African Minds: A Conversation with François van Schalkwyk of African Minds

This episode of the Against the Grain podcast published on Jul 19, 2021, features a conversation between François van Schalkwyk, founder, African Minds, and Matthew Ismail, Editor in Chief of the Charleston Briefings.
African Minds: A Conversation with François van Schalkwyk of African Minds

African Minds is an Open Access, non-profit, scholarly book publisher based in Cape Town, South Africa. Its mission is to publish the best works by African or Africa-affiliated authors from diverse backgrounds. In this podcast, François van Schalkwyk talks about the founding and growth of African Minds and the joys and challenges of publishing in many languages across both African and Western cultures.

This podcast with François van Schalkwyk details the founding and development of the non-profit Open Access scholarly press African Minds. Van Schalkwyk describes the founding of African Minds in 2012 with an intention to provide a dedicated publishing outlet for African authors to publish works that are important in the context of the African continent. African Minds defines “African” to include the entire continent, from Egypt to South Africa and all subregions in between. This brings the considerable challenge of working across many languages, cultures, and social conditions. Though van Schalkwyk is an English speaker, he tries not to allow that to influence him when it comes to evaluating proposals for works in French, Portuguese, and many other languages, though he admits that finding peer reviewers and editors for volumes in the languages, such as Kinyarwanda, spoken in only certain geographic areas can be difficult. Van Schalkwyk also accepts proposals from scholars outside of Africa. This adds complexity to the decision-making of African Minds, not least because scholars from Europe or North America are often much better funded than are African authors. Yet according to van Schalkwyk, a payment from a well-funded European scholar, for instance, can help African Minds publish other works from less privileged authors. African Minds is looking to form partnerships with other African publishers so that as many worthy book proposals as possible find the appropriate home.

Key Outtakes:

  • African Minds is an Open Access book publisher based in Cape Town, South Africa, that covers topics of scholarly interest to the African continent.
  • While African Minds strives to publish in as many of the languages used in Africa as possible, there are practical difficulties to publishing books in languages which are not spoken in South Africa, even though publishing in English, French, or Portuguese can pose challenges. However, these were especially acute for the book African Minds published in Kinyarwanda, due to the need to find editors, proofreaders, and peer reviewers for it. 
  • African Minds is mostly supported by author research funds. This can be a challenge, because of differences in funds’ availability that authors in various countries and undertaking research in different subjects experience.
  • African Minds publishes books by anyone interested in Africa regardless of where they live or where they were born.
  • In the future, van Schalkwyk would like to see more cooperation among South African publishers to make publishing in South Africa easier for authors and to retain as many works in South Africa as possible, while also creating local jobs and supporting local publishing.

In this podcast, Matthew Ismail, editor in chief of the Charleston Briefings and a conference director at the Charleston Conference, thus, discusses with François van Schalkwyk, the editor of African Minds, its publishing activities in South Africa and beyond as well as their scholarly and larger-scale importance for the African continent.

Written by Mathew Ismail

Edited by Pablo Markin


Featured Image Credits: University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa, February 15, 2013 | © Courtesy of Ian Barbour/Flickr.

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