses.)

    I can say that as an editor, I have simple google keyword searches set up for “Museum Anthropology” and “Museum Anthropology Review” thus when someone online starts talking about one or the other, I know about it. Where I can, I try to follow up on any shout-outs, comments or criticisms. If I were editing Anthropology Now I would be listening keenly for post-AAA chatter online and I would be seeking to engage early adopters and opinion leaders. For a powerful non-publishing example, notice how carefully the Network of Concerned Anthropologists leadership does its work online. I presume that they are using basic internet tools to advance their cause and, especially, to keep up with the conversations in which they feel a need to engage.

  27. Chris, glad you mentioned those ads. I was looking at all the Rolex ads this afternoon and thinking that they cost more than those ones from other university presses in public culture! I agree someone would need to be more ambitious and entrepreneurial. That would mean changing some understandings. When we published Transition, it got the most publicity of any of our journals and lost the most money (at least at the end of the time we published it). If we had been out trying to get the commercial ads that would have addressed the audience (and been willing to spin the circulation numbers) maybe it would have worked differently. That would mean some changes in what people saw as an academic journal — and the willingness to make sure that just because say, ATT took out an ad that the journal wouldn’t change what it would say about web neutrality…

    I still think it would be a more compelling idea with a frame other than that of the discipline. I don’t read much contemporary fiction, but I was caught up by the originality and design of McSweeney’s to try out a few issues. Something that represented a set of issues of anthropology and related spaces more obliquely might have more potential, I’d bet. If Mike and Joe’s series was a magazine, Experimental Futures, you could see a different non-academic audience thinking it might be intended for them….

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