Q&A with Ted Striphas
Editor-in-Chief of Cultural Studies
We sat down with Ted Striphas, Editor-in-Chief of the Cultural Studies, to better understand the kind of research the Journal publishes
and how the Journal supports authors to make an impact with their research.
Here is what he had to say:
Can you share your professional background and your relationship with Cultural Studies?
It has been an honor and a pleasure to have worked with Cultural Studies for almost 25 years. I began my association with the Journal in Fall 1995, my first semester of graduate school at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, USA. Lawrence Grossberg, then the Editor of Cultural Studies, who was also my academic advisor, invited me to serve as Assistant Editor. Before long I became Managing Editor of the Journal, a post I left upon graduating with my Ph.D. in 2002.
I have been fortunate to have guest-edited two special issues of Cultural Studies: the first, in 1998, on the institutionalization of Cultural Studies; and the second, in 2006, on the politics of intellectual properties (with Kembrew McLeod).
From 2011-2016, I served as Book Review Editor, and from 2016-2018 I had the privilege of serving alongside Lawrence Grossberg as Co-Editor. Since January 2019, I have been Editor-in-Chief of Cultural Studies.
For those who may not know, can you give us a bit of background to the Journal?
From 1983-1987, the Journal was published in Australia under the title, Australian Journal of Cultural Studies, producing eight issues across a four-volume run. Its success established, the Journal was then picked up by Routledge, our current publisher (now owned by Taylor & Francis). Between 1987 and 1990, the Journal was steered by an editorial collective. The Journal’s editorial operations were reorganized in 1990, whereupon Lawrence Grossberg became Editor, a position he would occupy for 28 years. He was joined by Co-Editors Janice A. Radway (1991-1995) and Della Pollock (1995-2013). Together, they helped guide the Journal as its publication frequency increased from three to four to six issues per year—a clear sign of Cultural Studies success and wellbeing.
How is this journal unique from others in the field?
Cultural Studies is committed to context, which is to say, the networks of relations within which texts, artifacts, events, organizations, people, and more becomes thinkable and practicable. Cultural Studies is also empirically driven—not in a traditionally empiricist sense, but in the sense that it must “reckon with the dirty outside world,” as Stuart Hall so memorably put it. The point, for Cultural Studies, is to publish contextually-rich, politically-engaged intellectual work that “tells a better story” (as Grossberg is fond of saying) about the world around us, one that eschews the platitudes that too often circulate in popular discourse, and even in some scholarly communities. The Journal is committed, finally, to internationalism—which is to say, to challenging the hegemony of Anglophone speaking position and scholarly traditions. We have been working actively for well over a decade to include authors and essays, editorial board members, special issues, and much, much more from every continent on this planet (although we’re still waiting for that submission from Antarctica…).
What kind of research does Cultural Studies look to publish and how do you ensure quality?
The Journal publishes empirically-rich, politically-engaged, and well-contextualized intellectual work. Again, the Journal’s mission is to “tell better stories” about the complex realities in which people live and through which we move. “Complex” is the key word here, because Cultural Studies publishes work that eschews theoretical reductionism and methodological formalism. I would add, too, that one of the signature features of work in the Journal is the effort to define cultural studies itself, in addition to or even alongside the type of work I have just described. All manuscripts are carefully vetted editorially and, if they pass muster, they are then double-blind peer-reviewed by two members of the editorial board. Revision, of course, is common.
With such a broad scope, how are you able to publish all this research?
Cultural studies is always of something. There is, thus, no prescribed subject matter for the material appearing in this Journal—this despite the misconception that cultural studies is, simply, a way of studying popular culture. Similarly, we do our best to address a global audience of cultural studies scholars, by refusing to take scholarly speaking positions for granted. It is incredibly challenging to edit Cultural Studies, given the extraordinary range of material we receive, both topically and geographically. We rely heavily on the expertise (and extraordinary goodwill!) of our international editorial board to help us ensure the exceptionally high quality of the research we publish.
Have there been any exciting developments with the Journal recently?
Yes—there are so many! Managing Editor Blake Hallinan, who has also taken on the newly-created role of Art Director, has been commissioning extraordinary cover art for us—which we’re now publishing, for the first time, in full color. Book Review Editor Janneke Adema is working on new digital features for the Journal, some of which we’re hoping to make available Open Access. We’re actively reworking the editorial board. We’ve partnered with scholars in China and Hong Kong, who will be bringing us special issues from East Asia every other year. We’re also hoping to develop similar partnerships with cultural studies scholars working in different regions of the world.
How do you empower authors to make an impact with their research?
Cultural Studies is, as I mentioned previously, committed to engaging with the “dirty outside world.” In many situations, “engagement” means setting aside or downplaying intellectual priorities so as to make an immediate “impact.” This is not necessarily the case with Cultural Studies. The Journal does not believe in the trade-off between activist and intellectual work. Instead, it considers both aspects as two sides of the same coin, and thus equally necessary. Cultural Studies is committed to nurturing and publishing the most rigorous knowledge possible about the world around us, but how that knowledge can and should fall into the “right” hands remains an open—which is to say, complex—question. And that question is far more complex than the watchword “impact” typically allows, given its tendency to stress immediate rewards and short-term thinking.
Where do you see the Journal in 5 years’ time? Is there anything specific you want to achieve?
Cultural Studies is a marquee Journal in its field, and I expect to work tirelessly over the next five years (and beyond) to ensure it remains there. That will mean, at minimum, reaffirming its commitment to critically-informed, politically-engaged intellectual work on a global scale, while remaining sensitive to the specificities of locale. In terms of a wish-list, I would like to see more Open Access and multimedia features come to Cultural Studies, in addition to partnerships with neighboring Journals in the field. Moreover, it’s critically important for the Journal to become a key place for renewing a conversation about what culture—and thus cultural studies—is. This kind of self-reflexive, existential work was common in the field’s early days, but once those principles were laid down, they ceased to receive the level of scrutiny they deserve. The dire political situation facing the world today should give us pause to consider whether or not those principles are up to the task of answering to the political challenges of the day. I would like to see Cultural Studies become the forum where that protracted moment of pause takes place.
Finally, how can authors contribute impactful research to Cultural Studies?
I see at least three ways to accomplish this. First, our authors should continue to engage with matters of public or “worldly” concern. Second, I would like to see our authors working with us, and with Taylor & Francis, to find ways to ensure their work circulates. One cannot make an impact absent reasonably open networks of scholarly communication. And finally, I would like to see our authors begin to answer the aforementioned questions about what impact can and should mean, from a cultural studies perspective. “Impact” sounds like something desirable, in principle, but one should think through very carefully what practices, outcomes, etc. the term actually encompasses. One should also not delude oneself into thinking that “impact” produces singular effects. One should always be mindful of possible unintended consequences of scholarly research.
University of Colorado, Boulder, USA