SIX DECADES OF PUBLISHING “IN THE INTEREST OF GENERAL ANTHROPOLOGY”
Lawrence Guy Straus
THE FIELD OF ANTHROPOLOGY has been in a reflective mood for the past several years. Well into its second century as a recognized academic discipline, the integral study of humankind, past and present, biological and cultural, has been taking stock. It now has a considerable history (even if some of it was in fact not very respectable). Interesting books on pioneering figures (our “fathers” and “mothers,” and even “grandparents”) are proliferating. In my own area—archaeology, and Paleolithic prehistory in particular—what modern scholarship is revealing about the origins and early development of research into and thinking about “early man” is fascinating and clearly helps us to understand how we got to our present situation and to position current debates (which are often, in part at least, simply new versions of old debates recycled with new metalanguages). Witness the unending polemics about the nature of the Middle-Upper Paleolithic transition and the “extinction” of the Neandertals as a spectacular case in point.
Although, as Thomas Kuhn so convincingly argued four decades ago, paradigms may be overthrown by scientific revolutions, it is also true that much of scholarship is cumulative. Our work rides on the shoulders of past researchers— often giants, the breadth and depth of whose knowledge and talents are almost inconceivable to most of us modern “specialists.” In anthropology it is surprising how close we still are to some of the seminal figures of the field, even if the “grandparents” are now indeed remote. Leslie Spier, the Founding Editor of the Southwestern Journal of Anthropology—today’s Journal of Anthropological Research—was such a personage, anchored in ethnology, but a real anthropological “general practitioner.” It is to him—and to his successors (Harry Basehart, Stanley Newman, James Spuhler, and Philip Bock)—that we owe the vision and reality of an international journal, based in the anthropologically rich American Southwest, that seeks to publish substantive works of research in all the varied subdisciplines, authored by both established scholars and by “fresh faces.”
In an interesting, important, new intellectual biography of Leslie White (Leslie A. White: Evolution and Revolution in Anthropology, University of Nebraska Press, 2004)—one of the most significant and controversial figures in American ethnography and anthropological theory of the first half of the twentieth century— the author, William Peace, provides insight into the founding of the Southwestern Journal of Anthropology in 1945 (p. 129). In correspondence with White at the beginning of 1945, Spier told him that the new journal would (as Peace paraphrases) “focus on longer articles grounded in concrete materials.” Spier specifically stated that he “was willing to take articles of very special content if the authors will make it very explicit that they see their material as fitting into a wider context or problem” (letter from Spier to White, January 20, 1945). According to Peace (p. 129), by encouraging a major submission from White (“History, Evolutionism, and Functionalism: Three Types of Interpretation of Culture,” SWJA 1:221–248), Spier “wanted to get the journal off the ground with a ‘real bang’ . . . [with] ‘polemical tough-minded articles’.” It was clear that the launch of SWJA was meant to promote “healthy competition with the American Anthropologist” (Peace, p. 130), which was at the time the anthropological serial that held a clearly dominant position in the United States. How many letters have I (and no doubt my distinguished predecessors) written to authors recommending them to place their research into wider contexts, to show how their work might contribute to resolving larger problems, indeed to expand on their ideas up to JAR’s current (and still-generous) text limit of thirty double-spaced pages! We do want articles in JAR to stimulate thought and—yes—debate, although we have not adopted Current Anthropology’s format. Indeed, I am open to publishing the occasional criticism of an article and author rebuttal.
With this issue, I finish ten years as editor of JAR. I have striven to maintain the Journal’s independence and professional quality. Thanks to support from the University of New Mexico College of Arts and Sciences, we have been able to continue the Journal’s traditions of publishing top-quality articles in all subfields of anthropology, with relatively speedy manuscript turnaround times. We have also been able to significantly augment the numbers of book reviews. In these ten years I have received 525 article manuscripts for review—50 in just the past twelve months. JAR seeks to publish the best in anthropological research and thought, from and about anywhere in the world, regardless of subfield or author status (senior, junior, well- or little-known).
In the past, as in recent times, it is clear that JAR publishes especially heavily in the general areas of ethnology and archaeology (Figure 1), although archaeology has had its ups and downs—the latter especially in the late 1960s and early 1970s, possibly owing to the explosion of new archaeology and generalist journals.
Figure 1. Distribution of SWJA/JAR articles by anthropological subfields
The subfields of physical/biological anthropology and anthropological linguistics have also been consistently represented among articles in SWJA/JAR, but in fewer numbers—in part because these are smaller subfields and also because their practitioners have tended to publish in specialized journals of long standing (e.g., American Journal of Physical Anthropology, International Journal of American Linguistics, Anthropological Linguistics)—and perhaps increasingly so as many more “niche” journals have appeared. The relative proportions have fluctuated a bit over the years and as the SWJA/JAR editors changed, but the basic distribution of articles by major subfields has remained fundamentally stable, except for the dip in archaeology articles noted above. I am especially always on the lookout for excellent, appropriately general manuscripts in biological anthropology to more fully justify JAR’s “four-field” mission. I believe that there is a place for JAR as a venue where anthropologists of all stripes ought to be able to communicate the results of their specific research to the discipline as a whole, in such a way that its broad relevance and theoretical interest are made clear.
The record also shows that the Journal has an internationalist tradition and a historical connection to the American Southwest; both are reflected in the publication statistics on non-U.S. author addresses and on Southwestern content compiled by Lisa Pacheco (Student Editorial Assistant), as shown in the histograms (Figure 2) created by Ann Braswell (Business Manager).
Figure 2. Foreign authors and Southwestern themes
The internationalist perspective brings with it the ethical obligation to work especially hard to provide constructive reviews and advice to non-U.S., non-English speaking authors, especially from the developing world. The Southwest, as a “laboratory for anthropology” (to borrow Don Fowler’s felicitous book title: A Laboratory for Anthropology: Science and Romanticism in the American Southwest, 1846–1930, University of New Mexico Press, 2000), because of its wealth and diversity of cultures, languages, and prehistoric records, is a natural subject of interest to anthropologists far beyond the borders of New Mexico and its American and Mexican neighbors. It has always been fertile ground for the development of significant ideas of broad relevance and potential application in all areas of our discipline. Thus, it is fitting that a journal based at the University of New Mexico publish the best in theoretically informed articles whose empirical bases are derived from research done in the Greater Southwest. Yet, the numbers of “Southwestern” articles has always been relatively small; the world has always been SWJA/JAR’s stage. The current issue, with two JAR Distinguished Lectures—by Don Johanson on the significance of Australopithecus afarensis within hominid evolution and by Peter Whiteley on the importance of history to anthropology as illuminated in part by Southwestern examples—is a good example of this balance in the mission of the Journal and of the diversity of its normal content.
The independence, agility, and small size of the JAR operation (ironically) also permit it to review large numbers of books in a wide variety of specialties quickly, thanks to the help I get from my colleagues on the Book ReviewCommittee for Ethnology and Linguistics—David Dinwoodie, Les Field, and Suzanne Oakdale—as well as from the Book Review Editor for Physical/Biological Anthropology, Joe Powell, and our efficient Student Book Review Assistant, Andrea (Evans) Cooper.
Independence means that JAR depends on subscriptions and copyright royalties to survive. I wish to sincerely thank all our subscribers (mainly college, university, and museum libraries) for their loyalty—and especially this year those who returned to us after the complications engendered by the bankruptcy of one of our main subscription agencies. I am pleased to note many new subscribers in 2004. JAR has subscribers not only in all fifty U.S. states (plus Washington, DC, and many U.S. dependencies), but also in approximately fifty other nations (Figure 3). We value and need every subscriber and urge each one (and each reader of a library copy of JAR) to recommend the Journal to other potential subscribers. The Journal of Anthropological Research remains one of the very best bargains in high-quality scholarly publishing of substance anywhere, thanks to its lean organization, devoted staff, and help from the UNM College of Arts and Sciences.
Ann Braswell, JAR’s new Business Manager, is to be thanked and congratulated for having survived her first year (Union Jack flying high!)— industriously, creatively, enthusiastically, and efficiently reorganizing and upgrading our computerized records and our operations in general. She brings to the job a genuine, longstanding love of Southwestern Native arts and cultures. Dr. Patricia Nietfeld, in a year of extraordinarily intensive work in her “real” job as the Supervisory Collections Manager for the Smithsonian Institution’s just-opened National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC, continues to be JAR’s extraordinary Copy Editor. She is invaluably “assisted” by June-el Piper, who skillfully and efficiently prepares the authors’ files (and more) in Albuquerque. Donna Carpio in Moriarty, NM, continues to beautifully design and compose the Journal, passing it on electronically to our printer, Thomson-Shore in Michigan, whose contract was renewed this year.
Figure 3. JAR subscribers
As is customary, but no less sincerely, I wish to thank all the members of the Editorial Board, the Associate Editors, and many colleagues who have reviewed one or more manuscripts during the year. Peer review is at the heart of the production of an excellent scholarly journal, so it is with great appreciation that I acknowledge the following reviewers for 2004:
Sixty years is a significant period of time in the history of professional anthropology. Sixty volumes totaling 240 issues of the Southwestern Journal of Anthropology/Journal of Anthropological Research have now been published. That translates into about thirty thousand advertising-free pages of anthropological substance since 1945. The longevity and regularity of the Journal, the loyalty of its subscribers and readers, the masses of submitted manuscripts, the manuscript acceptance rate (25–30 percent), its respectable ranking by the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI), the growing avalanche of books received for review—all would seem to confirm a tradition of excellence, which I hope to maintain with the help of colleagues at UNM and throughout the profession worldwide, and with the critical assistance of our dedicated staff. SWJA/JAR is indeed sixty years young and going strong, on its own and in the service of anthropology, the holistic yet highly diversified study of humankind.
Lawrence Guy Straus