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Introducing Special Collections: Les Figues Goes Open Access with Punctum Books

Published onFeb 27, 2023
Introducing Special Collections: Les Figues Goes Open Access with Punctum Books

We need to multiply and also invent new trade routes and modes of exchange for disseminating intellectual work—going for baroque, or broke—and we also need the courage (or wise foolishness) to depart to extraterritorialities not bathed in the harsh fluorescent lighting of the academy “proper.”

~ Eileen A. Fradenburg Joy and Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei, “A Vision Statement for Thinking, Writing, and Publishing Otherwise in the University without Condition”

punctum books, a queer- and scholar-led Diamond Open Access press, is thrilled to announce a new initiative for republishing, in beautifully designed print and open access editions, the back catalogues of historically significant independent presses founded and run by structurally marginalized persons and groups: Special Collections.

There are many small, radical presses whose books have played important roles in shaping alternative forms of cultural life, thought, and resistance in the 20th and 21st centuries, but their books are not as findable, accessible, or as widely known as they could and should be. Many of these books eventually go out of print, and lacking digital editions, disappear from bookstore shelves and mainly reside in libraries that not everyone can travel to or from which readers are barred because they do not have the proper login credentials. Following the example of Reveal Digital, who have developed open access periodical collections from underrepresented 20th-century voices of dissent, Special Collections aims to curate and make fully open the unique voices of these culturally significant presses, not only in order to make those voices accessible to a global readership but to also enrich the domain of scholarly inquiry into the history of these presses and their authors.

Over the years, punctum books has been deeply invested in projects of “recuperation” and “restoration”— of lost traditions, lost authors, lost works, lost methodologies, and lost languages — and we have published many books in this vein. As punctum was founded by and is directed by scholars working in premodern studies, a special attention to history is critical for us alongside our curation of new voices in more future-bending veins. Expanding on this aspect of our mission, Special Collections will establish (an)archival collaborations with the founders, inheritors, and caretakers of dormant or retired publishing houses whose editorial remit harmonizes with punctum’s social and political commitments, in order to grant them a new life within the realm of global open access publishing.

At a time when academic publishers are asking university libraries to pay for access to portions of their proprietary back catalogs, providing access only for the libraries’ patrons (keeping the past closed) in order to generate revenue for the production of open access titles on their frontlist (privileging the future and foreclosing history), punctum books aims to open the back catalogs of small, historically important independent presses and thereby open history. Rather than keeping the past closed, we keep it open for global knowledge sharing and intellectual enrichment.

The Press intends in the most premeditated fashion to champion the trinity of Beauty, Belief, and Bawdry.

~ Teresa Carmody

We are delighted that our first partner in this new project is Les Figues Press. Founded in Los Angeles, California in 2005 by Teresa Carmody, Vanessa Place, Pam Ore, and Sarah LaBorde, Les Figues Press has published poetry, prose, visual art, conceptual writing, and translation with a focus on feminist and queer authors. Les Figues has cultivated emerging and established writers as well as interdisciplinary artists who take the book as an object of study, with a mission to create aesthetic conversations between readers, writers, and artists in Los Angeles and around the globe.

Les Figues’ titles include award-winning work that imagines new artistic practices, establishes new theories of literature, and questions the avant-garde alongside the status quo. Les Figues Press’s books embrace global feminism(s), and provoke conversations about gender, race, class, and sexuality in relation to literary and artistic production. As they themselves have put it, their books “push the boundaries of genre, form, and general acceptability.”

In the coming years, punctum books, in close collaboration with founding director Teresa Carmody, and in consultation with the authors and creators who published with Les Figues Press, will transition titles from their back catalog to new print and open access editions, to be integrated into our catalog under the new Les Figues imprint. In this way, Les Figues publications will remain preserved as both second, paperbound editions and new digital open access ebooks, and the over sixty groundbreaking books published by Les Figues Press will reach ever broader audiences of readers, learners, and scholars. The first editions of Les Figues publications will remain available through the LA Review of Books and Small Press Distribution until they are out of stock.

Vadim Andreadakis:

That’s great news! Thank you so much for providing so many qualities titles. Flowers Germany

Eileen A. Fradenburg Joy:

Of course! Thank you for such a warm comment!