What (social, institutional, political etc.) infrastructures have sustained this STS innovation?


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Angela Okune's picture
July 25, 2019

AO: This quote from the interview highlights the consequences of explicitly deciding not to be part of the dominant corporate scholarly publishing infrastructure despite the financial pressures that may result. According to these excerpts spoken by Shiraz Durrani, maintaining independence from corporate interests has been more important to the Ukombozi team to enable them to sustain their anti-imperlialist outlook. This foregrounds the ethics and value principles that underpin decisions which on the surface may not seem to be directly "ethical" per say (but in fact prove to be).

"...the most important achievement has been that Vita Books has managed to survive all these years and maintained independence from corporate interests. It has continued to publish material meeting its aim of making progressive, alternative ideas and experiences available to working people. Vita Books works on the basis of self-reliance and does not aim to join the ‘big’ players in the publishing world. This has enabled it to maintain its anti-imperialist outlook. This is particularly relevant today when for example powerful corporations such as Taylor and Francis can force important journals such as the Third World Quarterly through publication of an offensive (and latterly retracted) article ‘The Case for Colonialism’ to abandon the ‘values of the journal’ which at one time stood ‘above the fray when neoliberal ideas swept through the academies of the world, demanding that public sector development be given over to private sector’ (Prashad 2017). 

"Had Vita Books depended on external sources of funding, it would have had little chance of maintaining its policy of publishing ‘progressive books on issues related to anti-imperialist struggles and with the establishment of just and democratic societies’.

But this independence has come at a cost as there are no large funds to publish material that we would like to publish. Lack of funding affects not only the cost of production of books, but also staffing. Vita Books has no full time staff and relies entirely on time and resources of some founder members and many others who are committed to its vision. But we value our independence and are more interested in ensuring the quality of what we publish, not the number of titles we bring out. This has enabled us to maintain a high profile and presence in politics as well as in publishing."

(Shiraz Durrani and Kimani Waweru)