Notes from My Year as a Cyber Investigator

by eea | Tuesday, October 22, 2019 - 9:00 AM

Much of the creative energy in the University Press world is committed to pushing in new directions, whether they are new directions in research, advanced strategies for marketing and publicizing books, or new scheduling experiments. When I heard of the project—funded by the National Endowment of the Humanities and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation—to create an online repository of JHUP’s out-of-print books , it felt like a different kind of experiment. True, it was an opportunity to continue experimenting with the exciting new mode of publishing Open Access books; but it was also an opportunity to bring back some of JHUP’s most important books that at the time only existed in libraries, used bookstores, and on the shelves of readers. This was a unique project that simultaneously looked forward and backward.

Before this project presented its many unique production and design problems—all handled fabulously by my expert colleagues—it presented one big author relations problem: in order to sign a new contract for each of these books, how does one contact with 200 people (or their living relatives) when so many of them have retired from their professional lives, and when the JHUP editors with whom they...Read More

Happy Open Access Week

by eea | Monday, October 21, 2019 - 9:00 AM

Who doesn’t love something for free? Free speech? Free Wi-Fi? Free beer? In celebration of the Tenth Open Access Week, I’ll throw in free scholarship. Yes, books and journals for free. No catch. Free. Take all you want. At Johns Hopkins University Press, we are committed to delivering impact for ideas, and now we’ll deliver selected content for free.

This might sound too good to be true, but through a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, this is exactly what we mean. This fall, we will make two hundred classic backlist books open to the world on Project MUSE. (Earlier this year we also made another hundred titles open access.) These three hundred will join hundreds of other books and journals openly available to discover, explore, download, and read.

The move to open scholarship was first sparked in the world of science journals. Research supported by public funds and performed at public universities, the argument goes, shouldn’t be locked away in journals available only to those who could afford subscriptions. Publicly-funded research should be available to the public. Over time, the OA movement has expanded to some...Read More

City People: Black Baltimore in the Photographs of John Clark Mayden

by eea | Friday, October 18, 2019 - 12:00 PM

It began with a visit, on a calm December day, to a spacious, sunlit farmhouse on the edge of Leakin Park. There I encountered for the first time John Clark Mayden’s Baltimore “street portraits”—photographs set worlds away from that peaceful location … or so you might think.

I was there with Dr. Lawrence Jackson, Bloomberg Professor of History and English at Johns Hopkins, but also a Baltimore native and family friend of the Maydens. We gathered around the dining room table as John turned over his black-and-white prints one by one—a stunning display of luscious tones and deeply satisfying compositions that somehow suggest both spontaneity and thoughtful arrangement.

But, to be honest, my first impressions did not focus on these technical achievements. What I noticed first—more of a feeling than an observation, really—was the pop of connection. Through the interface of the photograph, I saw my fellow citizens, mostly Black, often framed by the doorways and windows of Baltimore’s iconic rowhouses, looking back at me with the full force of their gazes, or going about their business despite my presence. Whatever was happening in any given image, the photographer had opened a passageway through time, space, and race....Read More

Killing for the Republic: What is the Most Important Takeaway?

by eea | Thursday, October 17, 2019 - 12:00 PM

For thousands of years, people have written about the Roman Republic, how it achieved its empire, and why it collapsed. Scholars of each generation have specialized in different aspects of Rome’s republic. Modern scholars tend to focus on laws, institutions, power structures, and the geographical and historical circumstances that made the Roman Republic so successful. In the writing of my book, Killing for the Republic: Citizen-Soldiers and the Roman Way of War , I was indebted to these scholars, many of whom knew far more about their particular topic than I do. However, I have also noticed that it is currently out of fashion to consider the spiritual and moral fabric that bound the Roman Republic together.

This is perhaps part of a broader trend that downplays the public life of the spirit. Eric Voegelin opened his epic, eight-volume History of Political Ideas with the conviction that beliefs create a political people. Political units are evoked when convictions are articulated in language and linguistic symbols. In a modern age obsessed with legal systems, formal declarations, and political institutions, Voegelin argued that such things were secondary. Ideas make laws; myths create nations. A constitutional order does...Read More

The Ethics of Being Collected

by eea | Wednesday, October 16, 2019 - 3:00 PM

When I was writing The Collectors of Lost Souls (2008), the picaresque yet tragic story of investigations of the lethal neurological disorder called kuru, the ethics of this scientific enterprise were much on my mind. As the narrative began to cohere and gather force, however, the dramatic elements and episodic intensity of the disease’s history and the Fore people’s responses to their mysterious affliction took over the book, subordinating any moral tale. The story was a remarkable one, a disturbing one, combining a brain disease previously unknown to medical science, first contact between whites and a remote tribe during the 1950s in the highlands of New Guinea, the threat of extinction of the Fore people, sorcery allegations, cannibalism, slow viruses, infectious proteins, mad cows, two Nobel Prizes in physiology or medicine, and the conviction of the lead scientist, American D. Carleton Gajdusek, for his sexual molestation of an adolescent boy. Altogether, it was a story one couldn’t make up – indeed, there were times when I wondered whether readers would ever believe it. So, while the emphasis on the ethics of research relationships continued to pervade the narrative, the sheer weirdness, even malignity, of the story...Read More