The first issue of a new peer-reviewed journal for the study of Western esotericism has just been released. There aren’t too many of those around to begin with, so Correspondences is (as announced previously) a welcome newcomer to a small field. The first issue already shows much promise with four articles covering a broad span, even breaking some new ground (read them here). But what makes this journal a particularly important newcomer is that it is entirely open-access. Everything is published openly online (after editorial selection, peer review, copy-editing and typesetting, of course), and shared through social media under a Creative Commons license. Without compromising anything on the side of peer-review (a broad editorial board has helped the editors-in-chief find competent reviewers), and with typesetting that completely matches what the paywall-protected publishers typically can muster (let’s face it: it was never anything too fancy to begin with), the result is fully fledged, quality-approved academic articles that are completely free, open to everyone, and published without the often considerable lag of subscription journals.
The latter is particularly important for those who research contemporary phenomena (and there is already a great example in Correspondences 1.1). There has long been much frustration among researchers of ephemeral groups, popcultural manifestations, or internet sources about the fact that research is very often completely outdated by the time it eventually appears in print. For these researchers, an open-access online journal will be a completely natural choice, while traditional paper journals hidden behind pay walls are of little interest – once their monopoly has ceased. This fact is rightly noted and emphasised by the editors in chief, Jimmy Elwing and Aren Roukema, in their first editorial.
In a news update to the Correspondences website, the editors also announce that further steps are underway to eradicate any remaining relevant difference between their open-access journal and subscription journals in the field (except the print option – and, of course, the substantial fee):
In the coming months there will be further updates to the journal aimed at increasing availability and exposure even further. We will be acquiring an ISSN number, forging relationships with scholarly databases, as well as updating our webpage to include other items of interest for scholars of Western esotericism.
Access to databases is an argument sometimes used by publishing houses against free initiatives like this, but of course, there is no reason why this should not be achievable for an open-access online journal. When Correspondences achieves this – and continues, of course, to disseminate freely online to all relevant research communities – and far beyond them – it will be very interesting indeed to see how it will compare with established journals in this small field. Perhaps Correspondences may even function as a small-scale experiment to gauge both the feasibility and impact of new forms of publishing in the humanities at large?
This blog post by Egil Asprem was first published on Heterodoxology. It is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.