After 11 years at the University of Toronto Press, and over 6 years curating this blog, I’m stepping down, hanging up my hat, moving on (choose what euphemism you like). It has been a wonderful experience writing for an audience of anthropologists who care about teaching, about ethnography, and about where scholarly publishing and the discipline are headed. And it has also been great fun curating such a variety of pieces from a diverse collection of people over the years. We’ve interviewed many of our authors about their books, and asked instructors to share their syllabi, not to mention their favourite teaching tips. We’ve discussed a more public ethnography and its challenges not to mention the challenges of academic publishing. And we’ve had so many great guest posts – from hacking your way into digitizing the classroom, to gamifying pedagogy, to teaching ethnographic writing and methods to novice students (not just those upper year keeners!). Most recently, we launched an Innovations in Anthropology Series which is designed to highlight the ways in which some people and departments are working to ensure that anthropology remains vital and relevant in the classroom and in the world.
The Teaching Culture ethnography series, after which this blog was named, has occupied a unique space in the scholarly publishing world, one where academics can choose to write for the public they serve most directly – their students. Books like Made in Madagascar and Ancestral Lines have reached thousands of students and hopefully made instructor lives easier and even more joyful at times.
Closest to my heart, however, has been the more creative approaches to ethnography that we have tried to nurture and develop. For me, it started with the publication of Trickster, a wonderfully written yarn of a tale by Irish-American anthropologist, Eileen Kane, that doubled as a self-reflexive meditation on the discipline and its methods. And once I turned down that road, it was hard to continue on the straight and narrow. It wasn’t long before we were talking about Graphic Adventures in Anthropology and publishing such great books as Drawn to See and A Different Kind of Ethnography before finally getting the ethnoGRAPHIC Series off the ground. Looking back, it seems like graphic novels were almost an inevitable step in the continued experimentation and evolution of ethnography in the post-Writing Culture period. At the time, however, it took a lot of ground work to convince people that it was even possible and even longer to find the right project to kick it all off. The publication of Lissa, however, exceeded even my own high expectations, and I am now convinced it’s only the beginning. The Series continues to grow with more graphic novels coming in early 2020 and a highly original graphic book by Lochlann Jain offering a seriously playful look at the pitfalls and potential of how and why we categorize information and knowledge. (Look for that this fall at the CASCA/AAA meetings in Vancouver).
I believe the focus we have placed on teaching and students, combined with the room and encouragement we have given our authors to explore more creative approaches to representing their research and telling their stories, is at the heart of what makes the anthropology publishing program at the University of Toronto Press so unique. Heck, even our textbooks aim to have a little fun and highlight our authors’ experience, not drown it out with bland content. In the process, I hope we haven’t just given you what you want and need, but that we have also pushed and stretched you a little on the way.
For those interested in knowing what I’m up to in the future, feel free to follow me @annebracken. I hope to have a better idea later this spring. For now though, I want to thank this great and quirky Anthropology community (irl and virtual), an overly earnest and self-reflexive group that still knows how to have fun and still understands the power of good storytelling.
Thanks for all your support and encouragement of this blog over the years.
Anne Brackenbury, Executive Editor, University of Toronto Press