OAC Press

What you see is a partial refactoring the OAC Forum discussion. Nothing is final, we're still discussing. Please jump right in, click 'edit', make changes, add comments, etc.

Volunteers & Forum discussants: (feel free to add your name)

  • Vanessa Campanacho
  • Giovanni da Col
  • Michael Fischer
  • Keith Hart
  • Timm Lau
  • Kathleen Lowrey
  • John McCreery
  • John Postill
  • Mark Saldaña
  • Philip Carl Salzman
  • Justin Shaffner
  • Paul Wren

Reinventing Prickly Pear Pamphlets in the digital age:

"We emulate the passionate amateurs of history who circulated new and radical ideas to as wide an audience as possible and we hope in the process to reinvent anthropology as a means of engaging with society."

As participants in some concept of 'open anthropology,' what are our intentions with the information we are creating? How can the form of a press affect the argument over 'what is the value of anthropological data?'

I'd be really interested in seeing a press that publishes around specific interests, that collects knowledge that pertains to particular communities, and uses accessible mediums (the zine will always be my favorite method, but there are others, especially media and internet-oriented) that blurs crucial boundaries of audience, community, producer.

How great would it be, when people read an article like the current debate over the 'burqa' (niqab) in France, for them to have access to an anthro-information cluster (a zine, a website, whatever) that would contextualize the issue with some cultural insight to the communities involved, similar debates across space and time, commentary on Frantz Fanon, whatevever. Anthro perspectives on HTS intended for Afghani readers — we not only can imagine something vastly different from the academic publishing arrangement we have now, but actually have the people AND the insight to make it happen.

In the first instance, we would publish short and longer pieces online, while leaving future developments as open as the OAC itself. As part of the OAC, the Press would aim to remain true to the PPP prototype and would seek to give expression to new and radical ideas in anthropology from the young and old, the unknown and famous.

It will start with a bang, to set the standard people will come to expect from us. This is not going to be a vanity press.

There are several questions and issues to discuss:

We should sign up as many members from the OAC as we can for an editorial board whose functions can be determined by agreement. From this would be drawn in any given period a smaller working committee. This too should reflect the extraordinary diversity of our membership. There would have to be one or more editors-in-chief, but the position could circulate.

Publishing models
There is everything to play for in conceiving of new models of publishing. One issue is whether to follow the model of a standard academic press or that of a trade publisher backing its in house judgment. We could rely more on reviews by an editorial board drawn from the OAC. there may be lessons to be learned from just-in-time publishing. Berghahn Books is one interesting model (pamphlets called 'critical interventions'), there are many others. All of these people are members of the OAC and it would be good to ask them what they feel they could do better outside a bureaucratic framework, as well as learning from their positive experience. An editorial committee could keep most of its review process in house, perhaps seeking the advice of known colleagues, such as other members of the OAC.

Content: anthropology in the broadest possible sense and that would include for sure medical and physical anthropology and archaeology.

Financial costs:

  • I like the 18th century model of subscription, whereby a group of subscribers put the money up front for a publication they believe in. Members could indicate the sort of output they might be willing to subscribe to.
  • Non-profit/for-profit?
  • Is it possible to get support from a government or grant?
  • Open access: based on working models already established by scientists? Add links!
  • Each publication carries with it the copyright desired by the author?


  • Academic/trade
  • Online/print: we would probably stick with online publishing which is plenty of work in itself without the problem of moving print copies.
  • Short/long pieces
  • Text/multimedia

Language (English/multilingual): The issue of language is crucial. Spanish usually comes up because it is also a lingua franca like English. We might be able to rustle up an editorial board that could handle (from the membership so far) Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, Norwegian, Chinese. There may be others. But here too there is a problem of establishing a common standard. It may have to be English to start with.

Method: What about striking a deal with some press and proceed like this: 1) quick online publishing in an online OAC peer-reviewed journal; 2) have a publisher printing the single issues or an annual collection of the articles the following year. At that point, the old issues could be taken offline and accessed only through the publisher's website. That would allow for a quick turnaround, open access for a limited amount of time and contributions would still be valued as 'official publications' (in press or published). The key would be to find a regular press who would like to open a new series but I think that would not be easy.

Time: High priority on quick turnaround. Dilemma of publishing certain material quickly. With the quick circulation of ideas and the greatest importance given to innovative paradigms which are nevertheless already'out there' we are facing more the need of publishing promptly yet still hold in your hands a publication elsewhere. Publish original pieces including 'manifestos', critical and counter-tendency essays, the Press would establish a good reputation in the field and be useful for career purposes too.

Who: I wonder whether the problem could be solved by convincing famous academics like you or other senior anthropologists willing to voice something unorthodox and original to go first and publish their works with the Press. That would reach your goals and at the same time allow the Press to establish a good reputation. Afterwards, youngsters/independent scholars/non-anthropologists could have their way. I believe that one can only change a 'host' by acting as a 'good' virus, meaning you need to find a good carrier, install yourself in it and then produce the metamorphosis.

Work in progress/finished article: Occasional or working papers: a sort of textual version of giving a paper at a conference. Something that might be totally unworkable but cheap and interesting would be just allowing people to submit article-length manuscripts and then have them "peer-reviewed" by the OAC itself. The editing process should be similar to the one of a conference discussant. Papers are first accepted or rejected by the editors on the base of a first quick reading, similarly to a conference situation where the conveners reject or accept on the base of the abstract only. Afterwards, the reviewers are like discussants, making a point here and there. So first the paper is published quickly, if it's accepted by the editors and the reviewers it would need just minor changes. Later it will be published by a press but giving an additional feedback to the author who will have time to make substantial changes.

Useful External Resources:

  • CafePress Publishing - They do all the heavy lifting of print publishing, with a 100-page perfect-bound volume (for example) costing $10 a copy (that's break-even). I'm pretty sure they use a print-on-demand model, and interested buyers would order them through our own CafePress store front.
  • Blurb - Another POD book site. I'm sure there are many others (here's another: Lulu).
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