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CRIT-GEOG-FORUM  February 2009

CRIT-GEOG-FORUM February 2009

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Subject:

Antipode accountability

From:

Ilan Kelman <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Ilan Kelman <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 9 Feb 2009 00:37:28 -0800

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With Antipode's reputation of being a radical, polemical journal, as reinforced by the statements on the journal's websites, http://www.blackwellpublishing.com/journal.asp?ref=0066-4812 and http://www.antipode-online.net , I was surprised that neither site articulated a formal editorial accountability procedure for the journal.  Many journals do have one, with one example seen at http://www.ag.gov.au/agd/EMA/rwpattach.nsf/VAP/(383B7EDC29CDE21FBA276BBBCE12CDC0)~AJEM+Editorial+Policy.doc/$file/AJEM+Editorial+Policy.doc (see the "Grievance Procedure" section).

I was further encouraged to pursue this topic further, since Antipode's reputation is one of engagement with its readers and openness to discuss editorial issues.  Plus, I discovered that Antipode's Managing Editor Prof. Noel Castree has published on this topic, including in Antipode:

Castree, Noel and Matthew Sparke.  2000.  "Introduction:  Professional Geography and the Corporatization of the University: Experiences, Evaluations, and Engagements".  Antipode, vol 32, no 3, pp. 222-229.
"Of course, there is nothing wrong with the notion of accountability when used to encourage intellectual responsibility to the world, to the community, and to the political contexts of knowledge production. Indeed, in this sense the call for accountable scholarship was one of the defining features of the radicalization of academic geography advanced in the early issues of this journal." (p. 224).

Castree, Noel.  2002.  "Border geography".  Area, vol. 34, no. 1, pp. 103-112.
"...accountability cannot, in the end, serve as the figure around which to resurrect this idea because, as is now widely acknowledged, it has become a debased synonym for accounting: that is, for academics being answerable to a value system that measures worth in terms of papers published and research monies won. Accountability today connotes a narrow and one way street: that linking academics to a neo-liberal state apparatus." (p. 107).  To me, this quotation in conjunction with the first one, suggests that real forms of accountability, based on scholarly principles rather than on neo-liberalism, are appropriate and are of interest.

With this evidence, I therefore wrote to Prof. Castree enquiring about the possibility for developing an editorial accountability procedure for Antipode.  He responded promptly, but declined to answer the question and did not acknowledge his own words on accountability, even after I quoted them.  I was surprised and disappointed that Prof. Castree advocates one view in writing, including in Antipode, yet he does not appear to act on his own words for the journal that he edits.

Therefore, I wrote to Antipode's other Editor Prof. Wendy Larner with the same question, noting Prof. Castree's response.  She replied "Antipode does not have a formal grievance procedure. As far as I know, it has not needed one in nearly 40 years of publication".  I responded "you can certainly imagine my shock that a journal claiming to be radical and polemical has zero accountability...The apparent lack of shame in this lack of accountability is equally disturbing. As for 'it has not needed one in nearly 40 years of publication', that is typical of what would be expected from mainstream, conservative, inertia-based academia".  She did not respond.

I next randomly picked six Editorial Board members who were listed on the website--emailing them all would seem too much like spamming--and I emailed them, outlining Prof. Castree's and Prof. Larner's responses, and asking each Editorial Board member if they would be willing "to take forward the issue of editorial accountability to ensure that Antipode maintains its image and practice of a radical, polemical, accountable journal, fostering discussion and encouraging debate, rather than refusing to address certain questions, such as those of ethics".  The results (in alphabetical order by first name) are:

1. Alejandro Grimson did not reply to two emails.

2. Aranxta Rodriguez did not reply to two emails.  I telephoned several times, but there was never an answer and there was no facility to leave a voice message.

3. Brij Maharaj did not reply to two emails.

4. Maggie Opondo replied to my second email stating that she did not have time to fulfil her editorial duties, but she wanted to know my reason for pursuing editorial accountability issues, kindly offering "Do you have an issue with the journal and if so kindly let me know your concerns so that I can take it up from there".  I explained that "I am uncertain why I need to have a reason for editorial accountability other than it is the right thing to do?".  She replied "Thank you for your advice and concern" and nothing else.  I received no response to three subsequent emails that reiterated my original enquiry.

5. Saraswati Raju did not reply to two emails.  I reached her by telephone and she said that she would reply by email.  I emailed her twice more, after which she responded stating that she was too busy to fulfil her editorial duties at the moment, but that she would respond to my query when she had more time.  I had to send three more emails over the next three weeks before I received a response that she was contacting the Editorial Board to follow up on my question.  Three more emails from me and a month later, she replied only "I have consulted the editorial board members and they are convinced that there is a regular editorial process in place and I agree with thisobservation".  I pointed out "that 'a regular editorial process in place' does not and cannot cover situations in which that regular process might be inadequate for situations arising.  Hence, accountability by definition demands a process external to the regular editorial process".  I
 expressed my disappointment that this response from the Editorial Board indicates that they do not fully understand the concept of accountability, despite the example that I had given, and that my request had not been fully considered.  I did not receive a reply.

6. Toshio Mizuuchi did not reply to two emails.  I reached him by telephone after which he replied by email stating that these topics, referring to ethics and accountability, were difficult for him, so he needed time to consider them.  After a week, I had heard nothing.  He did not reply to two subsequent emails, so I faxed him.  He replied by email, stating "I am very few involved in this editorial work.  In that sense, I am outside and have no right to nor nearly no intention to join your raised issue."  I responded that I was surprised that Antipode would use his name and that he would use Antipode's name when he admits that he has little involvement in the journal; surely that is neither ethical nor accountable?  I did not receive a reply.

Would anyone be able to provide further insight into this situation?  Are other Editorial Board members more engaged in and responsive to their duties?  Of particular irony is the journal's website stating, from the Editors, "Our goal, like the journal's founders, is radical change".  Why does that statement seem to apply to only others, but not to themselves?  Thank you kindly for any time and thoughts.

Ilan


      

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