ICPS / CMI: a case study
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[Editor's note: this paper was given on 23 May 2010 at the Annual Tangier International Conference - Performing Tangier 2010: New Perspectives on Site Specific Art in Arabo-Islamic Contexts]
First a little bit of context: my name is George Roberson. I am a cultural geographer with the Human Dimensions Research Group in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
I was in Tangier on a year long Fulbright Scholar research grant in 2008 with the International Centre for Performance Studies (ICPS for short – and the producer of these annual conferences). My chief collaborator is Khalid Amine; ICPS Founder, President and Conference Convener. The focus of my ongoing work is international collaboration and education, and more specifically, on theory and praxis of intercultural engagement and processes of change. In a fundamental way, it’s one of the reasons we’re all here at the conference. The world is in another period of great upheaval and reconfiguration, digital communications have even reoriented our sense of the local-global spectrum, and once again Tangier is at the crossroads. Putting theory into practice has never been more important so some of the things we’ve been focusing on include developing these conferences, communications, technology, outreach, mentoring and publishing.
SWOT analysis. Indeed, in applying a SWOT analysis to the situation —that is: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats— the ICPS publishing program is among its greatest strengths. Due to Khalid’s leadership and the contributions of so many volunteer partners —authors, artists, translators, editors, granters, printers, designers, readers, etc— the ICPS library has grown to include many multilingual offerings in a range of genres: drama, literary criticism, conference proceedings, and translations.
However, jumping ahead to threats, we must be realistic: we’re not as well-know as we need to be and building up new institutions and practices upsets the status quo and also competes with differing visions of the future and backlash can result.
Threats notwithstanding and though support has been broad-based, the greatest weakness is a lack of sufficient and stable financial resources to enable ICPS to blossom to full potential. A prime example, although the current publishing program is robust, it is not cheap and so book distribution has always been limited to only within Morocco, plus, whatever our partners have been able to hand-carry home to other places.
A call to action. In short, this paper is a call to develop multiple strategies to move forward: both to begin to shore up ICPS’s fiscal/future viability and also to make sure the dialogue here has staying power and the international reach it deserves.
So I encourage all to think about what opportunities we have. And we'd be happy to hear from you: george.roberson (at) fulbrightmail.com
One opportunity, already being developed, is to extend the publishing program to the international level. By doing so, we hope to generate some income, but much more importantly, with your help we’ll expand our international presence, make Morocco and Moroccan concerns more accessible to outsiders, and make Moroccan works more widely available (which still remain underrepresented at the world level). Equally important, I believe an international oriented publishing program will be crucial in improving our ability to win significant grants to support all the good things that ICPS is doing.
Next I’ll tell you a bit about what we’re doing to develop the program, show you our first three titles, and then conclude by asking you to get involved and support this effort and I’ll give some specific suggestions.
New technology, new systems. Last year ICPS formed a strategic publishing partnership with Collaborative Media International (CMI), that’s my new academic NGO founded specifically to do this work. We’re also working with the largest book distributer in the world: Ingram Books. This gives us access to the largest networks and latest technologies to efficiently and effectively reach readers worldwide. And we bypass only-for-profit publishers entirely so we retain full rights and control.
Rigorous, transparent, democratic processes. In putting together a book, partners volunteer their time, talent and intellectual capital and proceeds go ICPS and to produce more books. Bookstores anywhere can stock the books on their shelves, but as I mentioned at the outset big changes are happening all over the place in how things work and a new reality is that specialty items, like our books, reach their target market best via the internet. So to buy one of our books, most people will order it online from any one of the many online book sellers (Amazon.com has been incredibly successful) and the book is automatically printed and quickly sent anywhere in the world directly to the customer. However, to be clear, this new model should in no way reduce the existing publishing program which has done such a great job of making books available all over Morocco at really great prices.
Testing the system. In selecting our first book to test this new global publishing model, we carefully searched for a book concept with a good chance to succeed. Fortunately both a real need for a new book and a draft book were quickly identified. Here’s how it went. Some Fulbright colleagues who were studying Moroccan Arabic in 2007-2008 told me about the need for more user-oriented resources for learning the language. Furthermore, Aaron Sakulich, one of the Fulbrighters, already had a book-length draft that he had written for his own use. To make a long story short, Rajae Khaloufi and Khalid joined in the project and the first copies of Moroccan Arabic started shipping in August 2009.
You can see here the cover of the book and the members of the collaborative team.
Since it is hoped that this a model that others might emulate, I’ll briefly recount some aspects of the book concept that gave it good potential:
1) people were already saying a book like this was needed;
2) it brings together crucial resources into one inexpensive book (like side-by-side English, transliteration and Arabic);
3) non-fiction always has the best sales potential especially how-to books;
4) we already knew who the main users would be (ourselves and our students, Fulbrighters, Peace Corps, other students, travelers, etc); and importantly,
5) ICPS would claim a stake and some rewards in teaching Darija.
And the back cover with some quotes from the team. There are lots of little details woven in here (i.e. the cover photos were taken here in Tangier and were specifically chosen to reflect the rapid urbanization taken place all over Morocco and also to challenge the typical outsiders visualization of Morocco as just camels, sand and palm trees.)
And the book on Amazon. Note the price: $20 and on sale for $18. A domestic edition could also be done to better reach the tourist market.
Now the reality is that most books published these days don’t sell too many copies. But the initial the response has been good so we are already preparing for a second edition (and we know there are some errors in the original text). So it’s our first international book (and some proceeds are supporting this conference) and it is hoped that it will be just the first in a series of international educational resources.
So the logical next step was to try several international editions of some existing ICPS books and, thinking strategically and looking to the future, to begin to group them into topical series. The first two are:
A Contemporary Voices Series: Shakespeare Lane, by Zoubier Ben Bouchta. Soon we’d like to do the other two plays in the trilogy: The Red Fire and Lalla J’mila (a Moroccan national drama prize winner).
And the back cover. Featuring original production photos and a quote from Marvin Carlson (our conference closing keynote speaker).
“Shakespeare Lane is a most welcome addition to new translations of world drama, not only because the important contributions of Moroccan dramatists are still much under-represented among those translations but also because this play provides a fascinating and moving example of how the European dramatic tradition, here represented by Shakespeare, is today being reworked and given new life and relevance by artists from non-European cultures. It is especially fitting that the play is set in Tangier, so long a crossroads of multiple cultures.”
And for fun, here’s the book on Amazon Japan. Note the price: 2,159 yen – about $15
And the first in an International Collaboration Series: Bowles / Beats / Tangier, edited by Allen Hibbard and Barry Tharaud. This is the conference proceedings from Performing Tangier 2008. And like the Shakespeare Lane cover, these editions incorporate aspects of the graphic designs done by Altopress, the ICPS publishing partner here in Tangier.
And the back cover features a quote from Khalid about the goals of ICPS and these conferences.
“The Tangier conferences are a forum that aims at bridging the gap of difference and connecting cultures, as well as reaching across the divide to the Other. The setting of Tangier makes a perfect home for new intercultural encounters that celebrate and honor our essential humanity. It offers a glimmer of hope during a dark time marked by the hegemony of the post 9/11 discourses of horrorism.”
I’ll conclude with some ideas about how you can help:
- Buy the books
- Use the books as required reading in your classes
- Do a book review, on Amazon.com for example – rate it five stars
- Recommend to your networks: students, colleagues, professional organizations
- Donate money
- Reference in your scholarly work
- Write a grant linking your work to ICPS and vice-versa
- Propose a manuscript
- Recommend an author
author, editor, translator, peer reviewer, grant writer, talent scout, committee member, promoter, technology expert (who knows about ebooks, Paypal, or can help us with online audio for Darija text?)
And to quickly recap:
- Build up a strategic international publishing program
- Keep the domestic publishing program going
- Sustain and grow our reach a wider / international audience
- Move more contributors and collaborators are needed to come forward
- And together we’ll improve the position to win significant grants
Our partners Margie Kanter, Jose Delgado, Jeffrey Miller, Barry Tharaud and Andrew Hussey who all had invaluable input on publishing.
And to Saadia Maski and MACECE (the Moroccan-American Commission for Educational and Cultural Exchange) for their support.
This paper and visual elements are available online at:
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Roberson, G (2010) “Local-global shifts, research reform, emerging technologies, positioning for growth: creative-performative opportunities for academics, NGO’s, and community advocates” in Performing Cultural Diversity / Critiquing Postcolonialism. B Tharaud, J Manuel Goñi Pérez and G Roberson, eds. Tetouan, Morocco: Université Abdelmalek Essaâdi, p157-62. Download in pdf, click here