From the Editor’s Desk: How does being a journal editor fit into one’s academic career?

This week, as part of our continuing series on academic journal publishing, we are featuring five Q&A’s with journal editors. In today’s edition, we asked the contributors to offer their insight into the ways in which being a journal editor fit into one’s academic career. Read their responses to this question below and follow along with our Journal Publishing Series for additional resources on journal publishing. Previous posts detail how the contributors became journal editorswhat skills a journal editor uses the most, their proudest moment as editors, and the key responsibilities of a journal editor

How does being a journal editor fit into one’s academic career?

Being an editor certainly forces one to think about their writing and organization, and I can’t help but think that being editor has helped in that regard with my own work. More importantly, though, being the North American editor of Ethnohistory pushes me to read and study outside of my particular specialty (the colonial experience of the Southeastern Indians). I read and edit manuscripts about Native America that cover hundreds of years, thousands of miles, and hundreds of different groups. In addition, most of the manuscripts we receive are cutting-edge, so being editor also keeps me apprised of movements in the field. Obviously not everything I read for Ethnohistory is directly pertinent to my work, but having the opportunity as editor to broadly canvas Native American studies informs my thinking, my perspective, and my interpretations of the evidence. So, in many ways, being editor shapes my own work in some profound ways.” – Robbie Ethridge, co-editor of Ethnohistory and Professor of Anthropology at University of Mississippi


“I’m not strictly an academic: I’m also a freelance curator and work part-time as a professional culture journalist for the Village Voice, so my journal work offers me an opportunity for long-form, permanently archived publication projects to complement the more immediate gratifications of live events and weekly journalism. With regard to my work as a professor, I use the journal as a working laboratory for students to learn what’s involved in editing and publishing, and as source for teaching material. (I’ve used articles and special editions as course texts.) Of course, more than anything, I want my editorial work to contribute to the field of performance and theater itself—to influence the way people talk and think about contemporary art. So I try to make the journal an incubator for new ideas and aesthetics, as well as a vehicle for teaching and critical practice, and when it all converges it can be hugely fulfilling.” – Tom Sellar, editor of Theater, Professor of Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism at Yale University, and Chief Theater Critic for the Village Voice


“I don’t know. I am not joking. There has never been a time in my career as a college professor when I was not either planning to found the journal, trying to not be overwhelmed by criticism and debate, keeping the journal from going bankrupt, or seeking collaboration in the US and abroad. My writing improved because I improved the writing of colleagues. The journal work reinforced and made concrete my ideas about how intellectual history works, particularly the technical and voluntarist drive to write and circulate ideas. The status of journal editors in the countries where I work, primarily China and Japan, is substantially higher because in these communities editors are considered intellectuals. Consequently, I welcomed collaboration with prominent journal editors in China and Taiwan, Hong Kong and Korea, and Japan. I want to stress that my career as an academic has changed, too, as has the entire profession. Duke University Press pioneered its massive journal production project around the time we founded our journal and with the support of [Journals Director] Rob Dilworth, we have always been at the forefront of change. I once hand-edited manuscripts on paper; now we have a paperless office and primary circulation is online through library subscriptions. At first language fonts or images were too expensive; now we routinely use them in all our languages. The ability to count figures, words, pages has changed the standard length of a scholarly essay, but we also no longer guess at the page counts. These are both intellectually interesting changes in a wildly fluctuating technological capacity and a transformation of actual daily work. My position as the founding editor of a journal publishing in a new technological environment has privileged me because I have been able to see and to participate in the global transformation of scholarly work.” – Tani Barlow, founding editor of positions and T.T. and W.F. Chao Professor of Asian History and founding director of the Chao Center for Asian Studies at Rice University


Being a journal editor enhances the rest of one’s academic life in a wonderful way: it connects one to the larger academic community in new and interesting and surprising ways. In the end, that is what keeps me doing it, and what I will miss most when I stop.” – Matthew Restall, co-editor of Ethnohistory and Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Colonial  Latin American History, Anthropology, and Women’s Studies at Pennsylvania State University


I love the work of editing. Like teaching, editing has a pedagogical function: first, I enjoy helping writers produce their very best work by being in dialogue with them. At the same time, as part of its mission, Pedagogy aims to elevate the conversation about teaching in order to improve teaching itself. I’m lucky that my institution puts a high value on excellent teaching while also embracing a very capacious view of scholarly work. When I was hired, the journal—still in the final stages of development—received support from my college, and I received great encouragement to bring it to publication. In my experience, junior faculty don’t typically get such opportunities—from university presses or colleges/universities. So I am very grateful that I have been able to pursue this scholarly path with the help of Duke UP and Calvin College.” – Jennifer Holberg, founding co-editor of Pedagogy and Professor of English at Calvin College

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