Interview with John Ackerman--July 31, 2013

John Ackerman's office in the Cornell University Press
building (Sage House), featuring covers of books
by some of his authors.
Interview with John Ackerman, Director of Cornell University Press and the Europe and Russia/USSR acquisitions editor there. Interview conducted in Ithaca, NY on July 31, 2013. 

Ackerman studied Russian/Soviet history at Stanford and has acquired, edited and published some of the seminal works in the fields of East-Central European and Russian/Soviet history and literature, including Ivo Banac's The National Question in Yugoslavia and With Stalin against Tito, Wendy Bracewell's The Uskoks of Senj, Roman Koropeckyj's Adam Mickiewicz, Mark Thompson's book on Danilo Kiš, Birth Certificate, Yuri Slezkine's Arctic Mirrors, Laura Engelstein's The Keys to Happiness, Lewis Siegelbaum's Cars for Comrades, and Valerie Kivelson's Cartographies of Tsardom. He has also published works by some of the younger scholars featured on this blog, including James Ward's biography of Jozef Tiso, Priest, Politician, Collaborator, and Claudia Verhoeven's The Odd Man Karakazov

Interview Themes

Ackerman's early attraction to and training in Russian and Soviet history (1:37)
The atmosphere and cohort at Stanford when Ackerman did his graduate work there (4:45)
Why did people with an interest in contemporary politics in the 1950s and 1960s turn to 19th century Russian literature as their way in to the field? (7:56)
On how others who studied the region came to the field; a common path? (11:55)
Ackerman's first (and last) visit to the USSR in 1970 (13:23)
On the importance of Ackerman's training in Russian/Soviet history for his work as an editor (18:45)
Books Ackerman has edited to which he is especially attached (23:41)
On how changes in the way university presses operate have affected what they publish and what those changes will mean for the future of the field (31:04)
Was there ever a heyday for university presses and when did it end? (35:33)
On how important it is for a field to have acquisitions editors with knowledge and expertise in that field (46:11)
How presses have created and/or sustained fields otherwise perceived as marginal (49:44)
On what kinds of niches presses develop to sustain their publishing lists (51:52)
How the field of East-Central Europe/Russia/USSR compares to areas like France in terms of scholarly publishing (56:00)
Ackerman's views on scholarly trends (borderlands, environmental history, etc.) and their impact on the field as a whole (59:20)
On books in our field with staying power (1:03:15)
Ackerman on what makes a good editor (1:08:35)
On the invisibility of the editor and what is rewarding about the profession (1:18:59)
Ackerman on what makes good writing (1:24:00)
Books that have had a particularly strong impact on Ackerman (1:31:11)
How Ackerman goes about the process of editing (1:35:49) -- See the "Artifacts" page for a photo and description of Ackerman's editing pencil
Ackerman's views on open access and its likely impact on academic publishing (1:42:19)
How Ackerman envisions an ideal future for academic publishing (1:54:29)
Ackerman's sense of how readers and readerships have changed over the past few decades (2:04:48)
What Ackerman wants for the books he publishes (2:10:23)
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