By Beth and Laurian
Envision Imprint had a few false starts. We once had affiliation with an academic press and a kick-ass group of activists, academics and practitioners on our advisory board. Funding fizzled and our big dream needed a rest from academic entanglements. We regrouped and decided that–for a while at least–we would remain independent.
Recently, we revisited a column we wrote in 2012 for Anthropology News (below). One statement stands out: “We are interested in work that questions the divides between community and academy, the assumption of “expertise” embedded in these divides, as well the ways in which we create and circulate both art and knowledge.” This remains true as does our committment to Open Access, even if we are not currently producing a journal. But, hell, you never know what the future holds.
Open Access feels more crucial than ever as published research is being “disappeared” from government websites and anti-science is driving policy. We need to encourage the flow of knowledge and remove barriers to increase its utility and readership. Through collaboration, and through the commons, we have more power.
Published in Anthropology News, February 2012
Introducing Envision: Highlights on the Intersections Between Open Access and Feminist Anthropology
It is commonplace to engage conversations about the commoditization of academic publishing in the blogosphere, but the dichotomy remains that publications in closed sourced journals are nearly always a prerequisite for tenure. For feminist and other anthropologists interested in applied methodologies and collaborative work outside of the academy, research findings may lose their immediacy when subject to the lengthy peer-review process. As well, other forms of research dissemination are necessary when collaborators or stakeholders do not have access to closed source publications. This is evident in the increasing relevance of anthropology blogs—Naked Anthropologist, Savage Minds and Living Anthropologically, to name a few—that offer insight into social phenomenon as it is happening, and of Open Access (OA) publishing.
The model of OA, which is often a tenure-unrelated labor of love sustained by a diverse group of stakeholders, overlaps with tenets of feminist anthropology with its commitment to critical examinations of positionality, power, and epistemology. Feminist anthropology continues to challenge how we, as scholars and practitioners, create and circulate knowledge. Online and OA publishing allow collaborators to access research and to participate in its representation. Blogs and online forums for works-in-progress also emphasize the process of research and the importance of both collaboration and transparency. The OA approach to publication attempts to move away from pay-to-play access to peer reviewed research by facilitating greater availability of research through freely accessible online platforms. OA intentionally lessens the boundaries between institutions, sub-disciplines and public discourse.
Into the foray of an ever-increasing need for publicly engaged research, we offer ENVISION: Collaborations of Art, Analysis and Activism. ENVISION is an interdisciplinary and international network of scholars, artists, practitioners and activists interested in the exchange of ideas, innovation and creative practices in Africa, the Americas and the Caribbean. ENVISION (http://www.envisionimprint.org) works from the premise that the evolving audiences of anthropology in the blogosphere—and our need to engage a wider array of constituencies—demand different platforms for collaboration. To this end, ENVISION will produce an OA journal of essays, reviews, multimedia presentations, field collaborations, and activist and artist interviews, a salon for works-in-progress and reflections, and a blog. We are interested in work that questions the divides between community and academy, the assumption of “expertise” embedded in these divides, as well the ways in which we create and circulate both art and knowledge. Although supported by New City Community Press, an imprint of Syracuse University Press that publishes university-community collaborations, all participants in ENVISION will retain full copyright of submitted materials.
We conceived ENVISION—collaboratively while engaged in separate field projects in Central America and West Africa—as an outlet for in-process field reflections and to create solidarity with artistic and activist efforts. As our network took shape, our goal grew to include publishing as a publicly accessible process. A fundamental tenet of feminist anthropology is to challenge the dichotomy between public and private processes, and we extend that further to examine the open and closed dichotomies of publishing. Experimental by design, ENVISION finds its genealogy in diverse expressions of visually and politically engaged research and art that is bold, necessary, and critical. ENVISION grounds itself in a current need for scholarship and art that interrogate representational practices, and that bring activist, artistic, and scholarly innovations into dialogue. The convergence of these concerns—representational practices, analysis, and activism—is a ripe space to confront theoretical terrain and praxis.
As Open Access journals gain traction mostly outside of the US, we proffer ENVISION as an additional avenue of dissemination for research that demonstrates a wide range of applications for social justice and social theory, and invigorates current practices of applied and activist social science methodologies. This self-reflexive project lives within the praxis of feminist anthropology with its intent to demystify the academy and challenge the boundaries of institutionalized knowledge. We welcome your participation.