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JAR Distinguished Lectures

Vol. 60, No. 1, Spring 2004


Lawrence Guy Straus, Editor-in-Chief
Department of Anthropology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131

WHEN LESLIE SPIER LAUNCHED the Southwestern Journal of Anthropology at the beginning of 1945—still several months before the end of World War II—he printed not a word of introduction or explanation. The Journal, which has now reached the respectable milestone of six decades, simply began (vol. 1, no. 1) with articles by Franz Weidenreich on “The Brachycephalization of Recent Mankind,” Emil Haury on “The Problem of Contacts between the Southwestern United States and Mexico,” Verne Ray on “The Contrary Behavior Pattern in American Indian Ceremonialism, ” Harold Colton on “The Patayan Problem in the Colorado River Valley,” Morris Opler on “The Lipan Apache Death Complex,” Wilson Wallis on the age-area hypothesis, and H.P. Mera on “Negative Painting on Southwestern Pottery.” But on December 15, 1944, an announcement had been made in the Southwestern Journal’s predecessor, New Mexico Anthropologist, by Donald D. Brand, its first and only Editor—and Head of the University of New Mexico Department of Anthropology. His statement pretty much says it all, and to this day the Journal of Anthropological Research continues to fulfill much the same mission as was set forth at the end of 1944. The text of the announcement (vol. VIVII, no. 4, p. 160) is as follows:


With this issue the NEW MEXICO ANTHROPOLOGIST terminates its career. Conceived originally as a periodical for and by the students of the University of New Mexico, outside interest in it soon demanded expansion to include articles of professional caliber and wider scope. Thus it moved from a concern with local affairs, intended to meet a local audience, to a position of offering more serious discussion, but still largely confined to the Southwest and the Latin-American lands to the south. We believe—or at least hope—that it has served this function usefully but that it may now be replaced by a journal of wider interest.

     The Southwestern Journal of Anthropology which will take its place, is to be published as a joint enterprise by the University of New Mexico and the Laboratory of Anthropology (of Santa Fe). The new periodical is intended as a professional journal covering the whole field of anthropology—ethnology, archaeology, linguistics, folklore, physical anthropology, and anthropogeography. Articles have been solicited from anthropologists over the world, insuring a wide coverage of topics and points of view. At the same time, some weight will be given to contributions relating to the greater Southwest (the American Southwest and north Mexico) and its historic Indian, Hispanic, and archaeologic cultures. In this sense it specifically replaces the NEW MEXICO ANTHROPOLOGIST.

     The New Mexico Anthropologist first appeared on Saturday, March 13, 1937, advertised as “semi-monthly,” with a price of five cents. The first numbers were typed and mimeographed. The Editor was Professor Brand, as noted above, and the staff included F.C. Hibben, M.S. (Graduate Assistant and Curator of the Museum), Donald Lehmer, James Spuhler, Alden Hayes, and J.C. Kelley, among others. The stated purpose was announced in vol. 1, no. 1 thus: “This little paper has been founded to serve as a bulletin board, news sheet, and publication medium for short articles.” The intention was to disseminate news and other material in a variety of categories, from the Tiwa Club (the undergraduate archaeology society) and the Beta chapter of Mu Alpha Nu (“the honorary and professional anthropological fraternity” at UNM) to ethnographic, linguistic, ceramic, dendrochronologic, Pleistocene and cave research (ah-ha!), and even original poems and stories. Seven issues later, the New Mexico Anthropologist began to come out—at first five times a year and later quarterly—as a slim printed journal with a striking black-and-white Southwestern motif on its cover. Some issues were skipped during the height of the war. Contents emphasized news of UNM anthropological research and field trips, Southwestern research in general (including bibliographies), meetings, etc. Indeed, this was a very different kind of publication than what was to succeed it, the Southwestern Journal of Anthropology, edited by its founder, Leslie Spier, from 1945 until his death in 1961.
     Spier was an inveterate editor of journals and publication series. As he moved from institution to institution, he created outlets for the publication of serious, fourfields anthropological research. He also edited the American Anthropologist and was President of the American Anthropological Association. The international, multidisciplinary vocation of SWJA was firmly established with its very first issue and has continued ever since, through the editorships of Harry Basehart (first with Stanley Newman and later alone), James Spuhler, Philip Bock—and hopefully my own. Although important Southwestern research (especially in ethnology, archaeology, and linguistics) has always had (and continues to enjoy) a prominent place in the Journal—as befits the great anthropological importance of this region and the location of the Journal’s home—the fundamentally global scope of the publication was ultimately emphasized with the change of name to Journal of Anthropological Research by Basehart in 1973. The other three issues of SWJA published in 1945 constituted a “who’s who” of significant anthropologists of the time, including White, Kluckholn, Kroeber, Lowie, and Vogelin, and the topic areas ranged from Japan and Vietnam, to the Northwest Coast and the Aleutians, to Central Asia, the Caribbean, Lappland, and of course the American Southwest—with a particular emphasis on various aspects of Navajo culture.
     The scholarly mission of the Journal is to publish, in timely fashion, diverse, high-quality anthropological research results of demonstrated significance within relevant theoretical contexts. The Journal reaches out to anthropologists of all specialties and theoretical perspectives both in the United States and around the world. It is proud of its broad international representation of subjects, authors, and subscribers. The editors have sought to assist foreign anthropologists in preparing their work for publication in English, whether their articles were ultimately printed in the Journal or not. The diversity and breadth of the Journal are also reflected in the many and varied anthropological books which are regularly reviewed in it. The Journal staff and Editor are currently undertaking a summary statistical review of the complete publishing history of SWJA/ JAR, which we plan to make available on the web site ( as part of its recent upgrade. What is clear is that the Journal has always published on a wide variety of anthropological topics from the “four fields,” with subject matters spanning the globe (albeit with a distinctive U.S. Southwestern penchant), and authors who have been a healthy mix of senior figures in the discipline and younger scholars, not only American but also foreign. The Journal has always had a reputation for substance and seriousness, stressing broadly contextualized ideas supported by significant research, especially fieldwork.
     The Journal prides itself in its independence, flexibility, inexpensive nonprofit operation, responsiveness to subscribers and authors, and high technical standards. The quality of service and standards are guaranteed by a first-rate professional staff—the most veteran and critical of whom is the Copy Editor, Dr. Patricia Nietfeld, an anthropological museum collections specialist. The Editor is greatly assisted in the tasks of obtaining peer reviews of manuscripts and book reviews by members of the Editorial Board, other UNM Anthropology Faculty members, the non-UNM Associate Editors, and colleagues throughout the U.S. and around the world. The Journal would not be able to exist in its present form and at its attractive subscription rates without the support of the UNM College of Arts and Sciences and its current Dean, Professor Reed Dasenbrock. My philosophy has been and continues to be to keep the Journal on a steady course and to aim for the kind of excellence in anthropological publishing that was the vision and precedent set by Spier and his colleagues sixty years ago in the closing months of the global conflagration.


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