For the far-reaching field of Latin American Studies, distance can make sharing ideas among peers a challenge.
Greg Dawes, a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures at NC State, makes use of modern publishing technology to encourage debate among leading scholars throughout the Americas.
Dawes is the founder and editor of A Contracorriente, a refereed online journal of Latin American Studies, as well as the founder and managing editor of Editorial A Contracorriente, an academic press linked to the journal.
A contracorriente is a Spanish phrase meaning counter-current or “against the grain,” as Dawes wrote in his introduction to the journal’s first edition. The journal and press exist to foster intellectual debate about Latin American politics, history, economics, literature and culture.
The journal has been active since 2003 and publishes three editions a year. Seeing the journal’s success in reaching Latin American audiences, as well as the network of scholars it created, Dawes created the press in 2010.
Dawes said his motivation for creating both the journal and the press stemmed from a desire to include voices from Latin America in the global discussion of Latin American Studies.
“I wanted the discussion to primarily come from Latin America,” Dawes said. “Over the years, we’ve been able to get a lot of scholars from different countries contributing, which I think, and hope, has changed the field in some ways.”
Since its inception, Editorial A Contracorriente has published seven books by leading scholars from Argentina to Oregon. Titles published by the press include “Otras voces,” a collection of testimonials by Mexican and Central American immigrants in Southern California, and “El Tango entre dos Americas,” a historical examination of how the Latin American tango became an international cultural phenomenon and its impact in the United States.
While publishing presses are common at large universities, the significant overhead required to purchase and maintain printing equipment and supplies often prevented an academic department from operating its own press. Thanks to advancements in the publishing industry, a small operation like Editorial A Contracorriente can afford to exist.
Samuel Sotillo, a lecturer in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, serves as the editing, design and production editor for Editorial A Contracorriente. In the planning stages of the press, a recommendation led Sotillo to a partnership with Raleigh-based self-publishing company Lulu. Lulu handles all printing and distribution for the press on an on-demand basis, printing and shipping single copies of A Contracorriente books when they are ordered.
“Thanks to the changing processes in publishing, we are able to publish without a large overhead,” Sotillo said. “It means we are able to produce high-quality content at an affordable cost.”
While Dawes and Sotillo collaborate with an international network of scholars for editorial assistance, some of their help comes from within their department. Dawes said the operation has been lucky to count on financial and moral support from department head Ruth Gross, as well as assistance that comes from a mutually beneficial arrangement with students in the department.
Cecilia Paoppi and Juan Nunez, two graduate students studying Spanish, help with copy editing, formatting and web archival. The students provide a useful service while gaining unique and valuable experience.
“It’s a great opportunity for the students,” Sotillo said. “They get experience working at the forefront of journal and production technology, and create a great network of people in the field.”
For more information about the press and to view a list of available books, visit the Editorial A Contracorriente website.
By Blake Samanas, web content writer