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Special Publications of the AAA: A Brief History

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Memoirs of the AAA

The American Anthropological Association has had a long history in publishing monographs and multi-author collections of essays in addition to its program of periodical publications. The first series, beginning in 1905, was the Memoirs of the American Anthropological Association.

Relatively few materials now exist that document this series. Begun in 1905, the first 28 books in the series were published in 6 Numbers, at first published at a rate of six per number. In 1916 the Memoirs were published quarterly, and were sent to AAA members without charge.

Beginning in 1923, the publication schedule became more erratic. The volumes were published separately, beginning with Ruth Benedict's book, The Concept of the Guardian Spirit in North America. Funding was a problem, and the Association published some of the Memoirs with grants from the National Academy of Sciences, the Viking Fund, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, and the National Science Foundation, to name a few.

The first General Series Editor was appointed in 1935: Leslie Spier, Editor, with Melville J. Herskovits, Cornelius Osgood, F. H. H. Roberts and Frank Speck, Associate Editors.

In 1940, the Memoirs were incorporated into the supplement series of the American Anthropologist, which at that time published 6 issues a year. This would be the case for the rest of the volumes in the series.

The series was discontinued due to lack of adequate funding.

The following are the titles (the volumes are long since out of print) of the Memoirs of the American Anthropological Association

The Memoir Series ended in 1963. Beginning in October 1963, a short-lived series, also published as additional numbers of the American Anthropologist, began. Known as Special Publications of the American Anthropologist, it was under the general editorship of Alan R. Beals. In his words, the series was to publish papers "representing explorations at the frontiers of anthropology." The series contained the following titles (the volumes are out of print):

Anthropological Studies

In the Annual Report of 1967, Ward H. Goodenough announced a new series, Anthropological Studies, "devoted to the publication of the detailed findings and full data of anthropological research. Raw field notes will not be acceptable; the data must be in a form that allows scholars to use them satisfactorily. . ."

The series shifted emphases [with a change in editorship] to deal with issues in anthropology that were of general interest to anthropologists.

Ten books were published in this series, from 1969 to 1973 (now out of print):


The Anthropological Studies series was discontinued in 1974, and was succeeded by the Special Publications of the AAA. The Executive Board motion reads,

Motion 79-51 "in place of Anthropological Studies, Special Publications be introduced to consist of appropriate materials as they come to hand, as, for example, materials such as the symposia special issues of the American Anthropologist produced during the editorship of George Spindler; symposia dealing with current directions in anthropology which might be developed by the Program Editor and his associates for the annual meeting, or materials concerned with professional, as distinguished from scientific, anthropological interests; these special publications to be sold."

This was later amended to include "volumes in honor of distinguished anthropologists, providing they are accompanied by a substantial subvention" (Motion 88-69). This was done specifically to provide for an outlet for the publication of festschrifts, according to the minutes. [In 1989, the Board moved to refuse for AAA publication all future festschrifts. This ban was rescinded in November 1991.]

The special publications series was begun in spring 1986, and ended in 1995. The series was split into two: (1) a scholarly series and (2) a professional series. David Gilmore was appointed Editor of the Scholarly Series, and Helen Schwartzman was selected as Professional Series editor. The scholarly series was seen as the logical outgrowth of the Anthropological Studies series; the professional series was to publish works such as manuals, career development advice, handbooks on ethics and fieldwork.

The special publications series contains the following titles. A number of these volumes are in print and available for purchase; please see the Publications Order Form on the AAA web site. Special publication number 23, Handbook on Ethical Issues in Anthropology, is now available on-line on the web site.

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