Why I Chose to Publish Open Access

by Thomas Patteson, author of Instruments for New Music: Sound, Technology, and Modernism

This guest post is published in conjunction with the just-concluded annual conference of the American Musicological Society where Instruments for New Music was awarded the 2017 Lewis Lockwood Award


I chose open access because I want people to read my book. For purposes of academic capital, gaining tenure, and the like, simply being published is enough. But what really matters is being pondered, discussed, enjoyed, and criticized. I want my writing to be available not only to other inhabitants of the sprawling yet exclusionary university-industrial complex, but to anyone who happens to share an interest in my somewhat esoteric field of research. Let’s be honest: having your book accessible during a limited print run, and then only through university libraries, is not a great way to broadcast your little contribution to human knowledge.

The other main reason I chose open access is what I would call a feeling of reciprocity. The fact is, neither my book nor my existence as a scholar would have been possible without the freely available resources of Project Gutenberg, Archive.org, Ubuweb, Monoskop Log, and many others. These sites, some of them at best quasi-legal, are the foundation stones of a truly universal library, offering the ability to search and read on demand, unfettered by paywalls and password protection. Contributing to this project, with the sanction of a major university press to boot, was an opportunity I was happy to take. At a time of widespread privatization and profiteering, open-access publishing suggests another world is possible.


Thomas Patteson is Professor of Music History at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. He is also Associate Curator for Bowerbird, a performing organization that presents contemporary music, film, and dance.

Instruments for New Music is published in University of California Press’s Luminos open access book program. Click here to download a free digital copy.

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Formatting Keys to Play

by Roger Moseley, author of Keys to Play: Music as a Ludic Medium from Apollo to Nintendo

This guest post is published in conjunction with the just-concluded annual conference of the American Musicological Society where Keys to Play was awarded the 2017 Otto Kinkeldey Award


Those who write about play from scholarly perspectives are caught in a double bind: the sober imperative to take play seriously is hard to ignore, while the pressure to be suitably whimsical can be equally stifling. When I started tapping on my computer keyboard to form the strands of text that would eventually become Keys to Play, I lacked a clear sense of how the book would trace the course of its ludic subjects (which range from Apollo to Nintendo by way of Mozart) and could not foresee how those strands might be braided in order to bear structural weight.

As someone committed to the history and analysis of media, however, I was all too conscious of the extent to which works of art, fields of play, and discursive parameters are defined by their material affordances and constraints. Perhaps it should have been no surprise, then, that solutions to my quandaries could be found in the multifarious formats—both digital and analog—in which Keys to Play was to be published.

From the start, I was delighted that the book was to appear under the imprimatur of UC Press’s open-access Luminos program. Like many others, I was attracted by the notion of making my research accessible to a broader readership by removing the barrier of cost. What I didn’t initially realize was the degree to which the complementary formats of print-on-demand, PDF, EPUB, and Mobi would help me appreciate how the ludomusical phenomena under discussion could be experienced. In particular, they led me to consider how the book’s audiovisual elements, which include audio recordings I made with my Cornell colleagues and video footage of digital games, might best be integrated.

While companion websites to books on music and the other arts are commonplace, the print and PDF versions of Luminos titles improve the experience by incorporating not only digital object identifier (DOI) links, but also QR codes that, when scanned by a smartphone camera, take the reader directly to the media in question. The EPUB format, which is compatible with both Google Books and Apple’s iBooks, goes one better by embedding audiovisual materials within the document itself: upon tapping any video still or musical example, it starts to play. Keys to Play was the first book in the Luminos program to take advantage of this functionality, which I believe has the potential to transform scholarly writing about music, games, and other media.

The EPUB version of Keys to Play also allows readers to jump around the main text and the endnotes by tapping the note markers. The nonlinearity of this type of navigation guided me toward the structural solution I’d been seeking from the outset. Instead of five traditional chapters, the book comprises five “keys,” each of which consists in turn of five miniature keys.

This recursive arrangement reflects the book’s media-archaeological method as well as the interface of the keyboard itself. Moreover, it enabled me to inject a degree of combinatorial playfulness—one of the book’s central themes—by composing the final miniature key (“Replay: A Cento”) as a permutation of sentences drawn from each of its predecessors. In the EPUB version, tapping the relevant note markers reveals the source of each sentence, which in turn leads back to the concluding section.

With all that said, and despite the exciting opportunities that formats such as EPUB and Mobi present, I must confess that the print-on-demand version of Keys to Play remains closest to my heart. It’s somehow comforting to know that, with the click of a button, the book’s contents can still be tangibly materialized, gathered, and bound. What is more, the speed with which the analog version’s full-color images can be randomly accessed with a flicking thumb puts the search-and-scroll performance of its digital siblings to shame.


Roger Moseley is Assistant Professor of Music at Cornell University. Active as a collaborative pianist on modern and historical instruments, he has published essays on the interface of the keyboard, the performativity of digital games, the practice of eighteenth-century improvisation, and the music of Brahms.

Keys to Play is published in University of California Press’s Luminos open access book program. Click here to download a free digital copy.

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IASPM-US and UC Press Announce Agreement to Publish the Journal of Popular Music Studies

The International Association for the Study of Popular Music, U.S. chapter (IASPM-US) and University of California Press are very pleased to announce that beginning January 1, 2018, the IASPM-US’s long-standing journal, Journal of Popular Music Studies, will be published by University of California Press.

At University of California Press, the Journal of Popular Music Studies will join a journals list that includes some of the leading titles in musicology, such as the Journal of the American Musicological Society, The Journal of Musicology, and Nineteenth-Century Music, as well as interdisciplinary offerings such as Representations and Boom California.

IASPM-US President Steve Waksman is excited about the new partnership: “University of California is a publisher that shares our priorities. We plan to continue publishing cutting-edge scholarship on popular music while bringing in more voices from outside academia proper, capturing the interdisciplinary energy of a field where music writers of various stripes—scholars, journalists, bloggers, discographers, cultural critics—are engaging in regular dialogue.”

Co-Editors of the journal, Diane Pecknold and Oliver Wang echo the sentiment: “We’re looking forward to working with UC Press to pull together exciting new issues that maximize the potential from this new partnership.”

David Famiano, Journals Publisher at University of California Press shares this enthusiasm: “UC Press is absolutely delighted to partner with IASPM-US and to work with such a passionate and dedicated team to continue the publishing legacy of such an important journal.”

About Journal of Popular Music Studies:
Journal of Popular Music Studies is one of the three top scholarly journals devoted to the study of popular music internationally. It was originally established in 1988 with the title, Tracking, under founding editor Steve Jones of University of Illinois, Chicago, and Reebee Garofalo of University of Massachusetts, Boston, who was then co-chair of IASPM-US. The change of name to Journal of Popular Music Studies took hold in 1993 and has remained in place ever since.

When it was founded in 1988, Tracking was self-published by IASPM-US. Its status as a self-published enterprise went unchanged until 2001 when the journal entered a short-lived agreement with Taylor and Francis. In 2003, the journal established a more long-standing arrangement with the Malden, MA-based Blackwell, which evolved into a deal with prominent academic publisher Wiley, now Blackwell’s parent company. Wiley will continue to publish the journal through the end of 2017 and all back issues will remain hosted on the Wiley web portal.

About University of California Press:
As one of the world’s most forward-thinking publishers, UC Press gives voice, reach, and impact to innovative research and exceptional scholarship. With a global circulation in over 80 countries, our journals span the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences, with subject areas that include history, literature & criticism, film & media, music, religion, and sociology.

 


Open in order to . . . . Author Anne Rademacher Explains Why She Published with Luminos

by Anne Rademacher, author of Building Green: Environmental Architects and the Struggle for Sustainability in Mumbai

At UC Press, open access—the free, immediate, unrestricted, online access to peer-reviewed research and scholarly work—is central to our mission. In celebration of 2017 International Open Access Week (October 23-29), we are highlighting open access publishing initiatives at UC Press, including our Collabra and Luminos publishing programs. This year’s OA Week theme “Open in order to . . . ” is an invitation to answer the question of what concrete benefits can be realized by making scholarly publications openly available. Follow the full blog series here#OAWeek #OpenInOrderTo


We live in an age marked by environmental vulnerability—some of it longstanding, and some completely new. In recent weeks, flooding and storm events seemed to serve as a daily reminder of environmental vulnerability: from Florida to Houston to Puerto Rico and across the Caribbean. Just a few months ago, Mumbai, the setting for Building Green: Environmental Architects and the Struggle for Sustainability in Mumbai, experienced record-setting rainfall and catastrophic floods—just one chapter in the story of 2017’s Asian monsoon, a season marked by floods, landslides, and damaging rains that affected millions across the region and killed well over a thousand people.

The frequency and intensity of storm events is just one environmental condition that cities around the world will have to face if they are to maintain basic services like water, energy, and shelter provision—to say nothing of social well being, public health, and safety. Regardless of our location on the global map, we face the question of whether and how we can realize ecological sustainability and social resilience in the context of an uncertain, but certainly unprecedented, environmental future.

If achieving sustainable cities is a key challenge to humanity, then those who seek to design and implement its components—green buildings, open spaces and parks, cleaner energy systems, and the like—are critically important for forging needed change. We might consider certain kinds of green expertise to be essential to the planners, developers, municipal officials, activists, and architects of our future cities. What are their visions and aspirations for sustainable cities and societies? How is training in a “green” urban profession different from conventional training? And, perhaps most importantly, once one knows the tools of the green expert, what does it take to implement them?

Building Green traces the experience of environmental architects as they study to acquire the skills they need, and then try, post-training, to implement what they’ve learned. By recounting architects’ experiences, the book gives us a sense of the layers of powerful interests, institutions, and history that are fundamental aspects of any kind of urban transformation. It underlines the chasm that often exists between practitioners who are trying to make cities more environmentally sound, and the forces that hold sway over how cities are ultimately built—a key obstacle we must overcome if we are to realize a more sustainable urban future.

Why open access? At the level of a future we share in common—one marked by an uncertain and even unprecedented environment—open access allows readers worldwide to learn from one another. But equally important is the potential for open access publications to reach readers who would otherwise be unable to participate in the conversation or to learn from the experiences beyond their geographic context. In the case of Building Green, it is a chance to widely share one group’s story of forging a greener urban future in a complex and unsustainable present.


Anne Rademacher is Associate Professor of Environmental Studies and Anthropology at New York University. Her books include Reigning the River: Urban Ecologies and Political Transformation in Kathmandu, Ecologies of Urbanism in India: Metropolitan Civility and Sustainability, and the edited volume Places of Nature in Ecologies of Urbanism.

Building Green is published in University of California Press’s Luminos open access book program. Click here to download a free digital copy.

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Open in order to . . . . Author Paul Barclay Explains Why He Published with Luminos

by Paul D. Barclay, author of Outcasts of Empire: Japan’s Rule on Taiwan’s “Savage Border” 1874-1895 

At UC Press, open access—the free, immediate, unrestricted, online access to peer-reviewed research and scholarly work—is central to our mission. In celebration of 2017 International Open Access Week (October 23-29), we are highlighting open access publishing initiatives at UC Press, including our Collabra and Luminos publishing programs. This year’s OA Week theme “Open in order to . . . ” is an invitation to answer the question of what concrete benefits can be realized by making scholarly publications openly available. Follow the full blog series here#OAWeek #OpenInOrderTo


Based on my ten years of experience as the editor of a digital archive of historical images (East Asia Image Collection), I’ve seen open-access publishing bring together researchers, archivists, and people with personal connections to our materials across vast distances. Thanks to the internet’s ubiquity, persistence, and capillary reach, library staff at the Puli Municipal Library in central Taiwan, and the National Showa Memorial Museum in Tokyo, as well as several private collectors, have found us and since become partners.

In addition, the old photographs, postcards, prints and slides on our website brought descendants of a Canadian missionary, an American Consul, and a Japanese bureau chief, all of whom lived in colonized Taiwan during the 1930s, into contact with us. These viewers, as well as the family of a prominent Taiwanese dissident, have provided our team with advice, corrections, and additional materials while we helped them learn about their family histories.

I predict that the publication of Outcasts of Empire: Japan’s Rule on Taiwan’s “Savage Border” 1874-1895 (forthcoming in November) on the Luminos open access platform will engender similar types of collaborative relationships, because digitally born content is always just a click away, anywhere in the world where an internet connection exists. More importantly, however, is that the work will reach people I wish to repay for their patience and openness regarding the research for this book. Outcasts is a study of indigenous peoples in world history, viewed through the prism of several native-newcomer encounters in rural Taiwan. Its subject matter, as I’ve learned at workshops, conferences, and field trips involving the descendants of the book’s protagonists, is of great interest to Taiwan Indigenous Peoples, their Han neighbors, and Japanese citizens as well. Open access is the best vehicle for making Outcasts available to the peoples most affected by the stories related in its pages.

Unfortunately, brick-and-mortar bookstores or museum shops that stock academic books are concentrated in a few large cities, while traditional online commerce only operates within the context of a copyright, delivery, and distribution infrastructure that leaves much of the planet’s population underserved. Therefore, I think the Luminos platform has the potential to improve relationships between authors and the communities they write about and to become the occasion for more open-ended collaboration than previous publication models have allowed for.


The author (front left) with colleagues at the National Showa Memorial Museum in Tokyo, 2014

Paul D. Barclay is Professor of History at Lafayette College. He is also general editor of the East Asia Image Collection, an open-access online digital repository of historical materials.

Outcasts of Empire is published in University of California Press’s Luminos open access book program. Click here to download a free digital copy.

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Transforming Shattered Grounds into New Beginnings

by Christina Zanfagna, author of Holy Hip Hop in the City of Angels

At UC Press, open access—the free, immediate, unrestricted, online access to peer-reviewed research and scholarly work—is central to our mission. In celebration of 2017 International Open Access Week (October 23-29), we are highlighting open access publishing initiatives at UC Press, including our Collabra and Luminos publishing programs. This year’s OA Week theme “Open in order to . . . ” is an invitation to answer the question of what concrete benefits can be realized by making scholarly publications openly available. Follow the full blog series here#OAWeek #OpenInOrderTo


The United States has witnessed an onslaught of catastrophic upheavals of both nature and culture in the second half of 2017—from the deadly Charlottesville, VA attack on protesters at a “Unite the Right” rally to the series of torrential hurricanes sweeping through the Gulf Coast and Caribbean to the mass shooting that killed 58 people at a concert in Las Vegas, CA. And now, as I write this, Northern California still smolders from deadly wildfires that have reduced whole neighborhoods to piles of ash and claimed more than forty lives.

How can we make sense of this level of loss and tragedy? Where can we find the imagination, strength, and beauty to transform these shattered grounds into new beginnings?

Folks in Southern California—an area that is no stranger to these kinds of disastrous environmental and social eruptions—were faced with these same questions in the 1990s after four major earthquakes rattled through the Southland. The Joshua Tree earthquake (M6.1), Landers earthquake (M7.3), and Big Bear (M6.5) earthquake, which all struck in 1992, and the Northridge earthquake of 1994 (M6.7), in addition to the mass flooding and firestorms that followed, caused over $43 billion of damage. 1992 also witnessed the rioting, looting, and arson that exploded in the wake of the Rodney King beating by five LAPD officers and their subsequent acquittal by a mainly white jury. Out of the ashes of these costly and calamitous events, Angelenos forged new modes of creativity and connection: the Bloods and the Crips brokered a historic gang truce in south L.A., community churches were erected in place of Western Surplus gun stores, and a subset of brown and black youth decided to share their struggles and aspirations through holy hip hop—sacred rhymes over hip hop beats that delivered wholeness, holiness, and hope.

These are the L.A. stories and soundings that permeate my book, Holy Hip Hop in the City in the Angels. They have a lot to teach us about the far-reaching effects of disaster as well as the power of creative practices of renewal. Sometimes music and art are the only way to make sense of such chaotic and widespread trauma. While the losses are real and must be meaningfully grieved, destruction also creates the conditions of possibility for transformations of all kinds. New ideas, expressions, and structures must emerge, even as they are necessarily grounded in the broken earth from which they spring forth. What artful spark will ignite the efforts to reimagine and rebuild in such turbulent times?


Christina Zanfagna is Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology and Ethnic Studies at Santa Clara University.

Holy Hip Hop in the City in the Angels is published in University of California Press’s Luminos open access book program. Click here to download a free digital copy of the book.

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Open in order to . . . connect to France and the rest of the world

by Jean Beaman, author of Citizen Outsider: Children of North African Immigrants in France

At UC Press, open access—the free, immediate, unrestricted, online access to peer-reviewed research and scholarly work—is central to our mission. In celebration of 2017 International Open Access Week (October 23-29), we are highlighting open access publishing initiatives at UC Press, including our Collabra and Luminos publishing programs. This year’s OA Week theme “Open in order to . . . ” is an invitation to answer the question of what concrete benefits can be realized by making scholarly publications openly available. Follow the full blog series here#OAWeek #OpenInOrderTo


In my new book, Citizen Outsider: Children of North African Immigrants in France, I write about many different perspectives—those of my respondents, middle-class children of North African immigrants in France, and also my own—as a Black American sociologist. I discuss how children of North African immigrants in France—and racial and ethnic minorities in France, more generally—are still kept on the margins of French society because of their racial and ethnic origin. They are not seen as full citizens, or as I put it, they are denied cultural citizenship to be accepted by others as French as any other person. To do this research, I lived in Paris for various periods. When I told people I interacted with in France that I was writing a book based on this research, many immediately assumed that my book would be inaccessible since I was working with a United States based publisher and therefore purchase and shipping costs might be prohibitive. I was happy to inform them that while hard copies can still be purchased, my book would be accessible via open access. Even though my book was just recently published, I have already heard from people in France and other countries who have been able to download my book—either by chapters or in its entirety. In my work, I talk with people both throughout and outside of the United States and it is therefore very beneficial for people to be able to immediately access my work—without delay. Since I am a non-French person researching and writing about France, it is extremely fruitful for me to be able to immediately engage and dialogue with French people about my book and the questions it raises.


Jean Beaman is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Purdue University.

Citizen Outsider is published in University of California Press’s Luminos open access book program. Click here to download a free digital copy of the book.

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Open in order to . . . . Author Nancy Postero Explains Why She Published with Luminos

By Nancy Postero, author of The Indigenous State: Race, Politics, and Performance in Plurinational Bolivia

At UC Press, open access—the free, immediate, unrestricted, online access to peer-reviewed research and scholarly work—is central to our mission. In celebration of 2017 International Open Access Week (October 23-29), we are highlighting open access publishing initiatives at UC Press, including our Collabra and Luminos publishing programs. This year’s OA Week theme “Open in order to . . . ” is an invitation to answer the question of what concrete benefits can be realized by making scholarly publications openly available. Follow the full blog series here#OAWeek #OpenInOrderTo


I am so excited about being able to publish my new book, The Indigenous State: Race, Politics, and Performance in Plurinational Bolivia on Luminos’s new open access platform. I chose to publish this as an open access book because I wanted it to be available to my Latin American colleagues, who do not all have the same library access to journals and books that North American scholars do. I was really incited to do this at a meeting of the Bolivianist scholars network a few years ago. When Northern faculty asked our Bolivian friends what we could do to support their research, they unanimously said: Put everything you can on the web so we can access it. My own work has benefitted so much from  my conversations with Latin American, and particularly Bolivian, scholars, and I feel making my work available is one small part of my larger ethical and intellectual debt to them. And it is working! I was just at a conference in Mexico, and a young indigenous MA student from Ecuador told me she had just downloaded and read my book. I am thrilled because it took much longer for my previous work to reach colleagues.

I am also particularly happy to make this available for free to graduate students. While the older generation of scholars still prefers to read hard copy books (Luminos books are also available in that format), most younger scholars read mostly online. It is great to be able to send people a link and know they can read it without the expense of buying and shipping books around the world.


Nancy Postero is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, San Diego. She is the author of Now We Are Citizens: Indigenous Politics in Post-Multicultural Bolivia.

The Indigenous State: Race, Politics, and Performance in Plurinational Bolivia is published in University of California Press’s Luminos open access book program. Click here to download a free digital copy of the book.

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Open in order to . . . be read.

by Kate McDonald, author of Placing Empire: Travel and the Social Imagination in Imperial Japan

At UC Press, open access—the free, immediate, unrestricted, online access to peer-reviewed research and scholarly work—is central to our mission. In celebration of 2017 International Open Access Week (October 23-29), we are highlighting open access publishing initiatives at UC Press, including our Collabra and Luminos publishing programs. This year’s OA Week theme “Open in order to . . . ” is an invitation to answer the question of what concrete benefits can be realized by making scholarly publications openly available. Follow the full blog series here#OAWeek #OpenInOrderTo


It’s cliche to quote Dorothy Parker on writing. But I’m going to do it anyway:

“I hate writing. I love having written.”

Parker was on to something. It’s hard to find a writer who luuuuuuvs the act of writing. It’s lonely. It’s demoralizing. It’s definitely bad for your back. But, like childbirth, we soon forget the pain of labor. Having written, we flip through the pages of our new book lovingly, landing on a sentence that brings us unexpected delight. And then—from this rose-colored place of tenuous achievement—we sit down to do it all again.

But Parker also left something out. Yes, writing is awful. Yes, I love having written. But have you tried being read? Yow-zah. That’s the stuff.

For this Open Access Week, let us linger a moment on the joy that we feel when we hear that someone has read our work. We write for ourselves, to put down on paper the ideas and questions that compel us to return to the writing desk, library, and archive each day. But we also write to be read, to share our questions and our ideas, to reach out to those with like-minded intellectual compulsions so that we might, together, take the conversation in new directions.

I published my book, Placing Empire: Travel and the Social Imagination in Imperial Japan, open access because I aimed for just that—to be read by those whose normal book-purchasing patterns keep them far from the Japanese Empire. Why? Because I want to move the history of empire and tourism out of the silos of national case studies and into the realm of global and transnational history. I want us, as a field, to be discussing not only the what of imperial tourism, but also the why.

I’m glad to have written. But, if I’m being real? The goal is to be read.

Let’s keep the conversation going.


Kate McDonald is Assistant Professor of Modern Japanese History at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her book, Placing Empire: Travel and the Social Imagination in Imperial Japan was published open access by the University of California Press in August. Placing Empire is available as a free epub at luminosa.org or as an affordable paperback at ucpress.edu and amazon.com. She’d love to hear from you.

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The Pitfalls of Predicting Afghan Gender Politics

by Torunn Wimpelmann, author of The Pitfalls of Protection

At UC Press, open access—the free, immediate, unrestricted, online access to peer-reviewed research and scholarly work—is central to our mission. In celebration of 2017 International Open Access Week (October 23-29), we are highlighting open access publishing initiatives at UC Press, including our Collabra and Luminos publishing programs. This year’s OA Week theme “Open in order to . . . ” is an invitation to answer the question of what concrete benefits can be realized by making scholarly publications openly available. Follow the full blog series here#OAWeek #OpenInOrderTo


I should have known better than to try to predict the forever shifting field of women’s rights in Afghanistan. Recently, a press release by the Afghan Ministry of Justice proved me wrong. In my book The Pitfalls of Protection, I had hazarded a guess that the Law on Elimination of Violence against Women (EVAW) , which many Afghan women’s rights activists had fought hard to keep as a separate piece of legislation would nonetheless be merged into the general Penal Code. But that guess had underestimated the strength of the activists. Despite opposition from large parts of the Afghan legal community, many diplomats and seemingly the Afghan President himself, the urgent press release assures the activists that the EVAW law will be kept a distinct law, as befitting its special status.

When I started my research in Afghanistan, in the summer of 2009, I was thrilled to hear that a new law specifically on violence against women was about to be presented to the Parliament. My plan had been to explore what counted as violations against women in Afghanistan—socially, politically and legally. To be able to observe parliamentary debates over exactly this question seemed like unusually lucky timing. Little did I know then how central this law would become to the gender politics in Afghanistan and that almost a decade later, its fate would still be undetermined.

The EVAW law, listing 22 acts as violence against women, was enacted as a presidential decree in 2009. Presented as a favor to women by then President Karzai, the law was refused ratification in the Afghan Parliament dominated by conservative religious actors with links to the newly rehabilitated mujahedin. The parliamentarians called it an anti-Islamic and foreign product. The law was nonetheless celebrated as a historical achievement by many in Afghanistan, both Afghan women’s activists and their allies in Western embassies. For years now, despite its ambiguous status as a decree, the law has been the focus of a massive implementation apparatus underwritten by development aid.

But not without some controversy. The conservative parliament aside, legal scholars argued that the law had technical flaws and unclear terminology, and that women’s protection would be better served by an upcoming comprehensive penal code that would incorporate the proliferating number of stand-alone criminal bills produced since 2001. By the time my book went to press, this position was gaining force, and some went as far as to accuse the supporters of the law of putting personal agendas above reason. Yet in the meantime, the supporters of a separate law have gained the upper hand.

The ongoing story of the EVAW law has women’s position in Afghanistan at its heart, yet it is also about much more than that. It’s about the source of law and moral and political authority in the country. It’s about the extreme contradictions of the unending US-led invasion, micromanaging gender equality on the one hand and empowering Islamists on the other. And it’s about the choices faced by feminists everywhere; do you seize your victories whenever you can find them, however imperfect or ill gotten, or do you prioritize perfection over timing, even if that risks pushing gains further down the horizon.


Torunn Wimpelmann is a researcher at Chr. Michelsen Institute.

The Pitfalls of Protection is published in University of California Press’s Luminos open access book program. Click here to download a free digital copy of the book.

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