Mad Shouts Out To Cambridge Anthropology

One of my favorite journals when I was a graduate student was Cambridge Anthropology. It was a small, obviously DIY production of the Cambridge Anthropology department that was filled with wonderful things: embarrassingly frank early pieces by scholars who would go on to be famous, wonderfully clubby little potted histories of early figures in Cambridge’s history, and a lot of short, good, personality-filled articles which were clearly produced free of the need to conform to colorless academic norms. Many of the issues looked like they were designed on someone’s Centris 650 — which they probably were. That was back when journals were intellectual samizdats not identical, corporate-run business hotels.

So I was very excited to hear that the journal had been relaunched by Berghahn books. It’s the usual publisher with the usual suspects, and it looks like its slightly more ambitious — the old Cambridge Anthropology always had an air about it that they didn’t think anyone outside of Cambridge would ever get their hands on it. That looks to have changed, but the new up-to-date journal looks like it’ll still retain some of the spirit of the old one.

And since the new Cambridge Anthropology is being published by Berghahn, I’m guessing it will still be as difficult to find as the old one — although probably because of cost rather than scarcity. I love Berghahn, even the rather large metastasized version of it that is kicking around today, and I appreciate that it’s independently owned. But… well its not exactly the cheapest thing on the market is it?

My real question is: what are they doing with the back issues? Is there a chance that they will be digitized and made open access? Or even rolled into the current journal? That, for me, is the most interesting part of the journal’s rebirth.


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

9 thoughts on “Mad Shouts Out To Cambridge Anthropology

  1. I hope I’m not breaking some ridiculous confidentiality agreement by saying that there have indeed been discussions with Berghahn about the possibility of digitising and making available back issues of Cambridge Anthropology. Obviously it would be a nice thing to see, and speaking personally I would hope that this would be open access.

  2. At least this inaugural issue is available for free! That must be considered prudent/generous.

  3. Generous? It’s freely available only if you sign up for a sample issue. That is a case with all subscription journals. Not even the editorial notice is open-access, which is truly laughable! ($32.95 plus tax for 2 pages!).

  4. Social Anthropology at Cambridge has otherwise made pretty good use of the robust “DSpace at Cambridge” repository. It would have been sensible and affordable to at least make the backfiles OA via that platform. Worldcat shows only 74 libraries holding the journal, thus backfile OA would have greatly extended its reach, to the benefit of scholars and broader audiences.

    If Berghahn now has the full rights, I think that it is very unlikely that the backfiles will be made OA. They are a resource that can be transformed into cash. It is in such contexts in which I have spoken in the past about the race find ways to make such journal backfiles OA in a gift economy before they are sucked up and placed behind a toll wall by for-profit firms. There are multiple ways that the leadership at Cambridge could (or could have) easily accomplish(ed) this.

  5. Oxford anthropology showed a more generous and cosmopolitan understanding of academic publishing. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Society of Oxford has been relaunched a few years ago entirely open-access and all historical back issues have been made freely available online (ok it’s not peer-reviewed but the back issues are fantastic). Kudos to that.

  6. This is a great post, Rex.

    The journal Imponderabilia retains some of this handmade character, though publishing on the internet removes some of the location-bound sensibility.

    This post makes me wonder: what counts as samizdat today?

  7. Jesse; to clarify, as of the last time I heard this raised, Berghahn did not have full rights to the back catalogue. In fact, as copyright on all articles was retained by the authors in the old-style Cambridge Anthropology (one of its most positive aspects), I suspect it would be very difficult to sign that over to Berghahn automatically.

    What WAS being discussed was whether and how Berghahn could make the back catalogue available, and what that would actually involve. I believe that’s still under discussion by those responsible for the journal. Voices have indeed been raised for making this material open access, and different alternatives were discussed. I reckon this OA is still achievable for the back catalogue, and that is what I would personally push for.

  8. And just to add to the love for Imponderabilia, I think that’s one of the most exciting publications out there. And although the material is on the internet, there are very good looking paper copies out there and free – if you can find them! I’m very proud to have paper copies of Issues 1 to 4 sitting pretty on my bookshelf.

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