Sage Studies in International Sociology is an old publication of the International Sociological Association (ISA). In 1978 at the Uppsala World Congress, it was decided that ISA should publish papers presented at the Congress plenaries. Sage which has been handling ISA publications (it started publishing ISA’s first and one of the oldest peer reviewed journal, Current Sociology, in 1952) was contracted to bring out the books in a new series titled: Sage Studies in International Sociology. Since then, ISA and Sage have been publishing at least one to two books a year in the SSIS Series.
The first book was published in 1985 and till today we have 27 publications. Over time various editors have transformed the format and style of the series taking into account changes occurring in intellectual interests, readers’ needs and publishing technologies. In the 90s, SSIS introduced handbooks and later monographs. However, like other books on the market, SSIS books were first published as hardback copies (only when hardbacks were sold out, were they published as paperbacks) and these over time became very costly-each book cost pounds 80 to 90. These became unaffordable even to ISA members in the global North and could be bought only by the libraries of North America, UK and the antipodes; its reading public had shrunk.
When I joined in January 2010, I was told by SSIS’s retiring editor Julia Evetts that SSIS books needs to be reinvented for the series to sustain itself as ISA’s flagship in the book market and I had to plan a policy and program for its revival.
I soon realized that if SSIS was to increase its presence in the market then it needed to change its orientation and content (the books were focused mainly on ‘Northern’ theory)-they needed to include new perspectives and trends emerging across the world since the 90s; its author list needed to be enlarged, it had to ensure timely publication (there was a delay of almost 5-7 years between paper presentation and publication) and its sale price needed to be drastically reduced so that it becomes affordable to individual scholars including those from the global South. It became clear that increasing its supply implied a change in its academic content, its advertising, marketing and sales policy and its publicity. This was certainly a daunting task.
With the help of ISA’s publication committee, I immediately initiated some changes in the academic content of SSIS and set up the institutional structure to review manuscripts. (Until then SSIS did not have an editorial board). From 2010, an editorial board was established representing scholars across the world. The first board worked from 2010-2014. Today, a new board is functioning. Its members are: Charles Crothers (AUT University, New Zealand), Kathya Araujo (Universidad Academia de Humanismo Cristiano, Santiago de Chile, Chile), Pepka Boyadjieva, (Institute of Sociology, Sofia, Bulgaria), Valentine Moghaddam (North-Eastern University, Boston, USA) and Yeoh Seng Guan (The School of Arts and Social Sciences, Monash University, Malaysia). The guidelines for doing the reviews have been formalized and were approved in 2012. Henceforth all proposals are being reviewed at the first instance by the SSIS board and after these are revised by the authors/editors and accepted by the editorial board, they are sent to Sage for final review.
A new list, Key Texts of World Sociologies, was started in 2011. This list promotes (in English translation) important sociological texts written in other languages, by non-Western scholars in various parts of the world since the inception of the discipline in those regions. Two Key Texts – one covering East Asia and the other covering Central and Latin America – are being prepared for publication and will be released in 2016. But the challenge was to motivate scholars from the global South to participate actively in the production of sociological knowledge.
Another change helped to make this possible. It was decided to expand the SSIS series author list to all ISA members. Henceforth the SSIS list will not include only conference proceedings of the World Congress and the Research Forum but also conferences and monographs organized and prepared by any ISA members. The 2014 publication edited by Breno Bringel and Jose Mauricio Domingues titled Global Modernity and Social Contestation is a conference volume organized by these editors at the Institute of Social and Political Studies in Rio de Janeiro. SSIS has thus opened its list to scholars of the global South.
The most difficult part of this job was to find a way to decrease the price of SSIS volumes. I knew that in India, Sage India (Sage has a branch in New Delhi) books were sold at rates affordable to the Indian scholars and students. If produced by Sage India, I knew SSIS would sell at pounds 10 rather than 90. However Sage regulations only allowed Sage India to publish books dealing with South Asian issues and thematic concerns and sell them only in the South Asia markets.
I soon realized that there was geopolitical dimension to the production of books and in the global publication industry. The global production of books was divided into international and regional markets. Books authored by scholars of the global North were termed international books. These mainly related to general sociological theory and particular thematic concerns dealing with regions of the global North and were published and distributed from London and New York offices for the markets of the global North and were sold in pounds and dollars. Books authored by South Asians or Africans were supposed to be thematically related to their region and had to be marketed only in these regions and were sold in local prices. These divisions of categories and markets made it difficult for scholars and students in the global South to afford and thus access and read international books while those from the global North perceived the work of those from the regions as being part of area studies and therefore not significant for theorizations. These divisions by implication perpetuated and reproduced global inequalities in knowledge production. No wonder all ISA’s world congresses and research forums had little to no presence of books published in the rest of the world.
However, for some years, now just as in other industries, international publishers are also outsourcing production of books to cut costs. For example, Sage London has started producing a large number of its journals and books in New Delhi. Using this as an opportunity, I started discussions with Sage to transfer the production of SSIS to New Delhi. After more than two years of continuous discussion in which many executives of ISA helped (I must thank Michael Burawoy, the then ISA President for his keen personal interest in this endeavor) we were able to convince Sage whose publisher Robert Rojek helped in many ways to make this happen. Since late 2013, SSIS books are now produced in New Delhi and thus sold at pounds 9.99 to ISA members. Given this price, SSIS books has the potential to have large sales and be read by an extensive audience. At the Vienna Forum they will be sold at Sage desks for pounds 9.99 or equivalent Euro prices. I do hope ISA members will buy SSIS books in large numbers.
There are more battles to be won for SSIS. We have made some starts. It seems to me if many ISA members buy SSIS books and make SSIS their place for publication then many of the problems outlined earlier may be resolved. I feel very happy that we have been able to get these changes made. SSIS’s future remains in the hands of ISA’s members.
Sujata Patel is the SSIS series editor and a historical sociologist located at the University of Hyderabad, India whose work combines marxist, feminist, spatial and structuralist perspectives. Her work covers diverse areas such as modernity and social theory, history of sociology/social sciences, city-formation and social conflicts in India.