Call for CUP boycott

February 9, 1996

A leading Harvard anthropologist is calling for top academics to boycott Cambridge University Press. Their move comes as Royal Anthropological Institute president Roland Littlewood and two more US scholars prepare to desert the 400-year-old publishing house.

Michael Herzfeld, who resigned last week over CUP's decision not to publish a controversial book on Macedonia because of a potential terrorist threat on its Athens-based office, is campaigning for a new independent book review process which would leave academics "free from managerial interference".

Professor Herzfeld claims that the prerogative of the senior academic committee to decide which books should be published was overturned by CUP's management. Richard Fisher, CUP publishing manager, rejects this, saying that the academic committee - known as the Syndics - always makes the final decision. "Even if Eric Hobsbawm turned up today at CUP waving an unpublished manuscript, I wouldn't just be able to say 'yes'. It would have to go to the Syndics."

The Syndics - which unusually met twice to make its final decision - comprises 16 of Cambridge's leading academics, including four heads of colleges and one regius professor. Professor Herzfeld wants to see a multi-tiered review process, run by academics, with the full authority of the Syndics, and including some non-CUP representatives. To get his way, he is calling for top academics to refuse to publish their work with the press and is lobbying the learned societies, including the RAI and the American Anthropological Association. Sussex historian Mark Mazower, reader of the original manuscript, has already joined the boycott.

Roland Littlewood, president of the RAI, who edits CUP's medical anthropology series, said that he is considering his position. Also, two more Americans, who edit other anthropology series for CUP, are reported to be planning to resign.

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