Strangers in our own house: Want the latest issue of CA? Go to, not Anthrosource

Ah, The American Anthropological Association’s sale of our intellectual property to Wiley-Blackwell just keeps getting better and better. Yesterday @AAApubs, the official Twitter presence of the AAA publication program (as far as I can tell) tweeted that a new issue of Cultural Anthropology had been published which featured an interview between Jean Comaroff and David Kyuman Kim. I thought Kim’s book Melancholy Freedom was fascinating if a little problematic — it’s an analysis of the role of hope in the work of Charles Taylor (mostly) and Judith Butler. Judith Butler’s work harbors the seed of a vaguely Christian religious ideal of hope? A very interesting and very careful and scholarly argument. Not sure what I think, but when the two reviews I’ve seen with the guy are by people as different as Jean Comaroff and Tavis Smiley, I want to learn more.

So I go to Anthrosource. Anthrosource is the online portal which all AAA members get access to which lets us read all the journals in our field — in fact, it is the main ‘member benefit’ for AAA members. The bad old days of waiting for a copy of Cultural Anthropology to be mailed to me is over, now I can read it on AnthroSource for free immediately!

Except that the latest edition of Cultural Anthropology is not on Anthrosource. Was @AAApubs wrong about the article being online? As it turns out, no: Wiley’s website is selling the current issue of Cultural Anthropology, so their customers can read the article immediately. Which doesn’t include the tens of thousands of actual anthropologists who use Anthrosource to access our journals.

So I think: maybe it just takes a couple of hours for the new journal to appear on Anthrosource. I go home, get up the next morning, and find an email from Wiley announcing that the new issue of Cultural Anthropology is online. Has everything been refreshed and uploaded? No. The article is still only available to Wiley subscribers.

I’m hopeful that this is a temporary problem and that I am just unusual in not wanting to wait 48 hours for the Internet to get itself all set up. But even if this problem is solved quickly, what does it mean to our association that our own members cannot read the journals that Wiley is flogging to its subscribers? What began as a terrible idea of outsourcing our publications to a for-profit company has turned into a situation where we are now strangers in our own house.

There’s no better way to summarize the situation than the link that’s included in @AAApubs twitter description. It ends with a URL addressed When you click on the link you are directed to a page at Wiley that reads: “sorry there is no information available for this journal.”


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

32 thoughts on “Strangers in our own house: Want the latest issue of CA? Go to, not Anthrosource

  1. You know, I hate it when my worries turn out not to be silly. Accessed via Anthrosource, I’m told the most recent number is February. Accessed via Wiley Blackwell (and my university’s subscription, I presume), May 2011 is right there. I would like to see someone discuss the benefits of having outsourced our journals. I would imagine there is an argument for it, and can even imagine further that this argument might hold even in the face of this difficulty. I do wish someone would spell the thing out clearly, however.

    And I think we clearly need to re-negotiate things so that we are not denied access as members.

    I wonder, though. I know my university could not afford to subscribe to Anthrosource. As a result, my students had access to only some Anth journals, with my own subdiscipline’s journal left out of the mix. If this new arrangement has bundled things so that my students can get access to more journals through some existing library subscription that would be a good thing. They just need to fix the bit that fails to provide parallel access to AAA members.

  2. According to collective action theory in political science (citations below; works by Blanton & Fargher provide an anthropological application), rulers who rely on internal sources of revenue (e.g., taxing their subjects; as opposed to external revenue sources such as foreign conquests or trade revenue) must provide public goods, they must provide opportunities for feedback (“voice”) from their subjects, and their power must be checked by some kind of limitations on their rule and office. If these conditions are not met, people will leave (“exit”) the realm physically, or minimally they will withdraw their approval and diminish the legitimacy of the ruler.

    So, how is the AAA leadership doing in light of collection action theory? Not too well. The Wiley deal and its repercussions are just one more example of how the AAA leadership is following the autocratic path (reduced public services, limited citizen feedback, diminished legitimacy) rather than the collective path. I’m not saying the leadership consists of despots or autocrats, only that the situation is illuminated by collective action theory. This provides part of the explanation for why I have just resigned from the AAA.

    Blanton, Richard E. and Lane F. Fargher
    2008 Collective Action in the Formation of Pre-Modern States. Springer, New York.

    2009 Collective Action in the Evolution of Pre-Modern States. Social Evolution and History 8(2):133-166.

    Fargher, Lane F. and Richard E. Blanton
    2007 Revenue, Voice, and Public Goods in three Pre-Modern States. Comparative Studies in Society and History 49:848-882.

    Hirschman, Albert O.
    1970 Exit, Voice, and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States. Harvard University Press, Cambridge.

    Levi, Margaret
    1988 Of Rule and Revenue. University of California Press, Berkeley.

  3. “I would like to see someone discuss the benefits of having outsourced our journals.”

    Someone @ AAA once told me that they saved a hell of a lot of money by switching to Wiley. I think the university press they were using beforehand raised their rates, even after journals had cut back on the # of pages. Sorry I don’t have details or numbers. I’m sure it’s lurking somewhere on AAA’s site, or you could just call them up.

  4. Hi, Alex! I shared your posting with the members of the AAA’s Committee on the Future of Print and Electronic Publishing.

    We cannot reproduce this problem. Several of us have institutional memberships while others do not, and all have no trouble logging into AnthroSource through the AAA website and accessing the latest issue of Cultural Anthropology, including the article you cite by Comaroff and Kim. We also double checked your AAA membership to make sure it is current – it is.

    Could you please try again..? And if you are continuing to have troubles accessing AAA journal content, let the AAA Publications Office know immediately so they can help you out. We do not want any of our members inconvenienced.

    For your readers: learn more about this partnership here and in this FAQ.

    Hugh Jarvis
    CFPEP Member

  5. We cannot reproduce this problem. Several of us have institutional memberships while others do not, and all have no trouble logging into AnthroSource through the AAA website and accessing the latest issue of Cultural Anthropology, including the article you cite by Comaroff and Kim.

    It seems to be up on AnthroSource today (2200 UTC 27 Apri 2011) but I can vouch for Alex that it did not seem to appear there at least as recently as twenty or so hours ago.

  6. There you go, an opportunity for feedback and perhaps a response to the feedback as well? I’m inclined to stick with AAA, perhaps as a gadfly on occasion…

  7. MTBradley is correct — between the time I complained and you checked on it, they fixed it. It looks like it takes about three days between the time the piece goes up on Wiley and we anthropologists get to read it.

    The sad thing about this, Hugh, is that I wasn’t using my personal account, I was using my institution’s subscription to Anthrosource so in fact the pieces were unavailable to thousands of people (most of whom didn’t know or care it existed, of course). Guess how long that subscription is going to last?

  8. Perhaps this does not directly address the issue(s) at hand, but I sail ahead blithely:

    1. As an undergraduate intrigued in varying aspects of anthropology and how the science carries itself (or is perceived), it seems a bit worrisome that the apparent flagship association of the field seems to rather routinely rile feathers. Aside from the Wiley flap, and the flap over the word science as it related to the AAA’s long term plan, I’m finding dissatisfaction over mismanagement and/or poor representation seem to be commonplace to an alarming degree.

    2. Should not anthropology be a champion of academic ingenuity, research transparency and free-for-all-interested parties information? Whatever one’s chosen sub-discipline may be, these seem sincere and achievable ideals to the profession. Do we study people in hopes of understanding people and communicating that understanding to people? To that end, I would join the urging (and urgent) chorus to make more academic material available to more people for free (or very modest fees) – and Huzzah! to the likes of the Open Anthropology Collective and Berkeley webcasts to name but two exemplars of this principle.

    2a. At any rate, publishing companies seem ill-suited for meeting the needs of the online journal-seeking community.

  9. In reference to the perceptive comment by Michael Antares, I’m feeling torn about the AAA. Complaints about the AAA must have a long history. We are anthropologists, a particularly critical and fiesty bunch. We all have gripes about the annual meetings, but it is a major logistical challenge, and I’m pretty sure we assemble a larger percentage of the discipline than other associations.

    I also think the current AAA president has made some important moves, recognizing how many AAA members are based outside the U.S., and reaching out to undergraduates. That said, it does seem the AAA could have been more nimble over the past six months, which have been rough for the anthropology brand (see my blog-post “Anthropology, Ambushed“).

    I wonder if we could relaunch the AAA under an international banner, recognizing the international character of the membership, but being mindful to avoid academic imperialism. We could then leave our initials to the American Automobilie Association. According to Wikipedia, what most people know as the AAA was founded in 1902 and has 51 million members, versus our own AAA, also founded in 1902 but with 11,000 members.

  10. Rex, I too found that the @AAApubs tweet is a dead-end, and appreciate your calling that to our attention, however indirectly. (We are investigating that now.)

    But it is not clear that anything was broken with Cultural Anthropology and sadly our window to document this concern has now passed. The people who need to hear your concerns, who are deeply sympathetic with your needs and frustrations, and actually paid to assist AAA readers (!) are not psychic. I empathize with your frustration, but blogging your complaints is too slow a method of communication. Please let us know ASAP by email or even phone about any problems or concerns.

    We urge everyone to please voice any concerns with AAA publications directly to Oona Schmid who heads the publications division or, if you prefer, contact any of your colleagues on the CFPEP committee.


  11. But it is not clear that anything was broken with Cultural Anthropology and sadly our window to document this concern has now passed.

    There is independent corroboration of the concern. As to whether anything was broken, would anyone at the AAA actually be able to directly investigate that? I just assumed AnthroSource was an interface managed by Wiley and someone there would be the person to ask. I could be wrong, of course.

  12. Blogging could, indeed, be too slow a form of communication. If you spot what may be only a glitch in a system, an email or, better still, a phone call to the person in charge is quicker. It’s the difference between a broadcast message that the intended recipient may not pay attention to and a targeted message that speaks directly to the recipient you need to reach.

    Or, to use a concrete example, the difference between walking into a room full of people and saying, “Won’t somebody close the window?” and saying, “Alice, could you close the window please?” where Alice is standing beside the window.

  13. I replied to AAApub’s tweet the same day — minutes or hours, if I remember correctly — and got no response. Is that not ‘the publication office’?

    At any rate the entire idea that this blog post is me opening a trouble ticket in public is ludicrous. I understand that the ‘AAA Committee on the Future of Publishing Etc. Etc.’ is designed to act as an anti-politics machine but I will not take the bait. This is not a technical problem to be solved — much less ‘proved’ — by a rubber stamp committee, it’s a political problem that needs to be adressed by changing the AAA’s decision-making process about publications.

  14. I can report some progress…

    1. W-B has fixed the link in their marketing Tweet. Not sure why we had to tell them this, but I suspect no one else communicated the error. (Rex, I am told they tweeted you an apology — did you not receive it?

    2. We are investigating the system delays between the master copies entering Wiley Online Library and then propagating out to the AnthroSource catalog. Yes, there is a delay for technical reasons. I will report back as we learn more.

    ps. John nailed it. CFPEP and the AAA staff are here to help our fellow members get the most for their time and money. If you don’t tell us where the hurt is, we can’t help you very effectively.

  15. I did receive the apology, which I appreciated.

    I still don’t understand how same-day tweeting and next-day blogging count as “not telling you where the hurt is”. I mean really.

  16. … still don’t understand how same-day tweeting and next-day blogging count as “not telling you where the hurt is”…

    To fix problems we need to hear about them, directly and as quickly as possible, so we can document the problems while it is occuring. Tweeting W-B’s marketing office may have gotten the link fixed for their next tweet, but neither that or your blog were effective ways to let us know there was a concern with how the articles are getting into AnthroSource (by “us” I mean the AAA). I only stumbled on your post by chance a couple of days later.

    Bottom line: you can blog all day that your barn is on fire, but it’s unlikely that will summon help from the fire department.


  17. In that case there’s no point in letting you know the latest American Ethnologist is out on Wiley, but not on Anthrosource.

    This entire thing is ludicrous. It turns out the tweeter “AAAPubs” is not run by the AAA publications office? That the window is closed and that “our window to document this concern has now passed”? But then actually wait “Yes, there is a delay for technical reasons”? And now the AAA publication program wants me to describe for them the production process of their journals because? Perhaps you’d like me to do some line editing of the journals as well?

    The metaphor of the fire fighting is right in only one respect: it indicates so clearly that the AAA is not the ones setting the scholarly imagination ablaze. Rather, it’s the company they’ve outsources our publications to that does the day to day work, has little contact with them (?), doesn’t understand their publication process, and expects volunteers to let do their job for them. To shift the governmental imagery a bit, I think the keystone cops is a much closer fit.

    I think you actually have to solve a problem before you can claim to be the one who comes to the rescue, there, Hugh.

  18. Rex, you sound like a man with a bee in his bonnet, whose buzzing has blurred the difference between two issues. On the one hand there is the whole ugly business of handing off production of an academic associations publications to a for-profit publisher, which invokes the spectre of the corporatization of academia and taints the ideal of disinterested scholarship and community service that the journals were once said to represent (how far this was ever actually true is, of course, an interesting question). On the other hand, there is, as I have pointed out, a communication issue. Someone who blogs or tweets a problem is using a broadcast form of communication, which makes the question of whether anyone pays attention to the particular blog or tweet in question highly problematic (thus the vast sums spent every year on market research and media planning for advertising, in the hope that messages reach a sufficient proportion of the target audience with sufficient frequency to make paying for the ad worthwhile). When there is a problem to be addressed it is far, far better to use directed communication addressed to specific persons believed to be able to address the problem and also to ensure that the persons in question have the contact information necessary to direct their replies. These considerations are, analytically speaking, entirely independent of the first issue, which appears to be the hive where the bee in your bonnet comes from.

    They may, of course, still be related. How difficult is it to find the link or contact information required to communicate the problem you’ve seen to the person who should be able to solve it? Are they, in fact, in a position to do more than reply with soothing noises and “We’ll get to that real soon now”? These are perfectly legitimate issues. Is there something useful that could be done to address them?

  19. I can’t comment on the twitter issue, but the inability to properly search AnthroSource is something I personally have both written them about and blogged about, and which other people have been complaining about (in blogs, twitter, email, etc.) every since the “New” AnthroSource came out – and this problem has still not been fixed. If the most basic functionality of the site remains broken years after a problem was reported – it doesn’t inspire confidence.

  20. Kerim, that’s a totally legitimate complaint. I am not saying that there are no issues with AnthroSource. Too plainly, there are. I am saying that saying “I blogged” or “I tweeted” in a world with millions of blogs and zillions of tweets and getting bent out of shape because your blog or your tweet wasn’t read is a blunder that diverts attention from the issues you’d like to see addressed.

  21. When there is a problem to be addressed it is far, far better to use directed communication addressed to specific persons believed to be able to address the problem and also to ensure that the persons in question have the contact information necessary to direct their replies.

    In an ideal bureaucracy that is the case. But in the real world sometimes your problem is more quickly addressed when you make your request in the clear.

  22. That is a bit of urban myth, the usual assumption being that bureaucrats are afraid of their failings being made public. That might have been the case when exposure meant a newspaper story or letter to the editor and everyone who counted read the same newspaper. No longer, my friend. The impact of most blogs and tweets is so negligible that it is usually safe to ignore them.

  23. John I think your comments (and Hugh’s) rely on two assumptions, both of which I believe to be false:
    1. Hugh Jarvis aka “The AAA” can reduce the lag between the time content appears on Wiley and on AnthroSource. This is something that no one has yet demonstrated.

    2. My goal in writing the post was to file a trouble ticket asking that the lag between the time content appears on Wiley and on AnthroSource be reduced.

    My feelings on this topic are pretty well summarized in a recent post on TechCrunch:

    It does not matter whether response time is or is not positively correlated by the publicity of the complaint, since my goal in the article was not to ask the AAA to ‘fix’ a ‘technical problem’. It was to point out that problems of this sort will continue to occur — and indeed, get worse — because of the policy decisions of the AAA. One can go the amerliorist route that Hugh takes and see every ‘technical problem’ as a glitch in an otherwise working system, or one can recognize that the system itself is deeply, deeply broken and that this is yet another symptom. In this post, I am advocating for the second option and creating a paper trail for future discussions about the AAA’s publishing decisions.

    As it happens, I do believe — or at least I hope — that the AAA’s response time to fixing this problem _is_ positively correlated to publicity because at root the AAA and Hugh want to do the right thing by members. Unlike the corporations you describe they still at heart are a democratic organization. Indeed, this is why people like me still complain instead of simply sharpening (as it were) our knives: because we believe no matter how screwed up the AAA is it is still better to hold it accountable to it’s own ideals then believe that it is no longer responsive to them.

    Every incident like this, however, makes that harder and harder to believe. Hugh’s image of himself as the fireman putting out the fire is yet another depressing example of the AAA’s distance for it’s ideals: by implicitly making Wiley the bad guy (the arsonist) who burns down members’ houses and the AAA the heroes coming to the rescue, it endorses the idea that there are three interest groups here: AAA publications, the AAA leadership, and rank and file members. It says: “how are we supposed to know what is happening to our journals if no one tells us”. Making Wiley the scapegoat is a great way to deflect responsibility from yourself, but it just entrenches the fundamental problem: that the membership, the leadership, and the people making our journals are now three different groups — with competing interests.

    We have indeed become ‘strangers in our own house’, one which is in danger of burning down because of the lackadaisical attitude of those supposed to protect us.

  24. Rex, what you say in this post seems entirely reasonable. Since I have no dog in the basic fight, the last thing I will say is that I have known Hugh for a long time via Anthro-L, and he has always struck me as one of the good guys. I would be reluctant to attribute either malice or defensiveness to what he has said without further evidence.

  25. Thanks for keeping this up, Rex.

    Anthropologists in other contexts easily recognize the public practice of shame. Some seem oblivious in the case of blogs because the relevant public is invisible to them.

    Running the AAA, in terms of financials and customers, is roughly equivalent to running a McDonald’s franchise in a small town. Some people who get poor service at the McDonald’s will wait patiently to talk to the manager. Some will just never come back to the restaurant. A few will call the local radio call-in show and complain mightily.

    Who do you think has the most impact?

  26. Duh. It depends on the manager. If she’s a good one, the quiet word gets a problem corrected and a couple of coupons to boot. If she’s a crap manager, nothing happens.

    The effect of the call to the local radio show depends on whether the manager or her boss listens to the show or is told about it by someone who does. If the boss lives in another town and doesn’t listen to the local station, the message may disappear in the ether.

    The surest way to elicit a response would, of course, be to involve a lawyer….

    Interesting, there used to be a field called social anthropology where people took care to look at details like this.

  27. The effect of the call to the local radio show depends on whether the manager or her boss listens to the show or is told about it by someone who does. If the boss lives in another town and doesn’t listen to the local station, the message may disappear in the ether.

    Perfect. The relevant public is invisible to them. Their business evaporates because they neither follow nor attend to the discourse in the community they serve.

  28. Probably not. The bosses’ bosses are watching the numbers. If sales decline, someone will check into why, some people will be fired, a new promotion offered. The feedback mechanisms that link Wiley, the AAA, and upset anthropologists are not, I suspect, so straightforward. But therein lies the point. People are arguing from simplistic models that may be only distantly related to the actual problem in question. There are all sorts of assumptions about how messages are transmitted, who, if anyone, pays any attention to them, what, if anything, they are empowered to do in response.

    Worst case scenario: the people who might be able to do something adopt the attitude of imperial Chinese mandarins to religious cults, i.e., as long as they pose no serious problem to the empire, ignore them. Sometimes the results are disastrous, e.g, if you fail to act quickly enough to deal with something like the Taiping Rebellion. But mostly not.

    A sad but possibly true conclusion: We may be ideologically committed to the idea that every voice should be heard. We may be trained as consumers to expect instant gratification. Experience teaches that the world doesn’t work that way. If you want to effect change, you either have to mobilize a lot of support or closely study the mechanisms involved in creating the situation that bothers you, looking for a lever. Complaining on blogs? When most of what appears in blogs is complaints of one kind or another? Eminently ignorable.

  29. Well said, John. I’ve been following Savageminds for some time and always see these posts crop up once in a while. I applaud the Open Access effort, but I fail to see how complaining on a blog is going to generate a response from the AAA. While some might find the delay in posting CA to AnthroSource inexcusable, you can’t legitimatly criticize the AAA by saying they didn’t fix the issue immediatly after you tweeted or blogged about it. Email or call publishing so you know your concerns have been registered; otherwise, I have to give AAA the benefit of the doubt.

    But let’s be honest here. The issue here isn’t the delay in posting CA. Rex clearly wants AAA to ditch Wiley and go open access, and is using this instance to garner support, attention, feedback, or whatever. For me, shouting about doing away with Wiley and making everything free or affordably priced isn’t going to create any change. Selling publications is a reliable revenue model for the AAA (approx. $344,000 in 2009). If you want them to give that up and go open access then you’re going to have to garner some serious support or come up with a detailed (and easily justified) plan to make the transition. I don’t see any of that coming from open access anthropologists. All I ever see are unconstructive complaints.

    Revenue cited above is from:
    Also, some salaries seem rather high. Is 227k a typical salary for the Exec. Director of a small non-profit?

  30. @Rex & AnthroGrad

    Quite interesting. Been following this thread with some interest. Wiley is no doubt better than UC Press (previous provider) if any because it allows members access to a lot more journals through anthrosource. But indeed openaccess would be the ideal system – not just for the AAA-related publications, but for academia in general. NIH and NIDA, to mention but a few, already demand that their funded research is open access.

    Yet the real issue that stems from all this – as from many other interesting threads in this and other like-minded blogs – is our inability as anthropologists to think collectively, let alone act as a group. If we do think that open access is the best way (as i do and i suspect most of us do) then let´s do something else other than blog/comment about it. Showing up at the AAA executive meetings and putting forth the motion for open access is an idea. Another is use this blog and others as ante-chambers of some sort of collective action. Maybe we can have a sort of annual “Savage Minds” AAA bar tour, given that most political action takes place after a few cold ones…

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