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Posts from the ‘Books’ Category

If robots write one of these biographies about you, will you purchase it?

Its crazy stuff like this that makes my senior colleagues so dubious about the internet in general and the changing publications landscape in particular.

I follow a twitter feed called Anthropology Books. I have never investigated who put it together and I do not know anything about it except that it has been useful to me. Using some kind of automated approach, the person or software behind Anthropology Books has been very usefully telling me (and about 1000 other folks) about “All new anthropology books posted on their publication day.” If a title seems interesting, there is a link that takes one to the book’s page.

Today, books with the names of famous and not-so-famous anthropologists (and folklorists) started showing up in the stream today. Alan Dundes was one that caught my eye first. He is very important figure in folklore studies and a very good candidate for a proper biography. Other names started showing up, including those of active colleagues who are basically my own age! They all had unfamiliar to me authors and publishers.  There was a flood of them today.

Looking at the books on, one is (sometimes) confronted with the information that “the content of this book primarily consists of articles available from Wikipedia or other free sources online.” I took this quote from the book on Dorothy Eggan. This 84 page book is selling for $47.00 and has been published by Lect Publishing. The book is credited to the editorship of Nuadha Trev. This editor shows up in as the person behind about 3000 books. Lect Publishing is only one of several names associated with the same basic project and Nuadha Trev is only one of several editors.

I know that others have been writing a lot recently about Amazon’s publishing toolkit. Also at issue here is the CC licensing of Wikipedia etc. content. The student publishing group that I work with here at Indiana–Trickster Press–makes great use of CreateSpace+Amazon for the publication of real peer-reviewed monographs and I am certainly appreciative of, and in debt to, the Creative Commons. These resources are not to blame for the creation of this kind of spam-like books, but I think that they represent a problem on several fronts. Perhaps it is enough to say that they give the Creative Commons, Wikipedia, Amazon, remix, and scholarly communications reform a bad name.

I would love to know who would purchase one of these books. Maybe some of them are traps designed to extract cash out of their living subjects. Here is an example. The publisher “Fedel” has just published a 108 page/$54 book on ethnomusicologist/linguist/anthropologist Aaron Fox. (He and I know people in common but are not yet acquainted.) Would Professor Fox feel like he had no choice but to purchase this book to see what it said about him? Would I feel similarly compelled if one were published on me? His is one of about 3000 titles edited by “Christabel Donatienne Ruby”, but does Christabel Donatienne Ruby actually exist?

I would also love to know about the technical infrastructure that automatically (?) assembles these books and feeds them into Amazon. Anybody understand this stuff?

Update:  Thankfully the people behind the wikipedia article for VDM Publishing seem to understand it pretty well. For background, see the entry here. See also the discussion on slashdot here.

Book News: Yuchi Indian Histories Before the Removal Era

I just discovered a nice sign of progress on a long simmering book project for which I am the editor. (Its long simmering status was my fault, not that of the authors or publisher.) Yuchi Indian Histories Before the Removal Era is presently being copy-edited by The University of Nebraska Press. I am looking forward to reviewing the edited manuscript next month. Looking for something else, I was pleased, just now, to discover that the book now has a page on the UNP website. I had not know the format that the press was going to choose, so I am very pleased to see that it is slated to appear in paper. Thanks to everyone who has worked on this project. More news here as it develops.

How to Hack Academic Book Publishing in Two (Not So) Easy Steps – IHE #hackacad

A wonderfully engaged, positive review of Hacking the Academy by Barbara Fister is in today’s issue of Inside Higher Education. Thank you Barbara.

How to Hack Academic Book Publishing in Two (Not So) Easy Steps – Inside Higher Ed.

On Hacking the Academy #hackacad

I am very pleased to note that the edited book version of Hacking the Academy appeared online today. The online version lives on a site built by the volume’s publisher Digital Culture Books, an imprint of the University of Michigan Press. The volume has been edited by Dan Cohen and Tom Scheinfeldt, both of the Center for History and New Media. It is based on contributions submitted during one week–May 21-28, 2010.

I am very pleased to have been included in this volume and I want to thank the editors, the publisher, and all those who supported the project, including the many readers and cheerleaders who offered encouragement to the effort.

My chapter in the volume is based on an essay that originally appeared on this site (where the longer, older version can still be found). In the book, it is the first chapter of the “Hacking Scholarship” section. As with the earlier version, it is titled “Getting Yourself Out of the Business in Five Easy Steps” and it offers an argument for withdrawing, where possible, from entanglements with commercial academic publishing in favor of lending energy, support, and resources to the strengthening of the existing public-sector scholarly communications system and to the building of a more democratic, ethical, sustainable, and open one for the future. It thus relates directly to my more recent post on the enclosure of scholarly journals in anthropology (and to other things that I do, including working on the Open Folklore project and editing Museum Anthropology Review.

I am so thankful to everyone who has engaged not only with the essay but with me in the larger work of understanding and reshaping the ways scholars share their work with the world. The biggest shout out of all, in this regards, goes to my colleagues at the Indiana University Libraries and the IUScholarWorks program. They have been my teachers and tremendous partners in the work. They are awesome!

The old-fashioned version of Hacking the Academy will be published next year. Find the online version here:

Dan Cohen’s reflections on the project can be found online here:

Read Frank Speck’s Oklahoma Essays on your Phone, Free (Connexions)

The Connexions project headquartered at Rice University is great. I tried it out as a book publishing platform last year by editing into existence a book composed of Frank G. Speck’s essays on Oklahoma and Indian Territories originally published in The Southern Workman. Speck was a anthropologist and folklorist who visited the twin territories just before statehood.  The essays are really interesting for a lot of reasons that I try to describe in my introduction to the volume.  Today I am just noting that Connexions has added EPUB format to the range of ways that you can freely read and use (and remix) Connexions content.  This means that the little Speck book can be read using a e-reader on fancy phones and other mobile devices.  Connexions also serves up content in free PDF files and free dynamic webpages.  Any work can be purchased as a print on demand book too. If you do not know about Connexions, you really should check it out.

Kristin R. Eschenfelder Expores Attributor, A DRM Service for Scholarly (and Other) Publishers

Read all about it

New Book: Die Konstituierung von Cultural Property: Forschungsperspektiven

The Göttingen Interdisciplinary Research Group on Cultural Property is happy to announce the publication of an edited volume on the constitution of cultural property:

Regina Bendix, Kilian Bizer, Stefan Groth (Hg.)
Die Konstituierung von Cultural Property: Forschungsperspektiven.
Göttinger Studien zu Cultural Property, Band 1. Göttingen: Universitätsverlag Göttingen 2010, 320 Seiten, Softcover, 30,00 EUR
ISBN 978-3-941875-61-6

Kann Eigentum an Kultur sinnvoll sein? Das Interesse, Cultural Property dem Markt zuzuführen oder dies zu verhindern und hierdurch kollektiven oder individuellen, ideologischen oder ökonomischen Gewinn zu schaffen, gestaltet sich unter den stark divergierenden Bedingungen, die Akteure in einer postkolonialen, spätmodernen Welt vorfinden.

Die interdisziplinäre DFG-Forschergruppe zur Konstituierung von Cultural Property beleuchtet diese seit einigen Jahren in der Öffentlichkeit mit wachsender Brisanz verhandelte Frage. Die Forschergruppe fragt nach der Konstituierung von Cultural Property im Spannungsfeld von kulturellen, wirtschaftlichen, juristischen und hiermit auch gesellschaftspolitischen Diskursen. Dies bedingt auch die in dieser fokussierten Form neue Zusammenarbeit von Fachwissenschaftler/innen aus Kultur- und Sozialwissenschaften sowie Rechts- und Wirtschaftswissenschaften. Die Unterschiedlichkeit des disziplinären Zugriffs auf einen Forschungsbereich zeigt sich in den in diesem Band vermittelten ersten Ergebnissen aus der laufenden Forschung genauso deutlich wie die Notwendigkeit, disziplinäre Standpunkte in gemeinsamer Arbeit zusammenzuführen, um den Konstituierungsprozess von Cultural Property zu verstehen.

Der erste Teil versammelt Beiträge, die den Zusammenhang zwischen Heritage Praxen und der Formierung von Interessen an Cultural Property anhand von Fallstudien aus Indonesien, Kambodscha und Deutschland  beleuchten. Im zweiten Teil werden existierende Parameter des Schutzes von Cultural Property aus der Sicht von Völkerrecht, Verfüungsrecht und visueller Anthropologie untersucht. Der dritte Teil widmet sich Erkenntnissen aus internationalen Verhandlungsprozessen und ein vierter Abschnitt zeigt unterschiedliche Forschungsperspektiven auf Cultural Property.

Der Band kann auf den Seiten des Göttinger Universitätsverlages bestellt werden und ist zudem unter einer Creative-Commons-Lizenz als PDF verfügbar:
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Depressing: My Contribution to the Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion

Update: Today (9-13-2010) I received my author copy of the book version of this project. I am happy to report that the two images that I provided showing contemporary dress (including that worn by women) are included in it. As discussed below, they do not appear in the online/database version.

Last night I saw one of two published versions of my contribution to the monumental (10 volume) Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion (New York: Berg, 2010). It is the chapter titled “The Southeast” and it is one of a series of long, regionally focused essays on the dress and body adornment practices characteristic (past and present) of Native North American Indian societies. (My contribution is about 9000 words.)

As often happens with encyclopedias and other works of this type, I did not get a chance to review page proofs or the final copy edited manuscript. This has resulted is some less that ideal outcomes. I may eventually have the patience to write a full erratum to the piece, but here are some items that I want to apologize for.

I have only seen the version appearing in the Berg Fashion Library database. The print version may be different in some ways of which I am as yet unaware. The following comments are based on the Berg Fashion Library version.

The publisher was provided with a number of images illustrating contemporary Native American people wearing the kinds of clothing discussed in the essay. None of these were put to use and (if those that I had provided were not suitable) I was not engaged to find alternatives. Only two historic paintings by non-native artists and one object image of museum artifacts are used. This omission unfortunately fosters the general misconception that Native American lifeways are a thing of the past and that they are only preserved (via ethnographic documentation) by and for non-natives. I hope that my text (as published) sufficiently counters this widespread tendency. I have no idea why it had to be this way.

The publisher provided a caption to one of the images that was used that is misleading. From among the images that I suggested, they chose to publish the image of a native man from (what would be) Virginia associated with the artist John White.

Because in the chapter I discuss tasseled yarn belts and sashes, this image was captioned: “A North American Indian wearing a tasseled sash, ca. 1590, from a painting by John White.” I would certainly not have captioned this particular image in this particular way. The apron worn in this image is relatively anomalous for the dress of the region and for Native North America in general. It appears to be tied in the back and what we see hanging in the back (between the man’s legs) seems to be the apron ties (of animal hide?) presented in a unusual but decorative way. The closest thing to this in the documentary record or present-day practice, are the animal tails worn by some men when playing “match game” (stickball), as among the Oklahoma Muscogee (Creek) and Oklahoma Seminole today (and the Choctaw historically). In the Mississippian engraved shell images, the historic-period paintings, and today, yarn sashes with tassels are worn so that the tassels fall from one or both hips (or are tied at one hip). This can be seen in the painting of a Seminole man by Charles Bird King that was also published in the article and in the shell images and contemporary photographs that I suggested but that were not used. I did suggest the use of this early Virginia image, but only because I had devoted considerable space to discussing the total Virginia corpus as a source of information on dress and adornment in the contact era. I had asked that it be paired with an image of a woman from the same time and place so as to insure gender balance across all of the images. As published online, there are no women’s objects shown or images of women wearing native dress. I apologize for this unanticipated and regrettable outcome.

The copy editing introduced various infelicities that didn’t need to be there and that degraded the work. Here are a couple to illustrate:

My sentence: “The Yuchi have a different colonial-era history and continue, into the twenty-first century, to speak their own unique language—a language isolate unrelated to other known tongues.” in which I used the technical term “language isolate” but then preceded to explain the meaning of this terminology became: “…unique language—a language isolated and unrelated to other known tongues.” This just does not mean anything sensible and it is the typical kind of “improvement” that a copy editor wanting to enhance the accessibility of an work would make in the absence of any specialist knowledge. I do not mind this as one step in the process, but it never works in an context in which the scholarly author lacks the ability to catch problems introduced by the process.

Similarly, describing Mississippian period body adornment, I mention “gorgets.” The copy editor sought to help general readers make sense of this perhaps unfamiliar term and introduced “(neck coverings)” after the word. This is a particularly interesting problem (if sad) for a work on the history of dress and body adornment in general, from a worldwide perspective. Historical period gorgets in the Southeast were mainly trade objects. Look up “Gorget” in Wikipedia (as of today) and you can see a painting of Colonel George Washington (later to become the first U.S. President) wearing exactly the same kind of silver gorget that the Seminole John Hicks is wearing in the King portrait included with my article. This crescent-shaped metal plate worn as a necklace is derived historically from European armor, as the wikepedian’s kindly tell us:

A gorget originally was a steel or leather collar designed to protect the throat. It was a feature of older types of armour and intended to protect against swords  and other non-projectile weapons. Later, particularly from the 18th century onwards, the gorget became primarily ornamental, serving only as a symbolic accessory on military uniforms.

Because, in the historic period, this elaborate necklace-strung item of adornment–a large curved object worn suspended on the upper chest–was known in English as a gorget, scholars of the region like me (perhaps too sloppily) have extended the terminology back to refer to large shell decorations worn similarly. Those obviously do not derive from European armor and they two kinds of adornment provide an illustration of the kind of convergence of European forms and Native styles that I was trying to discuss in the essay. In any event, the copy editor was seeking to help readers by introducing a definition of gorget, but the definition is anachronistic in that Southeastern people did not wear armor-like neck coverings. I would have been very happy to have helped fix this mistake if I could have.

The published version includes a list of references but the citations that had been provided in the manuscript linking particular statements to particular works were removed in conformity with the style of the volume. I am sorry about this. Thankfully the reference list itself was preserved. If a work appears there, it was used with direct citation in the original manuscript.

I wish that I had a way to share the original manuscript but this was a project that I was recruited to participate in before I had given up engaging with commercial publishers all together. Maybe someday I will have a chance to try to address the topic again in a different and more open venue.

Although I am disappointed with this sort of outcome, I do not want to sound overly bitter. I appreciate the work that the publishers and editors have created and nothing about this experience is particularly out of the ordinary for the commercial encyclopedia publishing space.  For those who can get access to it, some good information, I hope, can still be found in my contribution. The kinds of frustrations that accompany, or are generated in, projects like this motivate my enthusiasm for doing scholarly publishing in new, better, and more open ways that are less impacted by the ramifications of hard business decisions made in a dysfunctional marketplace.

What can the Open Folklore project help me do now? [2]

This is a second in a series of postings describing things that can already be done with folklore studies scholarship that has been made available through the efforts of the Indiana University Bloomington Libraries. These various projects are being brought together in the Open Folklore project. While it will soon provide a portal to this diverse range of this content at, a great deal of content has already been made available. The first post described accessing folklore books via the Hathi Trust Digital Library. This post explains accessing several bundles of materials via the IUScholarWorks Repository.

IUScholarWorks Repository is a DSpace-based institutional repository for Indiana University Bloomington.  Folklore studies materials that have been incorporated within it include the following items and groups of items. While I could describe how to access these materials, it will be easiest for new users to just click the links given and explore the repository.

The journal Folklore and Folk Music Archivist (1958-1968) can be accessed here:

[As discussed here previously] a range of reports, monographs and working papers published by The Fund for Folk Culture can be accessed here:

The back files of the journal New Directions in Folklore (1997-2003) can be found here:

Newly added, and of special interest, are several special publications issued by the American Folklore Society, including the book 100 Years of American Folklore Studies: A Conceptual History edited by WIlliam M. Clements and published by the Society during its centennial year, 1988.  These materials can be found here:

The motherlode of folklore scholarship in IUScholarWorks Repository are the back files of the journal Folklore Forum.  Published since 1968, forty years of journal content (1968-2008), constituting 1314 items, is available here:

Folklore Forum is a publication of Trickster Press, the student-run publishing house in Indiana’s Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology.  Trickster continues to publish Folklore Forum as a gold open access journal (see here). In addition to making its back files available in IUScholarWorks Repository, the Trickster Press team, working with the IUB Libraries has also made available content from the Folklore Forum Bibliographic and Special Series (87 items), which can be found here:

Books from the Folklore Forum Monograph Series, can be found here:

In addition to these Folklore Forum-related materials, Trickster Press has also opened four of its out of print book titles.  These are:

Log Buildings in Southern Indiana by Warren Roberts (1996) available here:

Folklore on Two Continents: Essays in Honor of Linda Degh edited by Carl Lindahl and Nikolai Burlakoff (1980) available here:

Fields of Folklore: Essays in Honor of Kenneth S. Goldstein edited by Roger D. Abrahams (1995) available here:

and The Old Traditional Way of Life: Essays in Honor of Warren E. Roberts edited by Robert E. Walls, George H. Schoemaker, Jennifer Livesay, and Laura Dassow Walls (1989) available here:

In classic institutional repository mode, various materials produced in IUB’s Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology are also available in IUScholarWorks Repository. These materials, which include conference proceedings, post prints, MA theses, sound recordings, and syllabi can be found here:

This heterogeneous corpus of folklore scholarship is continuing to grow and it is anticipated that the Open Folklore portal will make consulting it easier in the years ahead.  In the meantime, there is plenty for the early adopters to read, study and enjoy.

Thanks to all who have worked to make these resources openly available.  Thanks as well to the many people who have expressed support for the Open Folklore project.

What can the Open Folklore project help me do now? [1]

While one way to think about Open Folklore is as a website or as a scholarly portal (that will live at ) another way to think about it is to see it as a branding effort or as a unified (unifying) label for a mixed collection of projects, efforts and services being pursued by the Indiana University Bloomington Libraries and the American Folklore Society aimed at making more of the scholarly literature and a greater range of scholarly resources in folklore studies openly available for those who need them. This post is the first in what I hope will be a series in which I show as quickly as I can what some of these resources are and how to access them independently. I am drawing here upon what we might call the “quiet phase” projects that provide the current core of content around which the Open Folklore portal or (viewed somewhat differently) the Open Folklore banner can be wrapped.

In this, context, “What can the Open Folklore project help me do now?” Here is a first and (I hope) simple answer.

Answer 1:  Open Folklore can enable you to consult the full text of out-of-copyright books from the Indiana University Libraries’ famed Folklore Collection in the Hathi Trust Digital Library.

The IU Folklore Collection was digitized by the Google Books project in partnership with the libraries of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC). It constitutes the first “Collection of Distinction” to be digitized in this partnership.

Much of the content (books and journals) from the Folklore Collection has already appeared in Hathi Trust. For works that are no longer under copyright, the full text of the original work is both full text searchable and full text readable. So, if you want to consult and read or search a particular book in the collection, you can now do so online. If you wish to try it out, here are the stable URLs for some sample works in the collection.

George Bird Grinnel’s The Punishment of Stingy and Other Indian Stories (1901)

George H. McKnight’s St. Nicholas: His Legend and His Role in the Christmas Celebration and Other Popular Customs (1917)

Arthur Mitchell’s On the Popular Weather Prognostics of Scotland (1863)

Max Müller’s Lectures on the Science of Religion: With a paper on Buddhist Nihilism and a Translation of the Dhammapada or “Path of Virtue” (1872)

Paul Radin’s El Folklore de Oaxaca (1917)

The stable URL for these works also enables you to reliably cite these work when writing or creating new scholarly projects building on this older work. They can be used in citations in new written (and perhaps printed) works such as books and articles, but also in websites, blog posts, and other scholarly new media.

There are (as of today) 2425 other works from the Folklore Collection itself available in full text via Hathi Trust. Hathi Trust as a whole provides full text access to over a million volumes that are in the public domain (representing about 19% of the collection as a whole.) [More on using the in-copyright volumes later.]

Find a volume of relevance to you and try out the folklore studies offerings of Hathi Trust, made possible by our friends at the Indiana University Bloomington libraries, the librarians of the CIC, Google Books, and the other Hathi Trust partners.

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