Twenty-Five Years of PoLAR

Will Garriott, current co-editor, toasts the 25th anniversary of PoLAR.

At APLA’s 2017 business meeting, officers, members, and the PoLAR team celebrated the journal’s twenty-fifth anniversary with a champagne toast.

In addition to announcing annual book and paper prize winners and introducing new officers, APLA took time to reflect on the history and growth of our flagship journal. Co-editors Will Garriott and Heath Cabot reported on the journal’s current work, and Will offered a toast, reminding the audience that in both the past and present, PoLAR is the product of our collective labor.At the meeting, we also welcomed Jessica Greenberg and Jessica Winegar, incoming PoLAR editors, who will take up their duties in 2019.

Here is the text of his toast, including a helpful history of PoLAR’s origins:

“While it is true that PoLAR as we know it today is 25 years old, the seed that would become PoLAR was planted much earlier. In the fall of 1973, the inaugural issue of the ‘Political Anthropology Letter’  was published. I brought a copy of it with me today. It carries the handwritten tagline, ‘For the Study of the Political Animal.’

Incoming PoLAR editors Jessica Winegar (left) and Jessica Greenberg (right).

It begins: ‘The Political Anthropology Letter is an irregular publication intended to enhance communication among scholars interested in the anthropological study of politics. The idea for such a forum was generated at the Ninth International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences. In particular it was the common recognition that there existed no institutional focus for political anthropologists and that without such organizational support political anthropology was unlikely to develop.’

The letter goes on to say that, in its current form, its capacity for mobilizing resources is limited. However, should there be sufficient interest, something more significant could be done. It provides a mailing list for organizing purposes. And it suggests two concrete steps forward: first, circulation of working papers; and second, circulation of book and article notes. ‘Presently,’ it states, ‘there is no one place to look for political ethnographies or to locate materials buried in general ethnographies.’

The letter concludes by outlining, ‘Other general, but more ambitious suggestions’ including ‘circulation of course syllabi, coordinating panel developments at all professional meetings, founding a regular journal, organizing a world revolution or the like.’

APLA members toast PoLAR’s twenty-five years at the 2017 business meeting.

What strikes me about this letter is not just how far we’ve come since it was written, but how far we’ve come in realizing this vision.

Political and legal anthropologists now have a well-established institutional home. This provides a professional network of scholars with shared interests, through which working papers, book notes, article notes, and course syllabi continue to circulate. APLA does an incredible job coordinating panels at professional meetings; and, of course, PoLAR is the regular journal hoped for in this early letter. Thanks to PoLAR, it is no longer possible to say, as this letter does, that, ‘there is no one place to look for political ethnographies.’ PoLAR has given them a home.

But the only reason any of this exists is that political and legal anthropologists like you and me took it upon themselves to turn this vision into a reality. You can see just how much work this took if you read through the later issues of the ‘Political Anthropology Letter,’ which continued until 1992 when PoLAR was born. And so, in closing, I want to take a moment to underscore that PoLAR is only as strong as the people who have committed to see it continue. To that end:

If you’ve ever served as an editor at PoLAR (editor-in-chief, managing, book reviews, associate, digital) please stand.

If you’ve ever served on the PoLAR editorial board, please stand.

If you’ve ever served in APLA leadership, as a steward of the journal, please stand.

If you have published your work in PoLAR (articles, book reviews, etc), please stand.

If you’ve had your work reviewed in PoLAR, please stand.

This is a big one: if you have ever been a reviewer for PoLAR, please stand.

If you have served the journal in any other ways beyond what I have mentioned, please stand.

And if you have not yet had the opportunity to contribute to the journal, but would like to in the future, please stand.

If you look around, you will see, the majority of us in the room are standing. So while my name, and Heath’s name may be at the top of the journal, it takes all of us to keep the journal going. We are its past, its present, and its future.

So, in that spirit, I would ask that you raise your glass in toast, to PoLAR. Cheers, everyone.”










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