Current Anthropology – New Edition, First 50 Years Issue

Current Anthropology, December 2009, Volume 50 number 6 is now out, which as will be apparent from the headline, marks no less than 50 years in the field, and there are a number of essays contained therein which reflect on the past, present and future of this publication. Here’s part of editor Mark Aldenderfer’s introduction to the proceedings:

In this issue we celebrate 50 years of Current Anthropology. By no means the most long‐lived anthropology journal (that honor must go to the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, which technically began its run in 1872 but whose origins can be traced to 1863), it is certainly unique. The six celebratory essays explore the history of this remarkable journal from the perspectives of past editors, beginning with Cyril Belshaw, who took over from Sol Tax, the journal’s founder, and then Adam Kuper, Richard Fox, and Ben Orlove, as well as two past presidents of the Wenner‐Gren Foundation, Sydel Silverman and Richard Fox. Barbara Metzger, who joined the journal as a copy editor in 1964 at Tax’s behest and became arguably the central figure of the journal through the terms of five editors, provides another perspective on CA’s evolution. These very personal reflections offer us insights into not only the history of the journal but also the changing nature of scholarly publishing and the ways in which CA shaped, and was shaped by, the contours of these changes.

Although Sol Tax first saw CA as a venue for reviews and news, the realities of scholarly publishing even then moved him toward a broader conception of the idea of “current” research. Over the decades, as our editors have stressed, current meant just that—publishing not just the new for the sake of newness and currency but also the best of that research. Here the journal over the decades has been tremendously successful. Although I am aware of dissatisfaction with and rejection of quantitative measures of journal impact, such measures are nevertheless one way to document the quality of a journal and its influence on a field. Using the Institute for Scientific Information’s impact factor formula as reported in their annual Journal Citation Reports (see for definitions and caveats), since 1997, CA has ranged from the first to the seventh position of all indexed anthropology journals (lower numbers are better). This is a remarkable achievement for a four‐field journal in an era of increasing specialization, and the past editors must be heartily congratulated for keeping CA timely, relevant, and important to the field across these five decades. For the sake of modesty, I will forgo comparisons with the other two major four‐field journals!

As ever, the contents are behind a paywall, albeit one which in my opinion is very good value for money – as I’ve mentioned before, the cost of a digital annual subscription isn’t much different from what some journals charge for access to a single paper, and moreover the papers published in CA this year have been especially wide-ranging, informative and thought-provoking, a trend which I imagine will continue long into the future.

To access the Table of Contents, just click this link.

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