Open access book publishing: a series editor writes

Open access book publishing: a series editor writes

Geoffrey Khan, Regius Professor of Hebrew at University of Cambridge, is the series editor of Cambridge Semitic Languages and Cultures, an open access book series published by Open Book Publishers. He first delivered this post as a talk at a seminar co-hosted by CRASSH and the University of Cambridge’s Research Culture Team on 28 November 2023: 'Should I consider publishing my monograph open access?'

Description of our series and why I set it up

In 2020 I set up the open-access series Cambridge Semitic Languages and Cultures.

This is published by Open Book Publishers in collaboration with the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies of the University of Cambridge. The collaboration with a Faculty of the University consists in the fact that the editors are members of the university and in the fact that the series is partially funded by Trust Funds in the Faculty.

The aim of the series is to publish, in open-access form, monographs in the field of Semitic languages and the cultures associated with speakers of Semitic languages. This series includes philological and linguistic studies of Semitic languages, editions of Semitic texts, and studies of Semitic cultures. Titles in the series cover all periods, traditions and methodological approaches to the field.

Open access book publishing: a series editor writes
Four of the titles in the Cambridge Semitic Languages and Cultures series

I established the series for several reasons.

1. As far as I could see there is no other series that covers such a wide range of aspects of the field of Semitic languages. Existing series tend to focus on linguistic and philological studies, or on historical studies. I regarded it as important to have a holistic series including crucially the publication of primary data in the form of text editions and descriptions of languages, as well as analytical studies. It was also important for the series to cover all periods, from ancient to modern. Traditionally these various aspects of the field of Semitic languages and cultures are compartmentalized into different series, which in my opinion was impoverishing the field through over-specialization. This was the key academic case for setting up the series.

2. I wanted the series to be open access since I was acutely aware that books in my field that were published by traditional publishers behind a paywall had very unsatisfactory dissemination. Crucially, they were being bought almost exclusively in wealthy countries by libraries of wealthy universities. I wanted the books to be accessible by everybody who had an interest in them, by those in universities in all countries and also by people who have an interest in acquiring scholarly knowledge but are not formally attached to an academic institution.

3. The field of Semitic languages and cultures, which I have been researching and teaching for several decades, involves the study of languages and cultures of living communities. This applies both to studies of modern languages and cultures and also to studies of pre-modern languages and cultures, since they are part of the heritage of living communities. In the past, the typical practice of academics was to do fieldwork among living communities or to research the history and heritage of living communities and then publish their work in expensive academic books. As a result, the communities whose cultures the academics described could not themselves get access to these descriptions of their own culture. To put it bluntly, it was a form of depredation and asset-stripping that benefited the career of academics but had no benefit for the communities themselves. Open-access publishing is the solution to this immoral practice, since it allows the work of academics to result in a meaningly benefit for the living communities, by ensuring that all members of the communities have access to research of their cultural heritage.

... the communities whose cultures the academics described could not themselves get access to these descriptions of their own culture. To put it bluntly, it was a form of depredation and asset-stripping that benefited the career of academics but had no benefit for the communities themselves.

4. The reason I chose Open Book Publishers as the host of the series was their maximalist approach to open-access publishing. As we all know, nowadays most major academic publishers offer authors the opportunity to make their publications open-access by paying a fee. This is still, however, a very restrictive approach to open-access publishing. Typically only academics with a research grant or substantial departmental research funds can make their book open-access in this way. As a result, many books published by such traditional academic publishers remain behind paywalls and inaccessible to many scholars and inaccessible to most members of living communities whose cultures the books describe. A more satisfactory model is a maximal approach, whereby all authors have the opportunity to publish open access even when they do not have funds to support it. This results in the enrichment of research by disseminating the knowledge of all publications in the series.

The results so far

So far 21 books have been published in the series.

Several of them have received international book prizes.

They have all been downloaded thousands of times.

They are downloaded across the world, not only in wealthy countries with wealthy universities, but also across poorer countries. What has surprised me in particular is the fact that they have been downloaded in many countries where there are no institutions supporting the study of the subject, as far as I am aware. This indicates that there are hundreds, indeed thousands of people across the word who are not in academic institutions but are hungry for academic knowledge.

For example, one book on the pronunciation of Biblical Hebrew has been downloaded over 13,000 times across about three quarters of the countries of the world, including a large proportion of the countries of the Global South.

Open access book publishing: a series editor writes
Measured usage on three platforms for The Tiberian Pronunciation Tradition of Biblical Hebrew, Volume 1
Open access book publishing: a series editor writes
Global readership map for The Tiberian Pronunciation Tradition of Biblical Hebrew, Volume 1

This shows the role a university can have in feeding the world knowledge and offering the opportunity for intellectual enlightenment and education to all inhabitants of the world, irrespective of their personal wealth or the institutional infrastructure of the countries they live in.

I have been approached by dozens of academic authors who want to publish books in the series. It has become clear that there is a massive demand for open access publishing by academic authors but only about half of these can offer funds to support the publication of their books. So, only about 10 of the 21 books published so far in our series have received financial support from their authors. The dissemination of knowledge in the field would have been severely diminished if only those books whose authors have funds were allowed to be published.


Finally, I would like to say a few words about the process of production of books in the series, the funding of the series, and various challenges.


Authors who wish to submit books for publication are asked to follow our style guidelines. Then their books undergo a peer-review process, with their books being reviewed by two reviewers. A decision is then made by the editors as to whether the book should be accepted. After acceptance and revision by the author, the book is sent to one of our copyeditors, who not only copyedits the book but also prepares a camera-ready PDF. This PDF is then passed onto the production team at Open Book Publishers, who take care of the last stages of the publication of the book.


As I have said, the costs of some books are covered by the funds of authors. Open Book Publishers contribute some support from the funds they acquire from their Library Membership Programme. The remaining required funding is paid from Trust Funds in my department and from donations.

It is clear that the key elements in funding the series in its maximal open-access format is the Library Membership Programme and university departmental Trust Funds.

The challenges include:

1.      Finding suitably qualified copyeditors to handle the increasing number of publications. Our copyeditors have to have knowledge of Semitic languages and Semitic scripts.

2.      Financial planning of the future beyond my retirement in 2025. In the current model we need continuity of the key sources of funding, i.e. the Library Membership Programme and departmental Trust Funds.


1.      Greater institutionalization of the funding of the series through the School of Arts and Humanities in the university, and beyond, including national funding bodies.

2.      Recognition by funding bodies of the importance of supporting open-access series that offer publishing opportunities to all authors and not only to selected authors who have research grants or who belong to wealthy academic institutions.

Wingsong: Restricting Sound Access to Spotted Owl Recordings

I am not a board games person, yet I always seem to find myself surrounded by them. Such was the case one August evening in 2023, during a round of the bird-watching-inspired game, Wingspan. Released in 2019 by Stonemaier Games, designer Elizabeth Hargrave’s creation is credited with a dramatic shift in the board game industry. The game received an unparalleled number of awards, including the prestigious 2019 Kennerspiel des Jahres (Connoisseur Game of the Year), and an unheard of seven categories of the Golden Geek Awards, including Best Board Game of the Year and Best Family Board Game of the Year. In addition to causing shifts in typical board game topic, artistry, and demographic, Wingspan has led many board game fans to engage with the natural world in new ways, even inspiring many to become avid birders.

Following the game’s rise to popularity, developer Marcus Nerger released an app, Wingsong which allows players to scan each of the beautifully illustrated cards and play a recording of the associated bird’s song. On the evening in question, the unexpected occurred when I scanned the Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis) card and received a message that read:

Playback of this birds[sic] song is restricted.

Of course, I had to know more. Although the board game was originally designed using information from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s website, Wingsong derives its recordings from another free database, A quick search of the website revealed the following statement:

Some species are under extreme pressure due to trapping or harassment. The open availability of high-quality recordings of these species can make the problems even worse. For this reason, streaming and downloading of these recordings is disabled. Recordists are still free to share them on xeno-canto, but they will have to approve access to these recordings.

Though Xeno-Canto does not give specific details about each recording, the Wingspan card offers a clue in italics at the bottom: “Habitat for these birds was a topic in logging fights in the Pacific Northwest region of the US.”

The unexpected incursion of such politics into a board game is startling, especially given the limited information in the initial message. As such, the restriction of Spotted Owl recordings on Xeno Canto, and by extension Wingsong, suggests complicated issues relating to the ownership and distribution of sound, censorship, and conservation.

Spotted Owl Recordings

The status of the Spotted Owl was a major issue of public debate in Oregon of the 1980s and 90s, where I grew up. As Dr. Rocky Gutiérrez, the “godfather” of Spotted Owl research, wrote in an article for The Journal of Raptor Research, “Conservation conflicts are always between people – not between people and animals” (2020, 338). In this case, concerns about the impacts of logging in old-growth forests, thought to be the primary habitat of the Spotted Owl, pitted loggers and the timber industry against conservationists. On both sides, national entities like the Sierra Club and the Western Timber Association helped turn a regional management issue into one with implications for forest protection, wildlife conservation, and economic development across the nation. Forty years later, it is still a hot button issue for scientists, industry, and the government, now with added complications of fire control, climate change, and competing species like the Barred Owl (Strix varia).

Xeno-Canto uses a Creative Commons license, meaning that users can access and apply to a wide variety of projects without explicit permission of the recordist, but it also offers tools for contacting other users. I wrote to two recordists who uploaded Spotted Owl calls to Xeno Canto: Lance Benner and Richard Webster, both recording in southern areas where the Spotted Owl’s conservation status is slightly less dire than in Oregon. Benner is a scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, whose recordings have been used in scientific research projects, at nature centers, in phone apps, and notably, in a Canadian TV show. Benner told me via email that he agrees with Xeno-Canto’s restriction on the Spotted Owl recordings to the public, writing

I used to play spotted owl recordings when leading owl trips but I don’t any more now that the birds have been classified as “sensitive.” There have also been multiple attempts to add the California Spotted Owls to the endangered species list, so if I find them, I’m not sharing the information the way I used to….

Webster, on the other hand, offered a slightly different perspective:

There are enough recordings in the public domain that restricting XC’s recordings probably will not make a difference. However, some populations of Spotted Owl are threatened, and abuse is quite possible…  

As Webster points out, numerous recordings of Spotted Owls are readily available, including via The Cornell Lab of Ornitology’s Voices of North American Owls and other audio field guides. The concern with such recordings, Gutiérrez told me over Zoom, is that anti-Spotted Owl activists might use the recordings to “call in” Spotted Owls – essentially a form of audio catfishing historically used in activities like duck hunting. In the case of Spotted Owls, the concern is that activists might deliberately harm the birds. However, it can also be a dangerous practice when used by birders who simply want to get a closer look: birds may abandon their nests, leaving chicks vulnerable and unprotected.

From a sound studies perspective, “calling in” underscores questions of avian personhood. Rachel Mundy contends that audio field guides are structured by people in ways that highlight animal musicianship. Yet when we consider the practice of “calling in,” it becomes clear that birdsong recordings are not only designed for human ears, but also avian ones.

Spotted Owl Spotted in Medford, OR by the Bureau of Land Management, CC BY 2.0 DEED

Nonetheless, while birds are considered intelligent enough to recognize a call from their own species, they are not believed to be able to identify the difference between a recording and a live performance. The bird’s sensorium is short-circuited by the audio recording, tricking it into thinking a mate is nearby. Not only does this recall the interspecies history of the RCA Victor label His Master’s Voice, it highlights distinctly human anxieties about the role of recording and its ability to dissimulate. Restricting access to such recordings, then, revives deep-seated ethical questions that require a nuanced application.

Whether or not Spotted Owls are able to differentiate between a recorded call or the call of a live mate it is likely to be of decreasing concern, however: Gutiérrez suggests that Northern Spotted Owl populations are so small that anyone attempting to call one in would be unlikely to actually find one.

Immersion, Conservation, Reflection

App developer Marcus Nerger conceptualizes Wingsong as part of an immersive augmented reality experience, one that situates the game player in a more realistic soundworld. In the world of board games, parallels might be drawn to  audio playlists used in tabletop role playing games like Dungeons and Dragons, or to the immersive soundscape design used in video games.

Via Zoom, Nerger and I discussed the importance of sound in bird identification, which is arguably more significant than vision given birds’ general fearfulness of humans, branch cover, and the physical distance bird and observer – a separation underscored by the pervasive use of technologies like binoculars. Wingsong is not simply immersive because it connects the player to the real bird species, but because the experience of birding relies as much on hearing as it does on sight.

However, the Spotted Owl restriction message provides a provocative interruption to the immersive bird song experience provided by Wingsong. It is a jarring contrast to the benign experience of listening to recorded bird song, reminding the player of both the artifice of game play and the consequences of environmental actions. It suggests that the birds in the game are not hyper realistic Pokémon to be simply collected, but rather living animals embedded in environmental and political histories. The lack of information provided in the “restricted” message leaves the player wanting more – and subsequently, with a bit of searching, unearthing the mechanics behind the app, the politics of bird song recording, and finally, the specific histories of the species contained there, the ghost in the machine irrevocably unveiled.

Featured Image: by author

Julianne Graper (she/her) is an Assistant Professor in Ethnomusicology at Indiana University Bloomington. Her work focuses on human-animal relationality through sound in Austin, TX and elsewhere. Graper’s writing can be found in Sound Studies; MUSICultures; forthcoming in The European Journal of American Studies and in the edited collections Sounds, Ecologies, Musics (2023); Behind the Mask: Vernacular Culture in the Time of COVID (2023); and Songs of Social Protest (2018). Her translation of Alejandro Vera’s The Sweet Penance of Music (2020) received the Robert M. Stevenson award from the American Musicological Society.

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La relation qui transforme. Récits d’expérience et dialogues pédagogiques entre enseignant·e·s d’Haïti et du Québec

Sous la direction d’Annie-Claude Prud’homme

et Jean Noé Alcéus

Pour accéder au livre en version html, cliquez ici.
Pour télécharger le PDF, cliquez ici (à venir).

Né d’échanges entre des enseignant·e·s du Québec et d’Haïti suscités par un partenariat entre le Cégep de Rimouski et le Collège La Sainte-Famille des Gonaïves, cet ouvrage rend hommage aux personnes qui relèvent chaque jour le défi d’entrer en relation avec les autres pour les soutenir dans leurs apprentissages.

Malgré la crise en Haïti et la pandémie mondiale, le coordonnateur pédagogique du CSF, Jean Noé Alcéus, et la formatrice, Annie-Claude Prud’homme, ont voulu poursuivre leur dialogue sur l’interculturalité et l’éducation, entamé depuis 2018, en posant à leurs collègues la question suivante : « Quelle expérience d’apprentissage vécue dans votre enfance, votre adolescence ou votre âge adulte, à l’école ou à l’extérieur de l’école, a eu une influence sur la personne que vous êtes devenue? »

Les récits recueillis constituent le cœur de ce livre. Ils permettent d’aborder des thèmes comme le respect de soi et de l’autre, la relation pédagogique, le rôle de l’erreur dans l’apprentissage, jusqu’à une prise de conscience commune : toute relation a le pouvoir de se transformer et de transformer, s’il y a aveu partagé de sa fragilité.

Design de la couverture : Kate McDonnell

Révision linguistique : Catherine Paradis

Édition : Marie-Claude Bernard et Érika Nimis

ISBN pour l’impression : 978-2-925128-36-6

ISBN pour le PDF : 978-2-925128-37-3

DOI (à venir)

152 pages

Date de publication : janvier 2024


Table des matières

Préface – Marie-Claude Bernard

INTRODUCTION – Annie-Claude Prud’homme, en collaboration avec Jean Noé Alcéus

PARTIE I. De la rencontre au projet de livre

PARTIE III. Regards croisés sur les récits d’expérience d’apprentissage et l’échange pédagogique

Dialogue entre Marie-Ange Faro et Annie-Claude Prud’homme

Dialogue entre Jean Noé Alcéus et Annie-Claude Prud’homme

CONCLUSION – Jean Noé Alcéus et Annie-Claude Prud’homme


Liste des encadrés



À propos des Éditions science et bien commun

Listening Together/Apart: Intimacy and Affective World-Building in Pandemic Digital Archival Sound Projects

Still of the sensory map from The Pandemic Sensory Archive

When the COVID-19 global pandemic began, news reports and studies throughout the world began citing a lot of sound-based statistics: drastic reductions in noise pollution in urban centres, AI recordings of cellphone coughs, shifting soundscapes at home with new routines and work settings, and sonic sensitivities cultivated in quarantine and isolation. At the same time, in conjunction with these new research studies and areas of interest, there was an outpouring of calls for sound recordings and contributions to digital archival sound projects, such as Sounds of Pandemia, the Pandemic Diaries project, Sound of the Earth: The Pandemic Chapter, Sounds like a Pandemic? (SLAP?), and Stories from a Pandemic, just to name a few. A perceptive post by Sarah Mayberry Scott (2021)outlines the stakes for these types of initiatives grounded in a particular yet ever-changing historical moment, and the stakes of listening (in its attentiveness) and sound (in its persuasive power) more broadly, though undoubtably mediated and defined by power relations in their various social and the cultural contexts.

Part of this surge in scholarly attention and artistic projects is premised on the idea that sound and sound recordings are important additions to cultural heritage in documenting histories and personal evidence, and yet, they are often viewed as supplementary adjuncts to more physical or visual archival artefacts. This subjugation to the primacy of the visual extends to the arts, humanities, and social sciences, but this is beginning to change as scholars across these fields increasingly argue that sound (with its attendant listening) is an especially critical medium for cultivating different modes of attention, forging affective relations, producing alternative knowledges, revealing hidden narratives, and attuning to neglected pasts.

Still of Cities and Memory #StayHomeSounds Map

Two digital sound archival projects created in response to the pandemic, The Pandemic SensoryArchive and#StayHomeSounds, are especially instructive in thinking about sound as a key medium for engaging with the monumental a/effects of the present and as important contributions to cultural history. Like other pandemic digital sound archival projects, these two projects sought to document the present for the future – creating a “past” in real time, based on the underlying assumption that sound – as a material-discursive apparatus – can offer particularly generative possibilities in this context. The methods, scope, and presentation design employed by these two web-based archival platforms generates a sense of intimacy, proximity, andcollectivity in otherwise surreal, secluded, uncertain, detached, and disconnected situations, much like in radio and podcasting though in this case with different infrastructure and interactivity.

In these online, mediated spaces where worlds intensely collide and conflate, and users become flattened out and disembodied, new configurations of intimacy, subjectivities, and world-building emerge through alternative forms of affective archival engagement. This was (and still is) particularly important and complex during COVID-19, which is marked not only by a series of indefinite lockdowns and uneven distribution of intervention measures, but an affective logic whereby life is completely reconfigured and capacities within the world are diminished and redistributed. Part of making mass sound archives usable relies on the medium for circulation, the presentation for users, and what user participation empowers for these living histories, as Fabiola Hanna makes clear. These two projects generate what Hanna identifies as a particular orientation in digital humanities projects through a politics of listening that necessitates an active mode of participation that is not simply one-directional but a two-way engagement.

Still from The Pandemic Sensory Archive

The Archive of Intimacy, later renamed The Pandemic Sensory Archive (PSA), wascreated by professors William Tullett (Associate Professor in Sensory History, Anglia Ruskin University, U.K.) and Hannah McCann (Senior Lecturer in Cultural Studies, University of Melbourne, Australia) with the goal of exploring the senses through a digital platform and to act as an open data bank of contributions from the public. Their open call for contributions asks for a response that considers two questions: What smells, sights, sounds, touch, and/or tastes do you associate with the pandemic? Has your experiences of the senses (smell/sight/hearing/touching/taste) changed at all as a result of the pandemic? Contributors are then asked to drop a pin on the map (though this is not a typical Google Maps rendition of a specific locale, but a sort of simplified graphic representation of sensory input/output waves) and follow the prompts to anonymously submit. The digital map is divided among the five senses and features the entries that contain a title and brief response, such as:       

Quiet where there should not be quiet: “Being in my flat in the centre of town on my own with nobody else around on a Saturday. Everything weirdly, eerily, quiet.”

Birdsong: “Hearing birdsong in the garden having not noticed it before, no longer drowned out.”

You’re on mute! “Did the conversation in meetings become less robust as we all sit there on mute, politely waiting for our turn to speak?”

Less sound, more sound: “Blissfully quiet at night as curfew curtails the normal constant traffic roars, far more voices in the early morning and through the day as people‘exercise together’ to socialize in the park”

Complimenting this map, which may seem limited in scope but allows users to engage without having to sift through an overwhelming amount of content, is the Sound category page, where four interviews are embedded with “sensory experts on sound during the Covid-19 pandemic,” including Shoshana Rosenberg, Andrew Mitchell, Martin Stewart, and Stephen Sullivan. One interview considers how the pandemic clarified the immensely relational dimension of artistic sound practice and that the lack of access to intimacy during lockdown instigated a radical reformatting and questioning of what it means, more broadly and now, to be intimate and close in creating sound art. For them, what the pandemic spelled out is that intimacy is fragile and valuable, and that this delicate balance and fluctuating ratio has come to the fore during this time.

The initial designation for the platform, “the archive of intimacy,” is worth meditating on to consider the particular forms of intimacy in this context, perhaps through Lauren Berlant’s “intimate publics” – a concept that captures the affective and collective dimensions of intimacy among strangers. The notion lends itself to understanding the mediated social intimacy in these spaces and the different affective experiences they invite in varying capacities through sound.The connection between imagined publics and community through sound has, of course, been conceptualized by scholars who do historical work on radio and podcast studies, but it can also be extended to these digital, affective, pandemic sound archives. Evidenced in the submission prompts and interview data, the emphasis on the distinct shifts and palpable changes resulting from this new situation, and its accompanying affective logic, can be read as a strategy for cultivating intimacy and connection because attending to these changes may render their intensities as less alarming.

“Listening” by Flickr User Silvia Siri, April 4, 2020 CC BY-NC 2.0 DEED

Through the descriptions and dialogues of these new affective environments grounded in sound, some users might feel a sense of camaraderie, connection, and affinity to these novel experiences and how it relates or compares to one’s own (or the sense of not being so alone), especially in the personalized, diaristic, idiosyncratic tone in the short text extracts and longer interview forms. According to Tizian Zumthurm and Stefan Krebs (2022), digital spaces enable this type of “self-affirmation: by contributing and following the contributions of others, users are assured that they are not alone in whatever they experienced” (492). They also point out that as a result crowdsourced archives, particularly related to traumatic events, have a curative function.

Although the PSA may not be what likely comes to mind when thinking about a digital sound archive, presumably composed exclusively of musical or field recordings, it provides an entry point into a confluence of concerns to grapple with some of the key questions and issues related to sound, intimacy, and affect during the pandemic. In particular, diversity in form – between short excerpts and lengthier conversations, creates different engagement options for users based on preference and capacity (quick snapshots of the sonic changes in daily life or deeper explorations concerning sonic worlds), and across sensory inputs. Moreover, interviews add an oral history aspect to the project, which some scholars argue is more empowering and intimate than other modes of telling or sharing history. As a historically feminist practice, oral history has the potential to expose ignored topics and present diversified perspectives on traumatic pasts (like the 1918 pandemic) which is also especially important considering the research areas and professional backgrounds among the interview experts.

#StayHomeSounds is part of a larger project led by UK-based sound artist Stuart Fowkes, who created Cities and Memories in 2014, which Milena Droumeva describes as a “one-of-a-kind sonic portal dedicated to the exploration of place, sound and memory” (147). The website boasts being the largest sound project in the world with over 5000 sound recordings from over 1000 different contributors across 100 territories worldwide. It encompasses field recordings, sound art, and sound mapping, and each location features two sounds: the original field recording of that place and a reimagined sound that presents that place and time as somewhere, something else. The listener can explore sites through their actual sounds or the reimagined versions, flipping between the two different sound worlds. #StayHomeSounds is one of the latest ongoing sub-projects on the site and it is a collection of recordings during the pandemic from all over the world mostly done using cell phone recordings.

Bari lockdown sound recorded by Roberto Lippolis.

Although there is a wide range of quality and content, #StayHomeSounds offers a glimpse into the everyday sonic realities of quarantine life that cut across geography, life, and circumstances. The immensely mundane soundscapes and sheer multitude of recordings across cities and regions allows us to listen comparatively and try to notice the striking sonic cultures of different places even in lockdown. Those submitting sounds are required to provide a reflective text, and an elective representative image, to accompany their recording which details the changes in the soundscape as well as any a/effects that change has produced on other aspects of life.

An entry from Vancouver reads “Their chorus runs day and night and is a most pleasant soundtrack to both fall asleep with and wake up to. In this clip the background birds have joined in to add their avian melody to the amphibian bass line.”

Another from the Greek island of Crete, “after a heavy rain last night, the chirping of the birds woke me up this morning. It was such a powerful sound, like waking up from a sweet dream or a bad nightmare. I think that due to quarantine measures the nature’s sounds are more clear than even before.”

Athens, Greece lockdown sound recorded by Stamatis Mitrou.

In New Orleans, “I’m thankful for my quiet spot out here on the edges of town, but I worry about how the city can recover and for all those sick, out of work, or unable to stay home.”

New Orleans lockdown sounds recorded by Elizabeth Joan Kelly. 

The objectives of the project, as described by Fowkes in the online text, are largely affective or affectively oriented, that is, to establish a sense of connection in the present, “how it feels at this unique moment,” by being able to discover new relations to place, to others, and to our sentient selves, through these sonic recordings and texts. In an interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Fowkes said, “(You can) see what other people are hearing around the world and also read their stories and see that actually people are feeling similarly… hopefully that helps to make us feel a little bit more connected.” The breadth of contributions in terms of different locations and number of entries helps build this sense of connection, increasing the possibility of similar experiences to be seen and heard.

Lockdown sound from Lagos, Nigeria recorded by Ibukun Sunday.

By attending to personal struggles, observations, and speculations in relation to sound, these two digital sound archival projects gesture towards the intersections of intimacy, memory, and world-building, and alleviate and mediate some of the dominant and pervading affects that marked lockdown and remote life. In undertaking this project, I found pleasure in the informality of the responses and both the fresh insights and shared resonances, creating an experience that was jointly intimate (feeling seen and validated) and expansive (an opening to alternative experiences). In cultivating openness and a space for difference, and making the reflections and recordings publicly available, so that we can listen together but apart, the projects cultivate new forms of intimacy, empathy, collectivity, and nostalgia.

Dhaka, Bangladesh lockdown sound recorded by youKnowWho.

But, of course, the potential affective experience with the entries and recordings is not a given, much like with any critical scholarly intervention or artwork that attempts to raise awareness (in this case, to both the grave and minute effects of the pandemic) and resist dominant narratives (that the pandemic is under-control, over, or effects only one’s respiratory system), there is no guarantee that the intended experience will transpire in every engagement, but the possibility to do so – to cultivate intimacy and world-building at a time of profound uncertainty and physical distance – is nonetheless still valuable. Much like the diversity in responses, undoubtedly there are varying degrees and types of resonances, perceptions, and impacts within each visit.

Using an open access, crowdsourced approach, the PSA and #soundsathome construct participatory, community archives, creating and remediating documents and recordings for collective access and engagement on behalf of a global community that underwent monumental change, disruption, and loss. Calling explicit attention to palpable sensory shifts and disruptions is a central way to track, record, and make sense of the immense changes in this historical moment, and to illuminate the inequalities in environments and experiences that have been exacerbated by the (lack of) responses by governments and policy. The very existence of these projects and their participation through listening marks a resistance to the discourses of a “return to normalcy” or that we are on the other end of the pandemic. Because affects live in the body and are not often considered as objects of knowledge, the ongoing presence, use, and discussion of these two projects amplifies the a/effects, and a resistance to the affective logic of the pandemic, that they seek to produce. By considering COVID as an unprecedented, deeply affective, traumatic event, these online spaces operate to archive this moment in time and its myriad sonic dimensions, bringing these affective worlds into dialogue through an intimate exchange and assemblage between different bodies, experiences, and locations.

Emily Collins is an interdisciplinary researcher, writer, educator, and PhD Candidate in Cinema and Media Studies at York University in Tkaronto (Toronto) whose work draws on sound studies, feminist theory, critical disability studies, and cultural theory to examine sonic social relations and materiality through entanglements of resistance and care within contemporary artworks and creative practices. As a cultural worker and active member in the arts community, Emily has worked at diverse film, visual arts, and digital media organizations, institutions, and research networks within Canada and abroad, including Archive/Counter-Archive, PUBLIC Journal, VUCAVU, Festival Scope (Paris), the Toronto International Film Festival, and the Walter Phillips Gallery at Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.

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Sonic Lessons of the Covid-19 SoundscapeSarah Mayberry Scott

“Share your story” – but who will listen?–Fabiola Hanna

SO! Reads: Steph Ceraso’s Sounding Composition: Multimodal Pedagogies for Embodied Listening--Airek Beauchamp

SO! Podcast #79: Behind the Podcast: deconstructing scenes from AFRI0550, African American Health Activism – Nic John Ramos and Laura Garbes

A Day on the Dial in Cap Haïtien, HaitiIan Coss

Echoes in Transit: Loudly Waiting at the Paso del Norte Border RegionJosé Manuel Flores & Dolores Inés Casillas

Archivism and Activism: Radio Haiti and the Accountability of Educational Institutions–Laura Wagner

A Bible Scholar Reads Whitman

A Bible Scholar Reads Whitman

by F. W. Dobbs-Allsopp

How does a biblical scholar come to write a book on Walt Whitman? For me it was in part because Whitman was in my blood (so to speak); in part because his poetry helped me figure out the nature of biblical poetry’s free-verse rhythms; and in part because I came to believe I had something to contribute to the study of Whitman as a biblical scholar. My love for Whitman ultimately is an inheritance from my mom, an English professor who taught Whitman as often as she could. I became reacquainted with Whitman’s poetry as a doctoral student when I picked up a used copy of Leaves of Grass. I was then writing a dissertation on the biblical book of Lamentations, a collection of five poems that lament the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BCE, and beginning to think seriously about the nature of biblical Hebrew poetry. In (re)reading Whitman at that time I was immediately struck by the seeming familiarity of his rhythms, use of parallelism, and fondness for parataxis, all aspects reminiscent of biblical poetic style. I returned to Whitman on and off over the years as I continued to explore the nature of biblical verse in my teaching and writing. Eventually, in a chapter on the nonmetrical nature of biblical poetic rhythm I decided to use a brief assessment of Whitman’s free verse as an entree into my own analysis of the free rhythms of biblical verse. My intent was to decenter the place of meter, rhyme schemes, and regular stanza structure in how biblical scholars tended to conceptualize poetry—biblical poetry has none of these features and nonmetrical verse has had a prominent place in English-language poetry since Whitman’s days. As this introductory section grew to more than 80 pages I knew I had to find another outlet for my ideas about Whitman and the Bible. It was then that the germinal idea for this book was born. A happy yet decisive coincidence was also my putting a three-week pro-seminar at the center of a course on translation technique in 2011 as a way of celebrating the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible (KJB). I had not previously studied the KJB. As it turns out, the story of the making of the KJB is fascinating, especially when its 16th-century predecessors are also folded in, including those first translations of William Tyndale, the stylistic genius behind so much of the KJB’s adored language. And it is a style that would become consequential for so many writers of English, including Walt Whitman.

The general topic of Whitman and the English Bible is one of the older preoccupations of Whitman scholarship. Divine Style focuses specifically on the question of style, Whitman’s poetic style, and is framed explicitly from the perspective of a biblical scholar. I leverage the field-specific knowledge of a biblicist in querying what role the KJB—the version of the English Bible Whitman read and used—played in the evolution of Whitman’s mature poetic style. No Hebrew Bible scholar can read Leaves and fail to hear and feel its familiar rhythms, style, and even, at times, its unique manner of phrasing. My study gives these impressions precise articulation and illustration. The center of attention is the immediate run-up to the 1855 Leaves and the general period of the first three editions of Whitman’s remarkable book. My intent is to press the idea that the KJB’s influence was consequential for many of the leading elements of Whitman’s mature style. In anticipation of the conclusions reached and stated most positively, those aspects most reminiscent of the English Bible—Whitman’s signature long lines, the prevalence of parallelism and the “free” rhythms it helps create, his prosiness and tendency towards parataxis, aspects of diction and phrasing, and the decidedly lyrical bent of the entire project—are all characteristics of the style that begins to emerge in the immediate run-up to the 1855 Leaves and come into full bloom in that volume (and the succeeding two editions ), but which are either entirely absent or not prominent in Whitman’s earlier writings (prose and poetry). And what is more, in almost every instance, as far as I can tell, what Whitman takes from the Bible he reshapes, recasts, extends, molds, modifies—even contorts and warps, such that it becomes his own. That is, this is the kind of collaging that M. Miller notes is “essential” to Whitman’s “writing process,” and thus by its nature such taking—in many instances at least—often requires the sense and sensibility of a Hebraist for its detection and (fuller) appreciation. Whitman’s use of the English Bible cannot of its own fully account for the genius of his mature style but it seems to me to be an impactful force in shaping key aspects of that style. Or put more provocatively, it is hard to imagine Whitman evolving the poetic style that typifies the early Leaves absent the mediating impress of the King James Bible.

In many ways this is a straightforward literary-critical piece of scholarship. How I handle texts, the mode of close reading I employ, my attention to historical context (of Whitman, of the KJB, of the underlying biblical texts), and the kinds of arguments I make will all be familiar to literary critics and comparativists. However, in one respect it is totally a product of the digital turn in the humanities. Twenty years ago it would have been extremely difficult for a non-specialist like myself to undertake a project like this one. The advent of digital repositories like the Walt Whitman Archive and the ever-increasing availability of journals and monographs in digital or online formats has made possible fully interdisciplinary projects like this. What I have accomplished correlates directly with the increase in accessibility enabled by the use of new digital technologies. This digital turn has been doubly beneficial for me. Over the course of the project, as a result of a degenerative eye disease, I have lost my ability to read print and have become fully dependent on digital mediation for access to both primary and secondary sources. In this way, the project is both a manifestation of digital methodologies, and it is a testament to the way that digital technologies make scholarship accessible for people with disabilities. Indeed, the opportunity to publish with Open Book Publishers, a publisher with commitments to Open Access publishing, publishing high quality scholarship, and exploring how digital technologies can expand and enhance the academic monograph, is hugely appealing to me precisely because anyone interested in the topic, including especially people like me with print disabilities, will be able to access my work.

This is an Open Access title available to read and download for free or to purchase in all available print and ebook formats below.

Divine Style: Walt Whitman and the King James Bible
Dobbs-Allsopp, Professor of Old Testament at Princeton Theological Seminary, explicitly approaches Whitman from the perspective of a biblical scholar. Utilising his wealth of expertise in this field, he constructs a compelling, erudite and methodical argument for the King James Bible’s importance in…
A Bible Scholar Reads Whitman

The Top Ten Sounding Out! Posts of 2023!

Usually when we celebrate our year in review, we get a little bit loud. . .okay, well, maybe we get REAL loud! We’re not usually ones to shy away from joyous bombast, especially when celebrating the hard work of our writers and editors, and the deep relationship we have with our readers. We wouldn’t be here without your clicks, your sharing, and your inspiration, and we love the excitement of readers becoming writers. It’s our favorite! But we don’t want our joy and celebration to be drowned out by 2023’s many loudnesses. We’re starting off 2024 with neither a bang nor a wimper, but instead, with the quiet but powerful resonance of ripples in water, which is exactly the energy our top ten posts bring. Please enjoy them, and keep these ideas spreading far and wide, near and far. Thank you. We’ll be dropping more gems in the pond in 2024. –JS

(10). From Spanish to English to Spanish: How Shakira’s VMA Performance Showcases the New Moment in Latin Music “Crossover”

by Petra Rivera-Rideau  and Vanessa Díaz

“On the night of September 12, Colombian pop star Shakira made history as the first predominantly Spanish-language artist to be honored as MTV’s Video Vanguard at the Video Music Awards (VMAs). The award recognizes artists who have had a major and innovative impact on music videos and popular music. Shakira played a 10-minute medley of Spanish and English hits from her three-decades long career. Her performance demonstrated her breadth as an artist as she shifted from pop to rock to reggaetón.

Not only did she demonstrate her impressive musical range, but of her 69 singles, Shakira selected those that represent two significant crossover moments for Latin music. She sang hits like “Wherever, Whenever,” “Hips Don’t Lie,” and “She Wolf” from her English-language crossover in the early 2000s as part of the so-called “Latin Boom.” She sang 2001’s “Objection (Tango)” with the same samba/rock music arrangement she used at her very first VMA performance in 2002.”

[Click here to read more]

(9). The Cyborg’s Prosody, or Speech AI and the Displacement of Feeling

by Dorothy R. Santos

“[. . .] The past few years may have been a remarkable advancement in voice tech with companies such as Amazon and Sanas AI, a voice recognition platform that allows a user to apply a vocal filter onto any human voice, with a discernible accent, that transforms the speech into Standard American English. Yet their hopes for accent elimination and voice mimicry foreshadow a future of design without justice and software development sans cultural and societal considerations, something I work through in my artwork in progress, The Cyborg’s Prosody (2022-present).

The Cyborg’s Prosody is an interactive web-based artwork (optimized for mobile) that requires participants to read five vignettes that increasingly incorporate Tagalog words and phrases that must be repeated by the player. The work serves as a type of parody, as an “accent induction school” — providing a decolonial method of exploring how language and accents are learned and preserved. The work is a response to the creation of accent reduction schools and coaches in the Philippines. Originally, the work was meant to be a satire and parody of these types of services, but shifted into a docu-poetic work of my mother’s immigration story and learning and becoming fluent in American English.”

[Click here to read more]

(8). Echoes in Transit: Loudly Waiting at the Paso del Norte Border Region

by José Manuel Flores & Dolores Inés Casillas

Geographically, the Paso del Norte (PdN) region includes the city of El Paso, Texas, Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, as well as neighboring cities in the state of New Mexico (see map). U.S. citizens live and play in Juárez, and those in Juárez (Juarenses), live and work in El Paso with families extended on both sides; continually moving back and forth. Yet, this broader region has long been plagued with sensationalizing headlines, both in the U.S. and in Mexico, that cast violent and limiting portrayals of these borderland communities. Recognized as sister cities, El Paso and Ciudad Juárez are seen less as close-knit siblings and more like distant cousins with Juárez routinely referred to undesirably as the little sister or ugly sister in comparison to El Paso. Indeed these hierarchical north/south (first world/not-quite-first-world) distinctions are products of histories of colonialism, unequal trade policies, and racial capitalist systems galvanized by immigrant detention camps (a tenant of the Immigration Industrial Complex). Within larger conversations about border cities, both Tijuana (San Diego) and Reynosa (McAllen) are recognized as the “primary” border cities due to their larger population size, transnational capital, and industrious reputations.

Two decades ago, Josh Kun’s concept of the “aural border” invited scholars to consider the US/Mexico border as a “field of sound, a terrain of musicality and music-making, of melodic convergence and dissonant clashing” (2000). Kun’s writings over the years have roused generations of sound scholars to listen to borders, border crossings, border communities and how they reverberate their economic, social, and migrant conditions. This essay intentionally moves away from Kun’s (beloved) border city of Tijuana and towards a less-referenced US/Mexico border city: Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. Here, 1,201 kilometers east of Tijuana, we offer an opportunity to listen to Juárez’s everyday bustling of migratory life through the digital sound repository, the Border Soundscapes Project.

[Click here to read more]

(7). Beyond the Every Day: Vocal Potential in AI Mediated Communication 

by Amina Abbas-Nazari 

“[. . .] I have a particular interest in extended and experimental vocality, especially gained through my time singing with Musarc Choir and working with artist Fani Parali. In these instances, I have experienced the pleasurable challenge of being asked to vocalise the mythical, animal, imagined, alien and otherworldly edges of the sonic sphere, to explore complex relations between bodies, ecologies, space and time, illuminated through vocal expression.

Following from [Nina] Eidsheim, and through my own vocal practice, I believe AI’s prerequisite of voices as “fixed, extractable, and measurable ‘sound object[s]’ located within the body” is over-simplistic and reductive. Voices, within systems of AI, are made to seem only as computable delineations of person, personality and identity, constrained to standardised stereotypes. By highlighting vocal potential, I offer a unique critique of the way voices are currently comprehended in AI recognition systems. When we appreciate the voice beyond the homogenous, we give it authority and autonomy, ultimately leading to a fuller understanding of the voice and its sounding capabilities.”

[Click here to read more]

(6). Tuning In to the Desi Valley: Getting to Know a Community via Radio

by Noopur Raval

“Sound has a peculiar relationship to mindfulness; zoning in and out, active and passive forms of listening while we situate our listening practices alongside other daily activities. Especially when it comes to driving, listening to something or someone or just singing aloud by myself, I have realized, helps me drown out other noises of alertness. Over the years I have come to value background music or chatter and especially radio programming that takes the burden of curation and scheduling off my back, in all sorts of tasks that require deep concentration. Enough and more has been said about the visual-bias in various forms of ethnographic inquiry (see Andrew C. Sparkes’s “Ethnography and the senses” for a good example). Without belaboring these arguments, I also find that knowing through listening and listening as a mode of non-haptic yet immersive and intimate engagement can also prove to be a fruitful method of inquiry, especially in our post-pandemic worlds, where it feels a lot harder to establish intimacy. The United Nations noted that radio, in particular, “provided solace” during that period of physical distancing  and social isolation.

For me, radio sparked my accidental realization and foregrounding of sonic methods as an itinerant means of getting to know new things, people and surroundings in life and research when I moved from New York to the San Francisco Bay Area in mid-2022 to start a new position as a postdoctoral researcher. Knowing that I would continue living in California for the near future, after eight long years of having deferred driving in America, I decided to learn driving and buy a car.”

[Click here to read more]

(5). Ronca Realness: Voices that Sound the Sucia Body

by Cloe Gentile Reyes

“[. . .] My mother grew up listening to her father sing boleros, and she would later sing with the Florida Grand Opera Chorus when I was a child. My early knowledge of opera came from her. Growing up in Miami Beach, I would also listen to reggaetón and hip-hop in afterschool programs. The Parks & Recreation department would host dances for us, and that was where I first learned to dance perreo. My early musical surroundings represent what it means to be a colonial subject, to hear the Italianate vocal legacies of opera mixed with the Afro-Diasporic and Indigenous rhythms of reggaetón. This post contextualizes my experience within bolero’s colonial history and legacy particularly its operatic disciplining of brown and Black bodies and voices. Reggaetóneras provide models for sonic subversion by being ronca, raspy, or breathy, and thus overriding internalized Eurocentric dichotomies of feminine and masculine vocal timbres.

When I began my own operatic training in college, I was constantly told to “purify” my voice, to resist vocal “fry,” and to handle my acid reflux by avoiding spicy foods. I was steered away from singing the pop songs I had grown up with, and kept many musical activities secret, like when I soloed for the tango ensemble and my a cappella group. In graduate school, thanks to my Latina roommates, I began listening to reggaetón again. I reunited with the voices that raised me and was reassured that their teachings of resistance would always present themselves when I needed them”

[Click here to read more]

(4). “Caught a Vibe”: TikTok and The Sonic Germ of Viral Success

by Jay Jolles

“[. . .]The app currently known as TikTok began as, which was shuttered in 2017 and then rebranded in 2018. By March of 2021, the app boasted one billion worldwide monthly users, indicative of a growth rate of about 180%. This explosion was in many ways catalyzed by successive lockdowns during the first waves of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the relaxation and subsequent abandonment of COVID mitigation measures, the app has retained a large volume of its users, remaining one of the highest grossing apps in the iOS environment. TikTok’s viral success (both as noun and adjective) has worked to create a kind of vibe economy in which artists are now subject to producing a particular type of sound in order to be rendered legible to the pop charts. [. . .] The app, which is the perfect–if chaotic–fusion of both radio and video is enmeshed in a wider media ecosystem where social networking and platform capitalism converge, and as a result, it seems that TikTok is changing the music industry. . .”

[Click here to read more]

(3). “In My Life”: Loving Queerly and Singing Across Generations

by Casey Mecija

The cold winds staked their claim over Toronto, where my parents had recently arrived from the Philippines. They were underdressed and making their way down Parliament Street. Despite being warned of a shift in temperature, they were not expecting the brutal intensities of Canadian winter. I’m not sure how anyone anticipates the sharp sting of negative temperatures when they are arrivants used to tropical climates. Undeterred, my mother and father headed to a small Filipino grocer, hoping to encounter a semblance of domestic familiarity. Pressed against the biting winds, my mother abruptly stopped, looked at my father and said, “Tumutolo ang sipon” – you have a runny nose. To which my father replied, “Ikaw din” – you do too! They both started laughing and laughed again when they retold me this story 48 years later. When faced with the challenges of migrating to a new and very cold country, they managed to mine humour from a deep well of difficult circumstances. We had been listening to the song “In My Life” by the Beatles (Lennon & McCartney 1965). Something in its expression, melody, and feeling caused my parents to be transported to this small but important moment.

[Click here to read more]

(2). “Hey Google, Talk Like Issa”: Black Voiced Digital Assistants and the Reshaping of Racial Labor

by Golden Owens

“In October 2019, Google released an ad for their Google Assistant (GA), an intelligent virtual assistant (IVA) that initially debuted in 2016. As revealed by onscreen text and the video’s caption, the ad’s announced that the GA would soon have a new celebrity voice. The ten-second promotion includes a soundbite from this unseen celebrity—who states: “You can still call me your Google Assistant. Now I just sound extra fly”— followed by audio of the speaker’s laughter, a white screen, the GA logo, and a written question: “Can you guess who it is?”

Consumers quickly speculated about the person behind the voice, with many posting their guesses on Reddit. The earliest comments named Tiffany HaddishLizzo, and Issa Rae as prospects, with other users affirming these guesses. These women were considered the most popular contenders: two articles written about the new GA voice cited the Reddit post, with one calling these women Redditors’ most popular guesses and the other naming only them as users’ desired choices. Those who guessed Rae were proven correct. One day after the ad, Google released a longer promo revealing her as the GA’s new voice, including footage of Rae recording responses for the assistant. The ad ends with Rae repeating the “extra fly” line from the initial promo, smiling into the camera.

Google’s addition of Rae as an IVA voice option is one of several recent examples of Black people’s voices employed in this manner. Importantly, this trend toward Black-voiced IVAs deviates from the pre-established standard of these digital aides. While there are many voice options available, the default voices for IVAs are white female voices with flat dialects. This shift toward Black American voices is notable not only because of conversations about inclusion—with some Black users saying they feel more represented by these new voices—but because this influx of Black voices marks a spiritual return to the historical employment of Black people as service-providing, labor-performing entities in the United States, thus subliminally reinforcing historical biases about Black people as uniquely suited for performing this type of work.”

[Click here to read more]

(1). “Your Voice is (Not) Your Passport”

by Michelle Pfeifer 

“In the 1992 Hollywood film Sneakers, depicting a group of hackers led by Robert Redford performing a heist, one of the central security architectures the group needs to get around is a voice verification system. A computer screen asks for verification by voice and Robert Redford uses a “faked” tape recording that says “Hi, my name is Werner Brandes. My voice is my passport. Verify me.” The hack is successful and Redford can pass through the securely locked door to continue the heist. Looking back at the scene today it is a striking early representation of the phenomenon we now call a “deep fake” but also, to get directly at the topic of this post, the utter ubiquity of voice ID for security purposes in this 30-year-old imagined future.

In 2018, The Intercept reported that Amazon filed a patent to analyze and recognize user’s accents to determine their ethnic origin, raising suspicion that this data could be accessed and used by police and immigration enforcement. While Amazon seemed most interested in using voice data for targeting users for discriminatory advertising, the jump to increasing surveillance seemed frighteningly close, especially because people’s affective and emotional states are already being used for the development of voice profiling and voice prints that expand surveillance and discrimination. For example, voice prints of incarcerated people are collected and extracted to build databases of calls that include the voices of people on the other end of the line.

[Click here to read more]

Featured Image “ripples in monochrome” by Flickr User SalmonSalmon CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED

tape reel

REWIND! . . .If you liked this post, you may also dig:

The Top Ten Sounding Out! Posts of 2020-2022!

The Top Ten Sounding Out! Posts of 2019!

The Top Ten Sounding Out! Posts of 2018!

The Top Ten Sounding Out! Posts of 2017!

The Top Ten Sounding Out! Posts of 2016!

The Top Ten Sounding Out! Posts of 2015!

Open Book Publishers – Annual Report 2023

Open Book Publishers - Annual Report 2023

Open Book Publishers - Annual Report 2023

Greetings and welcome to our Annual Report!

As we conclude the year, we take immense pride in reflecting on the multitude of exciting events that unfolded at OBP throughout 2023!

From the introduction of new open access titles to receiving awards and engaging in thrilling projects, this year has proven to be truly remarkable for us. Continue reading to discover more!


  • Celebrating 15 Years of Knowledge, Innovation, and Open Access!
  • Proud to be in SE's Top 100
  • Book Prizes
  • Our Titles are Now in SCOPUS!
  • Open Book Publishers takes leading role in £5.8 million project to significantly expand open access book infrastructures
  • Open Book Publishers and the Open Book Collective
  • Open Access Books Network
  • Global Geographical Statistics & Annual Readership by Measure Report
  • Our Most Accessed Titles (2023)

Books, libraries and content

  • New OA Publications by New & Returning Authors
  • Our 2023 OA Series: Calls for Proposal
  • Blogs and Resources
  • New Library Members


  • Our Volunteers
  • New Team Members
  • Support Us!

Open Book Publishers - Annual Report 2023

Celebrating 15 Years of Knowledge, Innovation, and Open Access!

Fifteen years ago, our journey began with a vision for knowledge, innovation, and the fundamental belief in the power of open access. This year, we celebrate this remarkable milestone and express our heartfelt gratitude to each one of you who has been a part of this incredible journey.

Thank you for your unwavering support, enthusiasm, and commitment to advancing scholarship. It's your passion for open access that has driven us to make knowledge more accessible and fostered innovation in ways we couldn't have imagined.

Open Book Publishers - Annual Report 2023

Now live on our website is a new blog post: 15 Years of Open Book Publishers: An Interview with Alessandra Tosi and Rupert Gatti. Dive into this interview, exploring the journey, challenges, and aspirations of our founders as they reflect on the past 15 years and the future of open access.

Here's to the next chapter, where our collective efforts will forge a path toward a more knowledgeable and inclusive world.

Open Book Publishers - Annual Report 2023

Proud to be in SE's Top 100!

We are delighted to announce our inclusion in this year's NatWest SE100 Index, which showcases the most exceptional Social Enterprises in the UK! This marks our fifth consecutive year on the list.This recognition celebrates the growth, impact, and resilience of social ventures across the country, acknowledging the top 100 social enterprises of the year. Further details about this achievement can be found here.

Open Book Publishers - Annual Report 2023

Book Prizes

This year, two of our books have been recognised with prizes for the quality of their scholarship:

The Voice of the Century: The Culture of Italian Bel Canto in Luisa Tetrazzini’s Recorded Interpretationsby Massimo Zicari was the winner of the 2023 Association for Recorded Sound Collections Awards for Excellence for Best History in the category Best Historical Research in Classical Music.

Ecocene Politics by Mihnea Tănăsescu is a selected winning title for the 2023 Choice Outstanding Academic Title! CHOICE commends exceptional works for their excellence and scholarly impact.

Open Book Publishers - Annual Report 2023

Our Titles are Now in SCOPUS!

All our published books are now listed in the SCOPUS  abstract and citation database, showcasing enriched data and linked scholarly literature across a wide variety of disciplines.

Furthermore, we assure you that forthcoming titles will be promptly included in the database shortly after their release.

Open Book Publishers - Annual Report 2023

Open Book Publishers takes leading role in £5.8 million project to significantly expand open access book infrastructures

Open Book Publishers (OBP) is playing a key role in the Open Book Futures (OBF) initiative, a £5.8 million project funded by Arcadia and the Research England Development Fund. Led by Lancaster University, OBF aims to enhance community-owned Open Access (OA) book publishing infrastructures. Building on the COPIM project, OBP will expand Thoth metadata management and the Thoth Archiving Network. The initiative, guided by 'Scaling Small' principles, will be led by OBP's co-director Rupert Gatti and involve outreach efforts by Lucy Barnes, and software development by Javier Arias, Ross Higman and Brendan O'Connell. OBF will run from May 2023 to April 2026, fostering inclusivity globally and engaging with diverse partners and linguistic contexts. OBP, along with COPIM partners and new collaborators, will contribute to this transformative endeavor, fostering open access, collaboration, and diversity in scholarly publishing.

OBP co-director Rupert Gatti said,

OBP is hugely excited to continue developing the infrastructure that will support inclusive, non-commercial and community-owned OA book publishing, guided by the principles of collaboration and openness that have animated the COPIM project and that will continue to thrive within Open Book Futures. Having created the basic underlying infrastructures within COPIM, this grant enables us to significantly expand and develop that framework in order to support small and medium-sized open access book publishers globally, preserving the diversity and scholarly independence of book publishing while making its output open for all.’


Open Book Publishers - Annual Report 2023

Open Book Publishers and the Open Book Collective

Almost a year has passed since we officially announced that we had joined the Open Book Collective (OBC). Since then, over 30 current library members have decided to renew their Open Book Publishers Membership via the collective and support a fairer OA book publishing ecosystem. We have also welcomed new library members that have kindly decided to support OBP via the collective. To both current and new members - THANK YOU!

The Open Book Collective has been developed by Copim, an international partnership funded by Research England and Arcadia Fund. COPIM is building non-profit, community-owned infrastructure to support a resilient future for open access book publishing that enables smaller and more community-focused presses to thrive and multiply.

If you are a library member and would like to find out more about the collective or renew through them, contact our Marketing and Library Relations Officer, Laura Rodriguez, at

We would also like to invite you to read our official announcement where we explain why we’re joining the Collective and what this will mean for libraries (including our current Library Members), our authors and our readers.

Open Book Publishers - Annual Report 2023

Open Access Books Network

This year the OABN, jointly coordinated by Lucy Barnes of Open Book Publishers and Silke Davison of OAPEN, held a number of events, including as part of our collaboration on the PALOMERA project on policymaking for OA books. We published blog posts on topics including metadata for OA books and platforms publishers use for OA books, and we surveyed our membership to plan our future direction: explore what we found out and how we are responding. We are currently planning a wealth of new activities and resources for 2024 – join our mailing list to stay updated!

Open Book Publishers - Annual Report 2023

Global Geographical Statistics & Annual Readership by Measure Report

Global Geographical Statistics

Our Open Access titles can be accessed through various platforms, providing readers with multiple avenues to explore our content. The compilation of usage statistics for our books poses a challenge, and it is evident that any reported data represents a conservative estimate of the actual usage. Due to the unavailability of data from some platforms, the figures may be at the lower end of the true usage spectrum.

Presented below are our global geographical statistics for the year 2023, showcasing that readers from every country, state, and territory around the world have engaged with our titles. This confirms the widespread global reach of our publications.

Open Book Publishers - Annual Report 2023

In the landscape of our readership, North America, Europe, and Asia emerge as the primary contributors in 2023, solidifying their positions at the top tier. Following closely are Africa, Oceania, and South America, each playing a crucial role in our  community. Looking forward, we are committed to increasing our global influence, fostering a deeper connection with readers worldwide in the coming years.

Open Book Publishers - Annual Report 2023

In the global landscape of readership, discernible patterns emerge across countries. The United States of America leads with a substantial readership, followed by the United Kingdom, India, Germany, and Canada. Noteworthy engagement can also be seen in Russia, France, the Philippines, and China. Further contributing to the readership spectrum are the Netherlands, Australia, Italy, Ireland, and Spain as well as Singapore, Finland, Nigeria, Indonesia, and South Africa.

This year's readership shows the diverse and widespread impact of our books on a global scale!

Below you can find the full map of readership by country:

Open Book Publishers - Annual Report 2023

Annual Readership by Measure Report

We are proud to say this year, we have received 896,129 accesses from the various platforms below!

Please be advised that access to our books in HTML format has been tracked until July 2023. Unfortunately, the platform we relied on for recording this information is no longer available. Our dedicated developers at OBP are actively exploring solutions to address this issue promptly.

Open Book Publishers - Annual Report 2023

We are able to record different types of usage across certain platforms, which can tell us, for each platform: how much a book is being used there (according to the platform’s own choice of measurement); in which formats; over time; where in the world it is being accessed from (in some cases); and to what extent it is being accessed from particular domains (which is valuable to our Library Members wishing to see how much their students and staff are taking advantage of the Membership).

However, please remember that this is by no means a complete picture. Our books can be downloaded from many sites where we don’t receive any usage reports  and our geographical data is limited by certain platforms or individuals choosing to block the collection of such information (we specify on our maps the percentage of the book’s total statistics for which we have geographical data). Once a book has been downloaded, we don’t track how that file is used and shared (in this respect, download figures are similar to sales figures for hard copies and ebook editions).
To find out more about the data we have been collecting and how the process of retrieving this information works, please visit our page on how we collect our readership statistics.

As always, thank you so much for accessing, reading and sharing our titles. It is thanks to the support shown by our readers, our member libraries and our authors that we can keep working towards a fairer publishing landscape!

Open Book Publishers - Annual Report 2023

Our Most Accessed Titles (2023)

Advanced Problems in Mathematics: Preparing for University by Stephen Siklos

Ethics for A-Level by Mark Dimmock and Andrew Fisher  

Migrant Academics’ Narratives of Precarity and Resilience in Europe by Olga Burlyuk and Ladan Rahbari (eds)

Transforming Conservation: A Practical Guide to Evidence and Decision Making by William J. Sutherland (ed.)

Writing and Publishing Scientific Papers: A Primer for the Non-English Speaker by Gábor Lövei

Higher Education for Good: Teaching and Learning Futures by Laura Czerniewicz and Catherine Cronin (eds)

The Poetic Edda: A Dual-Language Edition by Edward Pettit

The European Experience: A Multi-Perspective History of Modern Europe, 1500–2000 by Jan Hansen, Jochen Hung, Jaroslav Ira, Judit Klement, Sylvain Lesage, Juan Luis Simal and  Andrew Tompkins (eds)

Models in Microeconomic Theory: Expanded Second Edition by Martin J. Osborne and  Ariel Rubinstein

Conservation Biology in Sub-Saharan Africa by John W. Wilson and Richard B. Primack

Arab Media Systems by Carola Richter and Claudia Kozman

Open Book Publishers - Annual Report 2023

New OA Publications by New & Returning Authors

This year we have published a total of 46 books! We have released 33 fantastic new OA titles from first-time OBP authors:

And we are delighted to announce that we have also published 13 new high-quality Open Access titles written/edited by returning authors and editors who have published one or more books with us in the past:

Thanks to all our authors for deciding to publish with us - it's our privilege to work with you!

Open Book Publishers - Annual Report 2023

Our 2023 OA Series: Call for Proposals

As you may know, we have various Open Access series all of which are open for proposals, so feel free to get in touch if you or someone you know is interested in submitting a proposal!

Global Communications
Global Communications is a new book series that looks beyond national borders to examine current transformations in public communication, journalism and media. Special focus is given on regions other than Western Europe and North America, which have received the bulk of scholarly attention until now.

St Andrews Studies in French History and Culture
St Andrews Studies in French History and Culture, a successful series published by the Centre for French History and Culture at the University of St Andrews since 2010 and now in collaboration with Open Book Publishers, aims to enhance scholarly understanding of the historical culture of the French-speaking world. This series covers the full span of historical themes relating to France: from political history, through military/naval, diplomatic, religious, social, financial, cultural and intellectual history, art and architectural history, to literary culture.

Studies on Mathematics Education and Society
This book series publishes high-quality monographs, edited volumes, handbooks and formally innovative books which explore the relationships between mathematics education and society. The series advances scholarship in mathematics education by bringing multiple disciplinary perspectives to the study of contemporary predicaments of the cultural, social, political, economic and ethical contexts of mathematics education in a range of different contexts around the globe.

The Global Qur'an
The Global Qur’an is a new book series that looks at Muslim engagement with the Qur’an in a global perspective. Scholars interested in publishing work in this series and submitting their monographs and/or edited collections should contact the General Editor, Johanna Pink. If you wish to submit a contribution, please read and download the submission guidelines here.

The Medieval Text Consortium Series
The Series is created by an association of leading scholars aimed at making works of medieval philosophy available to a wider audience. The Series' goal is to publish peer-reviewed texts across all of Western thought between antiquity and modernity, both in their original languages and in English translation. Find out more here.

Applied Theatre Praxis
This series publishes works of practitioner-researchers who use their rehearsal rooms as "labs”; spaces in which theories are generated and experimented with before being implemented in vulnerable contexts. Find out more here.

Digital Humanities
Overseen by an international board of experts, our Digital Humanities Series: Knowledge, Thought and Practice is dedicated to the exploration of these changes by scholars across disciplines. Books in this Series present cutting-edge research that investigate the links between the digital and other disciplines paving the ways for further investigations and applications that take advantage of new digital media to present knowledge in new ways. Proposals in any area of the Digital Humanities are invited. We welcome proposals for new books in this series. Please do not hesitate to contact us ( if you would like to discuss a publishing proposal and ways we might work together to best realise it.

Open Book Publishers - Annual Report 2023

Blogs, Videos and Resources

Dire Straits-Education Reforms: Ideology, Vested Interests and Evidence by Montserrat Gomendio and José Ignacio Wert
Teaching European History in the 21st Century by Emma Johnson and Jochen Hung
Susan Isaacs: Second Edition by Philip Graham
Stories [that] Matter: Migrant Academics’ Narratives of Precarity and Resilience in Europeby Ladan Rahbari & Olga Burlyuk
Reading about Palestine after Tom Hurndall by Ian Parker
The Reinvention of Natural History in Latin American Art by Joanna Page
From Handwriting to Footprinting : Text and Heritage in the Age of Climate Crisisby Anne Baillot
On 'Breaking Conventions: Five Couples in Search of Marriage-Career Balance at the Turn of the Nineteenth Century'by Patricia Auspos
Destins de femmes: French Women Writers, 1750-1850 by John Claiborne Isbell
Joys and sorrows of the noble art of academic writing - a survival manual by Maria Teresa Renzi Sepe
William Moorcroft, potter: Individuality by design by Jonathan Mallinson
A Relational Realist Vision for Education Policy and Practice: The Functionalist Symbolic Reference of UK Governance Models by Basem Adi
Diachronic variation in the Omani Arabic vernacular of the al-‘Awabi district. From Carl Reinhardt (1894) to the present day by Roberta Morano
On 'William Moorcroft, Potter: Individuality by Design' by Alex Carabine
Changing the conversation around Existential Risk by Dr SJ Beard
A39 Theatre Group and the fight not to be where we have come to beby Paul Farmer
Decorative Art Without Barriers: William Moorcroft's Pottery Explored via Open Access Publishing by Jonathan Mallinson
Collaboration and Knowledge Sharing: The Heart of Open Access by James Hutson
The Predatory Paradox: misinformation, fake news and clickbait in academic publishingby Anja Pritchard
Misunderstandings by Shauna Hagan
How can you read a novel in hundreds of translations? (and why would you want to?) by Matthew Reynolds
The Predatory Paradox: Ethics, Politics, and Practices in Contemporary Scholarly Publishing by Amy Koerber
A Relational Realist Vision for Education Policy and Practice: Relational Realism as an Alternative General Sociological Approach by Basem Adi
A Relational Realist Vision for Education Policy and Practice - The Morphogenetic Paradigm: Conceptualising the Human in the Social by Basem Adi


[video] Open Access Week 2023 - A conversation with authors John W. Wilson, Richard B. Primack and Eric Nana
[video] 'The Predatory Paradox' - An interview with Amy Koerber
[video] Online Book Launch: 'William Moorcroft, Potter: Individuality by Design'
[video] Paul Farmer - After the Miners’ Strike: A39 and Cornish Political Theatre versus Thatcher’s Britain
[video] Author John Claiborne Isbell on his book 'Destins de femmes: French Women Writers, 1750-1850'
[video] 'Folktales of Mayotte, an African Island' - An Interview with author Lee Haring
[video] Book Launch: 'Chance Encounters: A Bioethics for a Damaged Planet''
[video] Dire Straits-Education Reforms' - An Interview with Montserrat Gomendio and José Ignacio Wert

[video series] The audiovisual resources supplementing specific chapters and providing brief and accessible introductions to the key components of the filmmaking process created for our Open Access title Documentary Making for Digital Humanists are now available here.

[video series] Dive into the world of literary exploration with our curated playlist featuring the authors of 'Prismatic Jane Eyre: Close-Reading a World Novel Across Languages.' Join the minds behind this book as they delve into the intricacies of their essays, offering a thought-provoking journey through the prism of languages and cultures that shape Charlotte Brontë's timeless classic.

[podcast] Mihnea Tanasescu on the Need for 'Ecocene Politics'

[audio]Podcast - From Handwriting to Footprinting: Text and Heritage in the Age of Climate Crisis

[audio] Podcast - New Books in Sociology: Migrant Academics' Narratives of Precarity and Resilience in Europe

[article] PISA: Mission Failure: With so much evidence from student testing, why do education systems continue to struggle? Read this article by author Montse Gomendio

[article] La reforma imposible de la educación

[article] Towards a history education for the 21st Century: An interview with Dr. Jochen Hung

[substack] Researching Misunderstandings

Open Book Publishers - Annual Report 2023

New Library Members

Since January 2023, 34 new libraries have become members, thus supporting our OA mission of providing academic research free of charge to everyone, everywhere in the world.

You can find the full list of current members here and the list of benefits here. Membership for libraries in Economically Developing Countries is free of charge. If you are a librarian at a university or library in such a country, and would be interested in receiving more information on how to become a member, please contact us at

We are very grateful for the support our member libraries give us, and we are keen to find out what more we could be doing in return so please, do not hesitate to contact us at if you would like to share your suggestions or comments on how we can improve.

Thanks to all the institutions that have decided to join us this year as well as those that have renewed their membership from previous years -  the  support we receive from libraries is vital to help us continue our work!

Open Book Publishers - Annual Report 2023

Our Volunteers

We offer training placements in all aspects of Open Access publishing, free of charge. In the past we have provided placements as part of university courses (such as the MSt in Creative Writing at the University of Oxford, the Master in Publishing at City University of London), work placements (School of Arts, Birbeck, University of London) and to other Open Access publishers, such as UGA Editions and Firenze University Press. Placements usually cover editorial skills, marketing, or technical aspects such as the creation of XML editions. For more information or to discuss a possible placement, please contact Alessandra Tosi.

However, we also welcome volunteers of different levels of skill and  experience who want to work with us. This 2023 we have had the pleasure of working along some great volunteers and we would like to take this opportunity to thank them for all their help and hard work - we strongly appreciated their support and  assistance!

Thea Phillips
Peio Pinuaga Arriaga
Emma Carter
Annie Hine
Sara Harris
Sacha Tanna
Caitlin Broadie
Michaela Buna
Cecilia Thon
Almudena Jimenez Virosta
Evie Rowan
Elisabeth Pitts
Maria Teresa Renzi-Sepe
Alex Carabine
Maria Eydmans
Jeremy Bowman
James Hobson
Evie Rowan
Debbie Lee
Anja Pritchard
Shauna Hagan
Katie Stevens

If you or someone you know would like to have the opportunity to try a range of key publishing aspects, including marketing, editorial and text-formatting tasks in a non-corporate environment, please contact Alessandra Tosi.

Open Book Publishers - Annual Report 2023

New Team Members

This year we welcomed three new team members:

Book Production, Digital Product Development and Illustration Management
Cameron Craig: Cameron Craig has worked as a graphic designer for more than 25 years. He is responsible for typesetting and producing the print and digital editions of our titles.

Jen Moriarty: Jen Moriarty holds postgraduate degrees in both Publishing and Victorian Studies. Most recently, she completed a PhD in English and Humanities at Birkbeck, University of London with a thesis on nineteenth-century Protestant eschatological reforms. She is responsible for editorial and production tasks at OBP.

Software Engineering
Brendan O'Connell: Brendan O’Connell is a software engineer at OBP working on Thoth. He previously worked in academic libraries in roles at the intersection of teaching and technology. He holds a Master of Science in Library Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

We are delighted to have Cameron, Jen and Brendan onboard - welcome!

Open Book Publishers - Annual Report 2023

Support Us!

If you believe that knowledge should be freely available to everyone, you can support Open Book Publishers with a donation! Any level of support will go towards the publication of Open Access books with no charges for authors or readers.  

Donate here:

Tournant narratif en sciences de l’éducation. Perspectives interdisciplinaires et internationales

Sous la direction de Marie-Claude Bernard, Hervé Breton, Livia Cadei, Varvara Ciobanu-Gout

Préface de José González-Monteagudo

Pour accéder au livre en version html, cliquez ici.
Pour télécharger le PDF, cliquez ici (à venir).

La réflexion déployée dans cet ouvrage offre une perspective contemporaine sur les pratiques narratives et biographiques, dans le champ des sciences de l’éducation, de la formation, de l’orientation, l’éducation à la santé et, plus largement, dans les domaines relevant des sciences humaines et sociales. Les douze chapitres qui le constituent – qui couvrent six pays, trois continents – interrogent l’actualité de ce qui a été désigné comme « le tournant narratif » durant les années 1990. Cela est réalisé à partir de différentes approches adaptées à divers contextes : recherche qualitative, recherche narrative, histoire de vie en formation, autobiographie raisonnée, groupes de discussion, intervention en milieux sensibles… La démarche conduite, croisant les perspectives interdisciplinaire et internationale, rend compte de la vitalité d’un paradigme, celui des pratiques narratives en formation et recherche. Des perspectives de recherche s’en trouvent caractérisées, entre recherches via les récits et recherches sur les récits, entre narration de soi et formation de soi.

Avec les contributions de Ayoub Ait Dra, Hervé Breton, Marie-Claude Bernard, Livia Cadei, Varvara Ciobanu-Gout, Maria Amália de Almeida Cunha, Denise Gisele de Britto Damasco, Priscila de Oliveira Coutinho, Laurizete Ferragut Passos, Matthias Finger, José González-Monteagudo, Davide Lago, Maria Helena Menna Barreto Abrahão, Claire Moreau, Grace Perside Poeri, Isabelle Vachon.

ISBN pour l’impression : 978-2-925128-34-2

ISBN pour le PDF : 978-2-925128-35-9

DOI (à venir)

309 pages

Design de la couverture : Kate McDonnell

Date de publication : janvier 2024


Table des matières

I. Le tournant narratif en sciences de l’éducation
II. Approches narrative et biographique en formation, accompagnement et santé

“In My Life”: Loving Queerly and Singing Across Generations

Photo of Francisco and Emma Mecija in their apartment near Parliament Street. December 1975.  Courtesy of Francisco and Emma Mecija.

December 1975.

The cold winds staked their claim over Toronto, where my parents had recently arrived from the Philippines. They were underdressed and making their way down Parliament Street. Despite being warned of a shift in temperature, they were not expecting the brutal intensities of Canadian winter. I’m not sure how anyone anticipates the sharp sting of negative temperatures when they are arrivants used to tropical climates. Undeterred, my mother and father headed to a small Filipino grocer, hoping to encounter a semblance of domestic familiarity. Pressed against the biting winds, my mother abruptly stopped, looked at my father and said, “Tumutolo ang sipon” – you have a runny nose. To which my father replied, “Ikaw din” – you do too! They both started laughing and laughed again when they retold me this story 48 years later. When faced with the challenges of migrating to a new and very cold country, they managed to mine humour from a deep well of difficult circumstances. We had been listening to the song “In My Life” by the Beatles (Lennon & McCartney 1965). Something in its expression, melody, and feeling caused my parents to be transported to this small but important moment.

In her conversation with Christine Bacareza Balance, “‘Revolutions in Sound’: Keynote Duet” (2022) Alexandra T. Vazquez writes: “The popular…leaves so much room for engagement with sound artists (musicians without the gallery). None of them need theorists to argue for them, to argue for their mattering because to so many, they already do. How do they instead invite theorists to take part in something alongside them?” (12). I was never a big fan of the Beatles, but regardless of my opinions, they were popular. As a relentlessly oppositional teenager, I was put off by their mass popularity. As Vazquez suggests, despite one’s musical taste, songs are invitations, not scholarly conquests. The memory re-opened by my parents’ connection to “In My Life” was an invitation for me to take stock of the song’s affective and, for them, diasporic trajectories. As Balance (2022) suggests songs request us to “listen long so we hear where another is coming from” (15). For her, “long” describes temporality and commitment. To “listen long” implies that duration and attention are the pretext for empathic relations.

“In My Life” was released in 1965. My mother was fifteen years old when she first heard the song on the radio in a boarding house in Marbel, Philippines. One year later, on July 16, 1966 the Philippine Free Press would announce, “The Beatles Are Coming” (de Manila as cited by Robert Nery in “The Hero Takes a Walk” 2018). At that time, Ferdinand Marcos was the newly elected president of the Philippines, and Imelda Marcos was his First Lady. The Marcoses would later unleash an era of violent dictatorial power and impose Martial Law in 1972, escalating political suppression (Burns 2013). My mother recalls that the band’s first and only appearance in the Philippines was remembered by many less for their two scheduled concerts and more for their “snub” of Imelda. The Beatles were noticeably absent at a lunch reception they were expected to attend with the First Lady at the Presidential Palace. Their absence, attributed to a communication error between the concert promoter and the band’s manager, incited public disapproval and resulted in the sudden disappearance of their security escort and hotel and porter service. Unlike in other cities, the band was refused room service and was forced to carry their own luggage (Nery 2018).

What is striking about this moment is that it breaks from preoccupations with Filipinx desires for assimilation and mimicry of Western imperial projects. In Video Night in Kathmandu and Other Reports from the Not-So-Far East, British travel writer Pico Iyer (1988) famously stated that Filipinx people are the “[m]aster of every American gesture, conversant with every western song…the Filipino plays minstrel to the entire continent (153)” Turning against imperial scripts and the band’s documented disdain of “Mosquito City” and even worse, John Lennon’s comment that a return to the Philippines would require “an H-bomb,” the soured residues of their visit marks a queer rupture in Beatlemania. The public decried that Filipinx people deserved better from the band, capturing what Balance describes in Tropical Renditions: Making Musical Scenes in Filipino America (2016), as “disobedience” in that “disavows a belief in the promises of assimilation” (5). For me, Filipinx non-compliance textures the sonic substance of “In My Life.” While the shadow of the Marcoses cronyism and corruption is an inescapable footnote, it is the defiant voices of hotel employees, dismayed fans, and airport workers that insisted on the “ordinariness” (Wofner & Smeaton, 2003) of the Beatles that holds the song’s queer decibels.

Photo of Hannah Dyer and Casey Mecija at their baby shower. December 2017. Image by Sarah Creskey.

There are places I’ll remember all my life, though some have changed. Some forever, not for better. Some have gone, and some remain.

“In My Life” (Lennon & McCartney 1965).

January 2018.

I am sitting on my couch watching a Toronto Raptors game. The television emits light that flickers through a large window that frames a bright winter moon. I am 41 weeks pregnant at this point (feeling similarly shaped and sized as the moon outside). My stubborn queer resistance to the Beatles somehow dissipated during my pregnancy, and the song “In My Life” made its way to me. I would quietly sing the song to my pregnant belly. Then, that January night, I felt a snap inside my body and a rush of water down my legs. I won’t go into much gratuitous detail other than to say that at 12:49 pm the next day, Asa Cy Dyer-Mecija was born at home.

And these memories lose their meaning when I think of love as something new.

“In My Life” (Lennon & McCartney 1965)

Sometimes, I needed to couch the queerness of pregnancy in words that were not mine. The distance between these words and the ones I had yet to find would help to structure my unfolding love for Asa. Here, queerness presented a modality of encounter with uncensored desires. Queerness is often theorized as a utopian impulse; the queerness of my pregnancy jostled both the hopes and fears brought up by the unknown terrain of parenting amidst heteronormativity. For me, “In My Life” is riven by sentimentality and nostalgia, but it also gave melody to a tender relationship with myself and my new role in the world. This was the sonic throughline to my parents, a queer inheritance of tension made from the hopes for kinder contexts amidst the limitations of harsh realities.

Photo of Asa Cy Dyer-Mecija and Casey Mecija at home. January 2018. Image by Casey Mecija.

December 2022.

I was invited to perform as part of the Queer Songbook Orchestra’s holiday fundraiser. The Queer Songbook Orchestra is a chamber pop ensemble that hosts an annual concert focused on songs and stories about “chosen family and queer joy” (Queer Songbook n.d.).  At that time, Asa was four years old. He is a child of the pandemic. He’s a kid with two moms, a present and kind donor, and is dearly loved by his Lolo and Lola, his grandparents, aunts, titas, uncles, cousins, kuya, ate, and his beautiful chosen family. My partner, Hannah, and I sometimes worry about how his world will be affected by reactions to the makeup of our family, but mostly, we know he’ll be sure he’s loved by many.

To me, the song “In My Life” offers a useful sonic response to homophobia. As a baby, after Asa’s baths, I would often wrap him in a towel, and while rocking him back and forth, I would sing these lyrics from the song: “Though I know I’ll never lose affection for people and things that went before, I know I’ll often stop and think about them. In my life, I love you more” (Lennon & McCartney 1965). To me, this statement is a queer ethos. We know that 2SLGBTQ+ people have necessarily and creatively reworked and reimagined the organization and expression of kinship. When family is so often bounded by what Julianne Pidduck calls “constraints of relationality” in “Queer Kinship and Ambivalence”(2008: 441), the lyrics “In my life, I love you more” are a call to action. More is a word used comparatively to insist that there is something greater, something more exists, something more is possible. I embrace the challenge to love more. My queerness urges me to love more, and parenting Asa does, too. On the evening of the performance, indexed by my parents’ struggles and our shared disdain for the chill of winter, Asa and I performed “In My Life” together. The video of our performance will remain a treasured sonic archive that I will return to often, and as Asa gets older, I hope it reminds him of how beautiful he’s always been.

Video credit: Directed by Colin Medley

Casey Mecija is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication & Media Studies at York University. Her current research examines sound as a mode of affective, psychic, and social representation, specifically in relation to diasporic experience. Drawing on sound studies, queer diaspora studies and Filipinx Studies, her research considers how sensorial encounters are enmeshed and disciplined by social and psychic conditions. In this work, she theorizes sounds made in and beyond Filipinx diaspora to make an argument about a “queer sound” that permeates diasporic sensibilities. She is also a musician and filmmaker whose work has received several accolades and has been presented internationally.

REWIND!…If you liked this post, you may also dig: 

Blank Space and “Asymmetries of Childhood Innocence”  –Casey Mecija

The Sound of What Becomes Possible: Language Politics and Jesse Chun’s 술래 SULLAE (2020) –Casey Mecija

The Cyborg’s Prosody, or Speech AI and the Displacement of Feeling–Dorothy Santos

Tape Hiss, Compression, and the Stubborn Materiality of Sonic Diaspora–Chris Chien

Xicanacimiento, Life-giving Sonics of Critical ConsciousnessEsther Díaz Martín and  Kristian E. Vasquez 

Moonlight’s Orchestral Manoeuvers: A duet by Shakira Holt and Christopher Chien

Enacting Queer Listening, or When Anzaldúa Laughs–Maria Chaves Daza

Echoes in Transit: Loudly Waiting at the Paso del Norte Border RegionJosé Manuel Flores & Dolores Inés Casillas

The Queerness of Wham’s “Last Christmas”–Justin Burton

Could I Be Chicana Without Carlos Santana?–Wanda Alarcón

A Relational Realist Vision for Education Policy and Practice – The Morphogenetic Paradigm: Conceptualising the Human in the Social

A Relational Realist Vision for Education Policy and Practice - The Morphogenetic Paradigm: Conceptualising the Human in the Social

by Basem Adi

I am writing a series of blog posts that outline the contents and arguments presented in 'A Relational Realist Vision for Education Policy and Practice'. In this entry, I briefly summarise the third chapter, dedicated to the morphogenetic paradigm. As the paradigm is the basis of later chapters, an overview is provided, followed by a proposed revision. The revision will provide a conceptual model in which orders of social relationality are morphogenetically anchored in relational reflexivity that steers the direction of relations.

Key terms are italicised in the article - to access definitions of these terms, please refer to the glossary of 'A Relational Realist Vision for Education Policy and Practice'.

The Morphogenetic Paradigm: Conceptualising the Human in the Social

The articulation and application of social policies are emergent from social relations. Within social relations, individual and corporate agents meet their needs and create relational mechanisms that generate and re-generate responsive institutional structures. The morphogenetic paradigm explains the relational dynamics that define the interdependence between personal identity and social morphogenesis. In 'A Relational Realist Vision for Education Policy and Practice', I presented an overview of the morphogenetic paradigm. In this overview, I documented its emphasis on the internal conversation, in the form of world-directed deliberations, as Personal Emergent Properties (PEP). The focus on PEPs is to affirm the efficacy and irreducibility of personal deliberations to the objectivity of third-person ideas.

Thus, Archer (2003) distinguishes socio-cultural structures (context) from the deliberations of active agents (concerns). The nature of deliberation extends beyond the concerns of the discursive order to include the natural and practical orders. Accordingly, the subjective interiority that distinguishes the self from its environment leads to an authority to act in the world in an autonomous way that is not reducible to the discursive order. With authority to act in the world comes the explanatory capacity to account for the activity resulting from subjective authority on the forces of socialisation.

Between the mind and world are Personal Emergent Properties (PEP), through which people distance themselves from their biological origins in the process of social becoming. The existence of these properties means self-conscious reflexivity from a first-person perspective – with an irreducible subjective interiority and authority – is logically and ontologically before any social role. Therefore, system outcomes produced by morphogenetic processes are anchored in the reflexive capacities of persons (internal conversation) as they encounter collectives. First, the 'I' initially reflexively deliberates on its natal context ('Me') – the outcome of reflexive deliberation can lead to a dedication to reproduce or work to transform 'Me'. When seeking to change the natal context, the 'I' becomes part of a 'We', i.e., a corporate agent. In turn, the emergent personal identity aligns with a social role following the deliberative process that will affect the socio-cultural context. Hence, in Archer's morphogenetic paradigm, the deliberation of the 'I', which is ontologically and logically before a social role, anchors the process in which personal identity and socio-cultural context are co-emergent.

Revising the morphogenetic paradigm

In 'A Relational Realist Vision for Education Policy and Practice', I propose revising the morphogenetic paradigm. The revision builds on its relational starting point that affirms the irreducibility of personal reflexivity as part of a stratified understanding of an emergent personal identity. The proposed revision understands the reflexivity of the interactional order to be the anchor of personal and socio-cultural morphogenesis. The revision is based on two points:

1. Reflexivity is a meaning-based capacity: As noted, to affirm the efficacy of subjective interiority and authority, Archer understands reflexivity to be irreducible to the discursive domain. However, considering a developmental perspective of the self, subjective authority can be maintained when contextualised within the developmental genesis of reflexivity.

2. When reflexivity is viewed as a meaning-making mechanism, it extends beyond personal reflexivity. As a result, personal reflexivity is considered an element of social morphogenesis rather than its anchor.

Regarding the first point, drawing on Neisser's model, selfhood consists of five developmental stages – the ecological, interpersonal, extended, private and conceptual selves. The conceptual self – representing the capacity to mentally approximate – is emergent from other forms of self-knowledge that refer to these different developmental selves. As a result, affirming a developmental understanding of reflexivity as a semantic capacity leads to a stratified conception of personal identity. As an emergent property, it is grounded in pre-discursive mechanisms (identified in different developmental selves) that enable its efficacy.

Reflexivity can be extended beyond the personal when understood as a meaning-based deliberation. Hence, the activities of corporate agents ('We') can be described as reflexive, as part of multiple nodes within social networks. These deliberations seek to affect the outcome of morphogenetic processes. Personal reflexivity, therefore, is an element in relational morphogenesis. The interaction between the personal and collective gives social networks new properties and powers that result in relational reflexivity anchoring social morphogenesis in a meta-reflexive way. Relational outcomes fall in the order of possibilities, and the interaction between the personal and collective infuses social networks with reflexivity, monitoring the outcomes it produces. In a morphogenetic cycle, the interactive process monitors the initial structural order and how it regulates relations. Relational reflexivity is directed at the characteristics of the relationship that go beyond the personal perspective of the internal conversation.

Consequently, reflexivity is not restricted to how the subject sees and deliberates on relations as it arrives at a specific dedication. It also pertains to reflexive activity directed at the characteristics of the relation. Accordingly, it is a steering mechanism attuned to the direction of a relationship (Donati 2021). Personal reflexivity operates as an element of the relation, as the 'I' dedicates itself to a social role. After dedication, the 'I' is part of the operation of corporate agents as they seek to transform the structural order. Therefore, what anchors transformation (morphogenesis) or reproduction (morphostasis) is the entwining of agents' internal conversations. When this entwining is part of a meta-reflexive activity, it becomes relational reflexivity that exceeds individual personal reflexivity and is directed at the characteristics of the relation:

What needs to be highlighted is the fact that the social network operates with a reflexivity of its own that is characterised in that it entwines agents' internal conversations between them and in this way generates a relational reflexivity between the nodes in the network which exceeds the individual (personal) reflexivity of agents. (Donati 2021: 97)

The implications of anchoring morphogenesis in relational reflexivity

The morphogenetic dynamics of social relationality are demarcated into two orders: (1) The relational structural order that impinges on agents/actors; (2) The processual relational order in the form of interactions and transactions that reproduce or change the relational structural order (Donati 2021). In morphogenesis, these two orders of social relationality are anchored in relational reflexivity that can be identified in the transaction between the nodes of social networks.

A Relational Realist Vision for Education Policy and Practice - The Morphogenetic Paradigm: Conceptualising the Human in the Social
Figure 1: Different order of social relationality: Processual (interactional/transactional) and structural (Donati 2021: 56).

The implications of anchoring morphogenesis in relational reflexivity are explored in the context of a post-functionalist approach to education. A notion of the curriculum that distinguishes between the lived, planned, and experienced dimensions is proposed. These different dimensions can be mapped to orders of social relationality. In the interactional stage (T2-T3), the curriculum is represented in its lived and experienced forms. On the other hand, the planned curriculum is represented in the structural order in its initial form at stage T1 and in its transformed form at stage T4. In this educational dynamic, assessment is part of relational reflexivity that focuses on the internal dynamics of learning to ascertain changing development points of the student at stages T2-T3. In turn, the planned curriculum is reproduced or transformed based on its role in regulating learning to enable students to meet the learning criteria. The curriculum, assessment and learner development are interconnected aspects of orders of social relationality.


Archer, M. (2003). Structure, Agency and the Internal Conversation. Cambridge University Press.

Archer, M. (2000). Being Human: The Problem of Agency (First). Cambridge University Press.

Donati, P. (2011). Relational Sociology: A New Paradigm for the Social Sciences. Routledge.

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A Relational Realist Vision for Education Policy and Practice
This volume argues that relational realism can help us to make better educational policy that is more effective in practice. Basem Adi draws on critical realism to thoroughly re-examine fundamental assumptions about how government policymaking works, developing an ontological basis from which to exa…
A Relational Realist Vision for Education Policy and Practice - The Morphogenetic Paradigm: Conceptualising the Human in the Social