Open Access Anthropology Day 1st May 2009

Sarattouta through Bloggers Unite started what I think is an excellent innitiative, to mark 1st May as an Open Access Anthropology Day. This blog here is to add to the event and to encourage anthropologists to participate in the widdening of projects towards a meaningful use of Open Access for anthropology and others.

Saratouta asks us to do something to mark the day. Five or six things I am doing today (and tomorrow):

– one to twitt about Open Access

– two to offer my open acess to anyone who wishes to use and explore these

– three to start my blog with this entry on open access anthropology

– four to start an anthropology journal that will publish and be open access (got my title, ISSN application and editorial boad sorted). The Open Access Anthropology Journal will be called on the lines of “Anthropology Journal: Dissent and Cultural Politics in our Altermodern Age”

There are now many open access journals, this hopes to add to the growing numbers of Journals that set out to be specifically Open Access from the start, not aimed at RAE or funding, based online, inclusive of students, engaged with publics, to live and die by the online medium with a creative sense and to mark the defining qualties of the Altermodern period that we are just starting. It will offer debate on themes of ‘dissent’, ‘cultural politics’ from an anthropology perspective in the context of Altermodern thinking (by this I mean the answer to the question of what comes after Postmodernity?:Altermodernity -more below)

– five putting some posters in my college about Open Access and Self-Archiving

– six working towards self-archiving papers and put them up free open access online to join the growing pool of people doing the same.


I am very interested in the debates sorrounding open access alternatives to anthropological publications because I feel current publication strategies are immerse in a series of process that pre-date the arrival of the internet and thus, although they use the Internet, they use it from within delivery strategies that are narrower in scope that these could be.

Two things, I feel, have an effect on making this ‘narrowness’ be a long waiting period for the outcome of an open access anthropology. The first one is that anthropology publishing is immerse in a series of contexts that Strathern has descibed well in her ‘The tyrany of transparency’ (won’t read it unless you or your institution pay for it). The second is the relationship between the knowledge society and its emphasis on the neo-liberal gatekeeping of degrees (and publishing anthropology for this market) and, in the UK, the structure of peer-reviewing and research assesment.

I am aware, of course, there are limitations on the criteria of ‘Openess’ and the worries people have on ‘peer-reviewed’ systems. One of my links below discusses these theme.

One could argue, of course that ‘open access’ with its claims on free access and democratic sharing of publications online is an heir to the very postmodern neo-liberalism that has given rise to the ‘tyrany’ of transparency and that can not always resolve its internal contradictions of being open whilst treated seriously to ‘scrutiny’ (peer-review).

Here I would argue for the quality of different types of transparencies, and perhpas the possibility that open access has for challenging and providing dissidence to the kinds of ‘scrutiny’ that develops into academic surveillance and in a Foucaultian ‘panopticised’ kind of argument, turning academic publications into mechanisms of self-regulation and technologies for the production and reproduction of certain types of knowledge.

A worthy attempt into providing different types of transparencies from within an academic setting, including anthropologist, is the free access forum for academic life in Academic.Edu where anyone can post their papers, teaching and publications for free.

‘Fifteen mintues of Shame’

In using Warhol’s ‘fifteen minutes’ of the fleeting transition of celebrity I wonder how much it affects public anthropology and its effects on how far anthropology can go in providing open access. Anthropology is not in the A list of celebrity disciplines that publics, policy-makers, politicians and industry think first. For me, public anthropology, and the political act that anthropology represents (and is) appears unfulfilled at times by our preocupation with the public display of anthropological ides by other than anthropologists. Unashamedely, you can follow my twitter on the Military use of anthropology, well covered by a favourite site of mine Anthropology.Info as an example of these uses of anthropology and public displays of shame. Shame (and of course, Pride) is indeed, an issue when publishing.

We may talk and engage in debates about Open Access, but to most people’s underlaying preocupation when publishing is the public recognition of their work. Anyone involved in peer-reviewed and conventional publishing in Anthropology will know how hard and how sentimentally involved process it is to publish anything. Book reviews, often read (or overtly avoided) by the authors of the books can cause agony and distress to the most hardened academic.

One of the most controversial aspects of Open Access, is of course that it challenges how public shame and pride of one’s work is ‘regulated’ by the audiences ad how to cope with new understandings of ‘review’ (peer or other types that may emerge online).

In a sense, one of the aspects of the publications that remain gatekeeped is that it opens the flow for new types of publication strategies some of which have less stringen types of regulation by peer bodies (for some peer-review and non open access is a blessing in disguise as shame as an emotive quality is ‘controlled’ by a system in which all the potential pityfalls and annoying mistakes leading to shame in public are dealt with throgh regulative norms that dictate everything from the lenght of sentences to writing styles. As UK anthropologists publishing with American publications (i.e American Anthropologist) know is how hard it is to adapt and change to the demands of the editing styles across editorial ‘cultures’).

Hierarchies within

I remember when, as a postgraduate student, a friend of mine use to say that if you manage to publish with JRAI and survive their review system and got published you had assured ‘a place’ in anthropology; anyone could recognise you for being a ‘serious’ anthropologists, and even if they disagreed with your interpretations, being in JRAI (an similar bodies) was a badge of honour. In being there, and having gone through its excruciating peer review, a proportionate amount of Shame had been wiped out from your academic account. Pride and some Fame came along with the badge… and so it does still today, I remember a colleague talking of anthropology journals in a similar way, and I remember him spending three years on a single article, suffering terrible physical pain and painful corrections, ignoring teaching, so he could step up in the hierarchy of our miniscule department. It had an impact on our hierarchy, on his badge, and very little impact elsewhere.

Open Access would come to challenge some of these things above, it would, for a start, help us re-conceptualise and keep re-taking the debate on the meaning and extent of public anthropology, the forums and styles in which this public anthropolog is expressed and heard and how and where anthropology is produced, and the kinds of anthropology produced in the new online media. It would come to challenge how academic hierarchies are built and mantained, and the value of certain types of research in favour of others within those hierarchies. It would also come to define new possibilities for writing anthropology, different types of emotional engagement’s with one’s paper and one’s ideas, and with the editing and publication of those papers and their public comment.

I don’t know the effect open access would have on the ‘shaming’ process that formal publications deal with. I do not know the extent to which, our precise micro-bloging, our disperse blogging, our twittering and open access publications would be constructed as fifteen minutes of fame and shame, or waht kind of constitutive strenght would these have in providing credibility and the rest. I do not know, what I know is that I would be pleased if open access anthropology does something towards eroding some of the academic hierarchies that constitute unequal pay and mantain our attention relentlessly focussed on the fashions of the knowledge society.

An ethnoarcheology of adventures in hyperspace

I started interested in Open Access Anthropology at the end of my doctorate. I had finished my monograph and I wanted it to be shared, free and offered in an Open Access style althoug back in 1999 I wasn’t sure how this was called. All I knew is that I had promised my informants, friends and family that I would make my monograph widely accesible. I looked at conventional publishing, contracted publishers but I wasn’t certain that direction was going to ‘do’ what I wanted to do with it. I turned down a publishing contract and looked elsewhere.

I was fortunate that there were a team of anthropologists at the University of Kent that were already thinking about the Internet, Anthropology and their relation to publicaton and dissemination of anthropological findings. The department of Anthropology and Computing were, in the UK, the front runners and pionners of open access anthropology, visual and hypertexted anthropology. We owe them both recognition and many thanks for their efforts and visionary enthusiasm. I certainly do. I sent them my monograph not knowing what they may say about it, or what they would do with it. Few weeks later they published it online, free, accessible, open to all. Their project can bee seen here at the full address (which I keep in full here here because Lucy was one of my first Internet loves back in mid 90s)

Nearly 9 years later, the effect of that publication echoes in my own open shared access project in anthropology-projects. These included open shared teaching and e-learning materials, and eventually will include the work of other anthropologists and collaborators in this project, and will also include self-archiving. The project was also donated to be part of a larger electronic bid for online open resources in Higher Education.

I don’t intend to bore you with ‘’, only to say that open access and self-archiving anthropology is very much at the back of this project. So much so that my resolution for 2009 is that I hope to be self-archiving papers, conference papers and many publications that have not found way through conventional publishing (or where I have refused to go through conventional publishing), and a little anthropology journal on ‘Dissent and Cultural Politics in the age of the Altermodern’, also to go open access.

Open Access Anthropology arrives for me, to a kind of maturity along the lines of the Altermodern period (see Bourriaud -or my blogg on Altermodern for further ramblings on developing its theoretical consistency) and it signifies some of the Altermodern capacities for engaging with the impact that culture has on globalisation (See Held and Moore’s introduction to 2008 in Cultural Politics and he Global Age for a discussion on such impact), and one of the best examples has to be the role of Open Access Anthropology.

The production of anthropological knowledge in an open access internet anthropology

Open Access, Internet Publications are still not widely accepted when it comes to integrating publications, for example, in the 2008 RAE (Research Assessment Exercise) process in UK higher Education Institutions. When I submited my portfolio, which included publications on the Internet, as well as actual publications in paper, the assessors did not know what to do with it and there was no specific, at least, as it was made known to me, criteria for assessing these and how these could be included (or not) in these kinds of assessment.

I believe, however, some of the best current anthropology is being produced online and by people who are able to explore the openess quality of Internet sharing processes in the production of anthropological knowledge. I think the anthropology produced throught the medium of the Internet (in its free, access aapproach, I am not talking her of uses that are precluded in gatekeeping exercises by institutions and publishers) is a challenging and rich anthropology and that we should not underestimate a critical analysis on how anthropology is produced in and for the internet and on the kinds of knowledge it creates.

For me a good example of the production of anthropological knowledge, and of the kind of knowledge produced online has to be another early piooner both of hypertexted anthropology (as it used to be called) and visual anthropology, Jay Ruby. Jay Ruby published his work freely on the Internet, influencing many visual anthropologists, like myself, and like the students that I taught Visual Anthropology through his work.

There are manye exciting projects out there on the internet that look and consider the strenght and weekness of anthropological archiving, self-archiving, open access anthropology that can be used to think about the theme of Open Access Anthropology, here are few that I have selected to commemmorate today:

Open Access and Self Archving

Caplan: The ethics of Archiving

AAA: Open Access as Non-Realistic Option

MIT OpenCourseWare Anthropology (examples of open access anthropology in teaching)

Anthropology Matters

Durham Anthropology Journals DAJ

The Memory Bank (new sytles of Journal writing in form of blogs)

DART for teaching at the LSE

Goldsmiths Research Papers

Radical Anthropology Journal (Open Access Journal)


It is perhpas examples like Anthropology Matters, DAJ, DOAJ DART and Goldsmiths papers that I focuss as a step from where to get to a much extensive understanding of open access anthropology. In Columbia University, NY, the library has digitalised and offers free access to all staff and students, their library. If you subscribe to JRAI and ASA, and through your institution and JSTOR, you also receive fee access to journals. The condition, however is that you have to be ‘within’, firewalled, passworded, member of the institution, and it is a process of ‘access’ rather than production and distribution.

These examples are good, as they are the ones above and MIT for teaching and Caplan’s comments on Ethics above do apply to our projects very crucially. Whilst this is all good, there needs to be a situation where we are able to engage in a a fuller Open Access Anthropology and Open Access Anthropology Journals.

a New Public Anthropology (and its Open Access Anthropology Journals)

A reflection on the journals above (and on the existence of open access journals in many decades in the past) is that the new journals do not always need to follow the ‘paper-based’ strategy and styles that some reflect here. I believe that Open Access Anthropology Journals will need to consider developing through (and along) the innovations that blogging, twitters and other media, and the styles and types of publishing that the internet is changing for us. In doing so, we not only need to consider the extent to which Open Access Journals means a replica of academic paper-based, fee-paying on a ‘free’ or online format but that of a replica of their engagement with publics. This, as the examples I choose need to include the publishing of our teaching and its acceptance (not only the acceptance of published research journals).

Alternative publications will need to consider how they reflect the journey of the paper-based journal (in PDF or HTML electronic formats), but also to be genuinely alternative on how they challenge audiences. Furthermore, and on how they are journals of the age of bloggers, twitters, second life journals, podcasts. We share now an array of alternatives not only to publishing per se, to publishing at the touch of a submit button, but an array of alternatives to challenging audiences; and the formats of the delivery and presentation of such ideas (including oral and visual based rather than textual based and the dominant types (ethnocentric) authorship of the dominance of research Journals over other ways of producing public anthropology.

The examples above and the new journals that will emerge from this period will need to focuss not just on the provision and accessability of materials and readings, and on open access archiving and self-archiving, and its morality, but more crucial to focuss on what it means to have a new public, an engaged anthropology (taking from earlier debates on public anthropology). They will need to have the capacity to imagine a new type of ‘University’ (and a new type of University publications) beyond the neo-liberal knowledge society model. Open Access also will need to deal with how to demystify the process of publishing academically and its relation to hierarchy and inequality, re-address the inequality between producing resarch, opinions, comments and teaching. They will need to challenge our fear of typos and our desire of fame and fear of shame and our worries about public intolerance to dissident voices, to feel unconfortable in a moving terrain, to adopt new types of publications and styles, to face the altermodern re-loading and incompletness, post-editing and joint authorship of public forums, and to add more discussions on the kind of anthropology produced through this medium and in a state of critical ‘openess’.


Little note at the end: aware as I am of editing and altermodern exchanges, this blog here will not remain static, and since its first submited publication has seen more than 11 edits and changes, not counting.