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Journal of Southern African Studies

Resources, Prizes, and Lectures

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2019 #JSASEmerging Workshop

JSAS will host a three-day Early Career Scholars’ Writing Workshop on 16-18 July 2019 at the National University of Lesotho, Roma Campus. Primarily, this Workshop is intended to benefit early-to-mid-career scholars working in the Universities of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland, though a few places will be available for scholars from other parts of southern Africa. The application period is now closed.

About the Annual Writing Workshop

Scholars based in southern Africa face a number of challenges when they attempt to publish in internationally recognised journals. Although the field where they do their research is close to home, they find it difficult to access the secondary literature necessary to speak to a global audience. The time they have for writing – and the teaching of writing to others – is severely limited given the heavy course loads and high numbers of undergraduate students whose needs are the priority for early career lecturers. These difficulties translate into fewer submissions from scholars in countries with under-resourced, often struggling universities. What this means for over-burdened lecturers and post-doctoral fellows is that they have far fewer opportunities for their papers to be published in the best African Studies journals, compared to scholars based at universities in the global North.

To address this situation in an effective way, a group of JSAS Advisory Board members based in southern Africa have initiated an annual writing workshop. Called #JSASEmerging, this group designed the workshop as the Journal’s central initiative in its goal to engage with the next generation of scholars in the region.

The group’s firsthand experience of implementing the Journal’s standards for publication, as well as their knowledge of the obstacles that lie in the path of scholars in southern Africa, places them in a unique position to train others in the practical writing skills and cutting-edge approaches needed to publish for a global audience. They also take into account the talents and ambitions of these young scholars and, thus, have given the workshop a vital intellectual dimension, contributing to a potential transformation of international scholarship itself, shifting the balance towards the Global South. This takes the form of an annual plenary on the most pressing and controversial issues being debated by scholars in the region. In the first workshop, the plenary focused on ‘De-colonising (Southern) African Studies’, airing the frustrations of some of Africa’s best thinkers with the continuing dominance of Northern institutions and academics in deciding what topics will be researched, what research will be published and even what styles of education will shape university teaching in Africa. The plenary is intended not only to critique current issues, but also to find a way forward – bringing together the critical reflections of the established scholars who designed the workshop with the fresh ideas of the early career scholars attending it.

Advisory board members initiated the workshop to encourage more Africa-based scholars to publish in JSAS and other international journals. To achieve this goal they are planning further interventions based on evidence they are gathering themselves. Each year the workshop will host a panel of papers reporting their on-going research into the conditions for scholarship in the countries of the region. These papers will inform the group’s innovations in workshop content. And plans are afoot to produce a collection of articles to appear in the Journal, to provide a solid base of data useful for action to improve those conditions.

Reflections on 2018's Inaugural Workshop

‘It’s been a fantastic week in Zomba, Malawi’, tweeted a participant at the end of the Journal of Southern African Studies’ first annual writing workshop, hosted by the Centre for Social Research at Chancellor College, University of Malawi. The mentors who led the workshop also discovered fantastic new research in the papers by workshop authors: ‘[We are] meeting authors working on some great topics including Malawian urban music, media and state propaganda, and heritage in Malawi’. Other papers examined topics from neighbouring countries, such as race, nationalism and identity in post-independence Zambia; and the ‘covert political culture’ of ZANU(PF) under Robert and Grace Mugabe in Zimbabwe. Space doesn’t allow, but every one of the workshop papers deserves mention for the quality and creativity of the research. Noticeable, too, was the diligence of these authors in implementing the changes advised by their mentors. They began revising during an intensive session at the workshop itself and will continue until their papers are ready for submission to the Journal.

So much to anticipate in future issues of JSAS!

The Journal is grateful to the Centre for Social Research (CSR) for the comfortable and stimulating environment it provided for the workshop, and to the workshop administrator Mercy Makuwira who handled all details with thoughtfulness and efficiency. Thanks are due, in particular, to the mentors who made this workshop a unique, in-depth exploration of the elements of good writing, and to the entire team of JSAS advisory board members based in the region, who as #JSASEmerging initiated this workshop series. Finally, special thanks must go to the three members of the Malawi team who designed the Zomba workshop: Wapu Mulwafu, Syned Mthatiwa and CSR director Blessings Chinsinga. Their hard work and vision made this first annual workshop an outstanding success.

The Colin Murray Postdoctoral Research Award

The JSAS Editorial Board welcomes applications annually from postdoctoral researchers for up to £2,500 to support original ‘engaged field research’ on a topic relevant to the diverse interests and work of the late Colin Murray. For an overview of his work please visit this page. Eligible applicants must be within two years from the award of their PhD. The research should be conducted within, and have potential benefit to Southern African studies (defined as the region covered by JSAS). It is expected that applications will be made for such expenses as travel costs, or for access to necessary resources, but all requests that can demonstrate a benefit to Southern African scholarship will be considered.

Congratulations to Edmore Chitukutuku, the 2018 award winner!

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Annual Lectures

2019 Annual Lecture details to come...

JSAS – A Short History

William Beinart

JSAS was established in 1974 to cater for the growing volume of academic work on Southern Africa and to provide an interdisciplinary vehicle for academic scholarship. The original statement by James Barber, founding chairman of the editorial board, explicitly committed the journal to including ‘conflicting views’ and added that the journal ‘is not intended as a mouthpiece for a particular viewpoint’. Broadly speaking, JSAS was a site for scholarship that was critical of colonialism, minority regimes and apartheid in the region but the editorial board included those who identified both with liberal and radical scholarship. There was some tension between those with differing ideological viewpoints in the early years and a change in the editors reflected this. However, Terence Ranger became chair of the board in 1975 and ensured that the journal, while rooted in radical scholarship, kept a relatively broad church. Although JSAS has published theoretical work through the years, the major emphasis has been on original work of high academic quality that includes new empirical research.

The editorial board of JSAS was based in Britain from the start. The major reason was that the board remained committed to participatory and collective administrative and editorial practices. Papers were discussed and decisions made at meetings, usually quarterly. Editors worked closely with the chair and board members. Most of the reading of papers has been done by board members. In these respects, JSAS differs from many other journals. The practice of joint editorship (usually three) and rotating editors (usually serving from three to five years) also became established early in the journal’s history and this ensured connections with new voices, new ideas and new networks. The board also gradually expanded from about 14 in the 1970s to 40 in the 2010s, incorporating younger scholars, and expanding disciplinary approaches and country specialists. In response to representations from colleagues in southern Africa and north America, JSAS initiated an Advisory Board in the mid-1990s which has now grown to over 30. Members assist with reading submissions and participate in JSAS events.

Special thematic issues have been a particular feature and strength of the journal. Drawing together a number of linked articles they have helped to map innovative directions in scholarship including agrarian, gender, environmental and urban studies. In recent years, the editors have increasingly worked with guest editors on special issues, further broadening the academic networks involved in producing the journal.

The success of the journal and increasing submissions prompted an expansion from two to four issues a year in the 1980s. In 1994, the board decided to switch publisher from Oxford University Press to Carfax (later Routledge). JSAS had been running on a shoestring and more generous financing from Routledge enabled journal activities to be further expanded. The major difference was that editorial duties could be better rewarded and an editorial manager, and later copy editor, appointed. Resources were available to ensure that editors attended key conferences and Advisory Board members could be invited to attend board meetings and events in the UK. Conferences have long been a central feature of JSAS activity and the additional funding has enabled more of these to be held in the region. Several have been organised, working with regional academics and universities, including recent events in Malawi and Zambia. Special issues have been an important outcome.

JSAS has grown enormously in scale. In 2014, the journal marked its 40th anniversary by expanding to six issues a year in order to cater for increasing submissions, especially from the region. The volume of articles published a year has increased over the 40 years from about 10 to 70 with submissions at about three times that number. Dealing with an enterprise of this scale is demanding for the chair of board and the editorial group as well as the readers. But the board remains a participatory group and a very valuable network for ideas and academic innovation. The journal remains committed to consolidating and expanding an interdisciplinary academic approach to the region, encouraging scholars to think across boundaries. A key aim is to foster younger academics and to support an international network of those who research in and on the region.

A Letter to Prospective Authors

Dear Author,

Thank you for considering publishing with JSAS. We love receiving exciting new papers and, where appropriate, working with you to develop them to their full strengths. We also realise that for many people submitting a paper to a journal can be an intimidating or frustrating experience.  So, especially if you have not yet published an academic article in a refereed journal or are in doubt as to the appropriate mode of publication of your work, we have prepared these words of advice, which we hope you will find helpful:

First, please make sure that JSAS is the right journal for you. We don’t care how senior or junior you are, or whether this is your first paper or your 50th. But we do care about what’s in the paper and how it is written. To ensure that you’re submitting to the right journal for you, please read our ‘Instructions for authors’ and consider the following questions:

Does this paper focus on southern Africa? This means that the paper should have its main focus on a country or several countries within the region (see section 2a for the full list). We also welcome papers that compare southern Africa or southern African countries with other regions. Some papers that consider southern African examples, but use a very technical approach, may fit better in the appropriate disciplinary journal. We expect articles in JSAS to be readable and interesting to scholars from a range of social science and humanities approaches. An example of a paper that does this well might be Janne Rantala’s ‘‘Hidrunisa Samora’: Invocations of a Dead Political Leader in Maputo Rap’, which takes a somewhat unusual focus – rap music – but uses it to explore issues of interest to anyone with an interest in Mozambique’s recent past, as well as the politics of leadership and music.

Does it make a contribution to the literature that goes beyond policy recommendations? A JSAS article should not be structured like a policy or consultancy report, and should have an intellectual puzzle at its heart. Its conclusion should speak to these issues, rather than simply listing recommendations. Good examples of JSAS articles that engage with policy, but also make a contribution to literature include Blessings Chinsinga’s ‘The Green Belt Initiative, Politics and Sugar Production in Malawi’ and Krista Johnson’s ‘Cutting to the Chase: Donor Expediency Drives the Campaign for Safe Male Circumcision in Botswana’.

Is it based on empirical research? Most papers that we publish draw on rich empirical material gathered from archives, ethnography, interviews or other sources and methods. If you have not undertaken such research, providing an original contribution to debates, then we are unlikely to publish your article.  We do occasionally publish theoretical pieces, but these need to be truly ground-breaking work, not simply literature reviews.

Is your paper the right length? We cannot ask our referees to read papers that exceed our recommended length (see section 8), but we also don’t usually like to waste their time on very short papers. 

Have you paid attention to our style guide and referencing? It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it helps us assess the paper if it conforms to our usual practices (see sections 5-18).

Have you checked that your quotations, facts and references are correct? If we find that your references are not accurate or that material is misquoted, we will not be able to publish your article.

Finally, we encourage you to read other papers that we have published, so that you get a ‘feel’ for the types of papers that we publish. Universities across our region have access to our journal through the R4L and other schemes. If you’re having trouble accessing it, please speak to the digital librarian at your institution. Our publishers, Taylor & Francis, also make access to our journal available to authors in emerging regions through the Star scheme, which allows you to register for free access to up to 50 articles per year: https://authorservices.taylorandfrancis.com/supporting-authors-in-emerging-regions/

If you decide that your paper is not quite right for JSAS, then we wish you all the best with one of the many other excellent journals edited by our colleagues. We hope that you will consider publishing with us in the future.

If you do decide to send us your paper, then we will be delighted to receive it.  Please note that our board normally meets in January, April, June and October to consider reports from readers received in the previous three months. Papers received less than a month before a board meeting are unlikely to be fully considered at the following meeting; you may not therefore hear from us again for up to four months. Given the problems that can be experienced with some email providers (and over-zealous spam screeners), please do contact your editor or the coordinating editor if you do not receive a reply by the month following our quarterly meetings.


The JSAS Editors

Journal of Southern African Studies

Journal of Southern African Studies (JSAS) is an international publication for work of high academic quality on issues of interest and concern in the region of Southern Africa. It aims to generate fresh scholarly research in the fields of history, economics, sociology, demography, social anthropology, geography, development studies, administration, law, political science, political economy, international relations, literature, cultural studies, and the natural sciences in so far as they relate to the human condition. It periodically organises and supports conferences to this end, sometimes in the region. It seeks to encourage inter-disciplinary analysis, strong comparative perspectives and original research that reflects new theoretical or methodological approaches. An active international advisory board with strong Southern African representation demonstrates our close ties with scholars there and our commitment to promoting research in the region.

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