Emily Martin on Anthropology Now!

Emily Martin has generously sent this brief history of how Anthropology Now started… Please be civil.

AnthroNow LogoI am pleased to see that there has been such quick and interested reaction to the launch of Anthropology Now. I wanted to write with a brief history of the long effort that has brought us here. I am speaking from my (spotty) memory here, and some details may be missing. We began as a committee of the AES in 1998 when I was president, Susan Harding was president elect, and Ida Susser was Councillor. The AES has kept us as an active committee ever since, which explains how we were included in the AAA program this year.

Our efforts to find a publisher stretched over 10 years. Ida Susser, Susan Harding and I organized approaches to (among others) Duke University Press, the University of California Press, the University of Chicago Press, Blackwells, Sage, and Palgrave. In each case we asked an anthropologist who had an existing (and positive) relationship with the press to make the pitch. All these presses turned us down except Palgrave. We got close with Palgrave only to be stymied by a change in administration and journal publication policies. We stayed in close touch with the AAA through successive presidents and the committee on scientific communication, but we never imagined that the AAA could fund this venture. They have consistently promised (and followed through on) in kind contributions and exchanges.

The very first year of our existence, Dean Birkenkamp, in a former professional capacity, found us and expressed his support and commitment. Thereafter he attended just about every annual meeting we had at the AAA meetings. He shared advice, kept up our morale, and pledged every possible effort to help us, for which we remain immensely grateful. It was only after he founded Paradigm Publishers and made it a commercial success that it became realistic for him to become our publisher. Given the depth and consistency of his interest and support, I do hope Paradigm makes some profit from Anthropology Now. Giving away 1000 copies (maybe more) of the first issue and mailing out countless full color brochures is an investment we hope the press will be able to recover. They are accepting the reality of years of losses on this venture, a move for which we are extremely grateful.

During the years before we had a publisher, our strategy was first to form an Editorial Board (much as you see it today) and second to post a “sample issue” on the web, which predates and only partially overlaps with what you see today. We owe the contributors to that sample issue and of course the additional contributors to the current issue a vote of thanks.

We also made efforts to raise grant support. When Leslie Aiello became president of Wenner-Gren, one of her mandates was to raise the public awareness of anthropology as a discipline: what is it that we do and what can we contribute to public debate and understanding? She agreed with our assessment of the need for a print magazine and a web presence. The financial support we have from Wenner-Gren will be crucial in the continued growth of the project.

We look forward to taking the web site to the next level and hope to continue to get good suggestions (and participation) from the readers of Savage Minds. For the moment, feel free to join us on the open Facebook group for Anthropology Now.


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.

2 thoughts on “Emily Martin on Anthropology Now!

  1. I appreciate Professor Martin’s clear account of the project to this point. I remain supportive of the cause. It remains the business model where our conversations are likely to center. (Maybe everyone is tired on this thread.)

    Anthropology Now began as an idea under a very different set of publishing circumstances than dominate now.

    The editorial board is first rate. With this team lined up, what does it mean that major presses said no? UCP is understandable in that it would have competed with Society. Blackwell has had Anthropology Today for some time now. There is significance in the fact that Chicago and Duke said no.

    Does anyone involved foresee the newsstand future that we were discussing? If not, it is aimed at subscribers and users of subscribing libraries. Is this a sufficiently broad audience for such a project? If yes, how might this be accomplished in the world that Ken has described?

    I hoped we would get an explanation of the basics and we have gotten it. I am very appreciative of all the work that has gone into getting the effort to this point. I admire everyone who has worked on the project, including the authors and peer-reviewers. While I can’t bring myself to shake down my library for a project with the library-side footprint of another toll access journal with a wrongheaded business model, I will put my money where my mouth is and subscribe for a year as a sign of belief in the worthy cause of an anthropology magazine aimed at individuals.

    It is a bit heartbreaking given that this outstanding scholarly team combined with a small but steady subvention from Wenner-Gren could have produced an world-class and massively accessible (in terms of writing and in terms of readership) (gold) open access anthropology magazine. I am confident that several university library partners would have been pleased to provide the digital infrastructure for such a high profile effort. The journal would have almost instantly reached thousands of libraries and untold numbers of readers. It could even have been both a beautiful print magazine that one spent money on and a beautiful OA magazine that one gave away for free online. The example that I have in mind is the spectacularly cool looking (to me) magazine Places (=Places Journal: A Forum of Design for the Public Realm), now in its 20th volume.


    I guess it would be a neat trick if all those Anthropology Now Facebook “Friends” could be turned into subscribers.

    In the hope that ” Peter Suber ” has a google search on his name or on ” Open Access News” I entextualize here the suggestion that he could update his posting on Anthropology Now, now that it is clear that the journal is not an open access effort, or to be clearer, is not a gold open access effort. It remains to be seen what kind of copyright or licensing system will become standard for Anthropology Now. Perhaps the author agreement will be generous and authors can self-archive, which would enable the magazine to claim green OA status. That would do a bit of good for the cause of accessibility.

    (My earlier attempt at this post seems to have been marked as spam)

  2. Jason, (Sorry about the spam thing, we really need to figure something out. something other than facebook, that is)

    I think there may still be room for what you describe. In particular, I advised Emily that separating the print and online ventures makes sense. AN-ONline could be a gold-OA journal, hosted somewhere willing, and publishing a different set of materials than the print mag. If done correctly, and creatively, there could be an interesting discussion to have about the interface between online and print. Perhaps the print mag takes the best OA stuff and expands it, designs it and reprints it. Or perhaps the print mag is for a different audience, in which case, the OA journal could be a way of connecting up these audiences with those who only read (or trust) print mags. I don’t know, but I do know that there is still room to experiment here.

    I’m with you in that I don’t think there is anything to lose by making the mag OA, in the manner of Places… but Paradigm has to be convinced, and money has to come from somewhere. So I also wonder what Places’ business model is… does in involve advertising, or other kinds of subventions? But there may also be something to having one magazine that exists in two modes… because I think there should be a distinction between a magazine (whose goal is to spread and hipify anthro research) and a journal (whose goal is to communicate research regardless of its relevance, hipness or appeal… and which have no business being anything but open, as we all know.

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