Sat 25 May 2013
Recently I received news of three new journals with laudable goals: one is Mashriq & Mahjar: Journal of Middle East Migration Studies, an online, open access, peer-reviewed journal; the second is The Sociology of Islam Journal, which will be published by Brill on a subscription basis. The third is Anthropology of the Contemporary Middle East and Central Eurasia (ACME). When I started my graduate career in the early 1970s there were only a few journals dedicated specifically to the study of Islam and none to the anthropology of the Middle East or Central Asia. Der Islam, Studia Islamica, the Muslim World were solely for Islam, although they rarely had sociological or anthropological articles. Most scholars published in journals of their discipline or broader Middle Eastern Studies, such as the Middle East Journal, the International Journal of Middle East Studies, Arabica, Quaderni di Studi Arabi, and the like. The first journal devoted solely to contemporary Islam, with an anthropological focus, is Contemporary Islam, founded by Gabriele Marranci. The first journal created for the anthropology of the Middle East is, appropriately enough, Anthropology of the Middle East.
As the co-editor of a major Springer journal, Contemporary Islam, and the editor-in-chief of an online, peer-reviewed open access journal, CyberOrient, I am probably the last person who should be complaining about more new journals. It is not really a complaint as much as it is a contemplation: why are there more and more subscription-based academic journals when library budgets are being skimmed and few scholars can afford the exorbitant individual subscription prices of major presses? Is it the case that there are too few journals out there? Given the quality of the articles I sometimes see in professional journals, it seems as though quality or cogency is not always significant for getting into print. An argument could be made that there are so many more academic scholars these days, that new journals are needed to accommodate them. I can see this point, but then why not create open-source journals, like Mashriq & Mahjar, which can as easily be peer-reviewed as those distributed by major publishing houses?
There are several disadvantages I see with the expanding number of subscription-based academic journals. (more…)