Reflections on ISER Books

By Paine, Robert; Felt, Lawrence | Papers of the Bibliographical Society of Canada, Spring 2010 | Go to article overview

Reflections on ISER Books


Paine, Robert, Felt, Lawrence, Papers of the Bibliographical Society of Canada


SOMMAIRE

Cree en 1966, ISER Books est la maison d'edition de l'Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER) de la Memorial University of Newfoundland, organisme fonde en 1961. Axe initialement sur la recherche en economie et en anthropologie/sociologie se rapportant a Terre-Neuve, ISER Books n'a pas tarde a elargir son centre d'interet au-dela des themes et des limites geographiques fixes a l'origine. Les auteurs retracent l'historique d'ISER Books en tenant compte principalement des changements d'ordre intellectuel, financier et organisationnel qui se sont operes a l'universite Memorial.

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The Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER) was founded at Memorial University of Newfoundland in 1961. Its publication arm ISER Books followed five years later. In the nearly 50 years since their founding, ISER and ISER Books have established Memorial University as a recognized centre of academic excellence for social science research on the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador as well as the wider North Atlantic and sub-Arctic rim. ISER Books' multidisciplinary and comparative lenses are particular strengths as globalizing processes link one place to another regardless of distance, size, or difference. In this report we provide a short history of ISER Books. As with any short history, it is abbreviated and incomplete in many respects, though we have tried to locate important changes at ISER Books within the larger intellectual, financial, and organizational changes that Memorial University itself has experienced in this nearly half a century.

In the initial years, ISER Books' first publications were doctoral theses of ISER research fellows in economics and anthropology/ sociology. Memorial University, at that time, was without doctoral programs in the social sciences; thus the research fellows accepted by ISER came from other universities where they had completed all course requirements for their doctorates--all that remained was the field research and its funding. ISER applicants submitted proposals of Newfoundland-related research; acceptance by ISER led to two-year research appointments in the province (one year of which was to be spent in field research), followed by the submission of their doctoral theses to their "home" universities. A copy of each accepted thesis was deposited with ISER, and following upon the founding of ISER Books in 1966, first publication rights to the theses belonged to ISER. In the initial years, books to be published were sent to the University of Toronto Press (UTP) for printing, but there were problems--reviews in international journals frequently mistook UTP, not ISER, as the publisher, and so our own university printing services undertook the job and did it well.

Through the 1960S, ISER saw its research responsibility in terms of the "uniqueness" of Newfoundland. This is made explicit in an early report submitted to the university president: "The Institute was established to foster and undertake research into the many economic and social questions arising in Newfoundland because of its unique historical, geographical and economic position." (1) However, in the course of time ISER research was set free from such a restriction. In order to understand analytically such "uniqueness," comparisons and contrasts with other cultures and their people were necessary, and, furthermore, as a research institution ISER came to recognize a responsibility towards interpreting a changing world (globally)--its meanings and their impacts.

Accordingly, ISER Books now offers a range of titles beyond Newfoundland ethnography, even while that remains an important focus of research and a source of research funding. In part, this has been a comparative extension of familiar ethnographic scenes with books about "coastal communities" or "North Atlantic fisheries," including Norwegian fisheries and their community life; and, in part, an extension into new ethnographic territories: books about northern Native Peoples, particularly the Inuit and Innu of Labrador, and the Cree of Ontario; there have also been extended explorations in the east Canadian Arctic of Inuit "psychology," and of white patronage. …

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