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Society for Cultural Anthropology


While still largely ignored by many anthropologists, open access (OA) has been a confusing and volatile center around which a wide range of contentious debates and vexing leadership dilemmas orbit. Despite widespread misunderstandings and honest differences of perspective on how and why to move forward, OA frameworks for scholarly communication are now part of the publishing ecology in which all active anthropologists work. Cultural Anthropology is unambiguously a leading journal in the field. The move to transition it toward a gold OA model represents a milestone for the iterative transformation of how cultural anthropologists, along with diverse fellow travelers, communicate more ethically and sustainably with global and diverse publics. On the occasion of this significant shift, we build on the history of OA debates, position statements, and experiments taking place during the past decade to do three things. Using an interview format, we will offer a primer on OA practices in general and in cultural anthropology in particular. In doing so, we aim to highlight some of the special considerations that have animated arguments for OA in cultural anthropology and in neighboring fields built around ethnographic methods and representations. We then argue briefly for a critical anthropology of scholarly communication (including scholarly publishing), one that brings the kinds of engaged analysis for which Cultural Anthropology is particularly well known to bear on this vital aspect of knowledge production, circulation, and valuation. Our field’s distinctive knowledge of social, cultural, political, and economic phenomena should also—but often has not—inform our choices as both global actors and publishing scholars.


© American Anthropological Association 2014. Articles in the Cultural Anthropology Journal are freely available to download, save, reproduce, and transmit for non-commercial, scholarly, and educational purposes.

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