Publishing South African scholarship in the global academic community

18 Sep 2015

South Africa's academic publishing history has been profoundly influenced by its colonial heritage. This is reflected in the publication of Transactions of the South African Philosophical Society (later, the Royal Society of South Africa) from 1878. Although the Society and journal sought to promote original research about South Africa, it was modelled after the Royal Society in London and formed part of an imperial scientific community. As the local higher education institutions grew more independent and research-focused, local scholarly publishing developed as well, with university presses playing an increasingly important role. The University of South Africa (Unisa) Press started publishing departmental journals in the 1950s, with a focus on journals that ‘speak to the student’, and it is today the only South African university press with an active journals publishing programme. As external funding declined and the country became intellectually isolated in the high apartheid period, the Press managed to attract journals that could no longer be subsidized by learned societies and other universities. More recently, new co-publishing arrangements have brought South African journals back into an international intellectual community. Although some argue that this constitutes a re-colonization of South African knowledge production, it is also an innovative strategy for positioning local research in a global context.