Critical Conversations

One of the ideas I have labored over for the past year-and-a-half as editor is how we can engage the space on the interwebs between peer-reviewed journals and blogs. In the seventeen years since JSR launched, the world of digital publishing has morphed from “this is just a fad” to print journals inhabiting digital space in one form or another. Last week Southern Cultures launched its mobile app.

When we began, the initial issue went out of its way to explain that even if the platform was different we followed the established rules of peer review. We were a print journal on a digital platform. Blogs, however, changed everything. They are able to adapt quickly to circumstances. Their content often shapes fields of study long before print journals roll off the press. Blogs, however, are not all equal, and JSR at heart is not a blog. How could we tap the flexibility of the blogs? The answer, I hope, is through Critical Conversations.

These conversations will be generated by folks in various fields who look at issues dealing with religious life in the South, in all of its forms. I hope that the short publications create space for future research but also ongoing interaction across disciplines. Critical conversations will forego traditional peer review so that they can adapt to changing circumstances, but they will be vetted by the editorial staff and a coordinator of some sort who can introduce the topic. More importantly, these conversations may be able to tap into the way scholarship can inform public perceptions of contested events either historical or current.

The conversations will not have a comments section, at least not at the moment, but they have the ability to be added to during the course of the issue’s year. Academics are always in conversation, so this feature is an attempt to tap those conversations and allow them to find expression. These pieces should accessible so that a general audience interested in the topics can come into the space and then stay for a little while on the other aspects of the journal’s content. The success of these conversations will depend on scholars’ willingness to engage one another.

We will kick off this feature next week. I asked Ed Blum to help us think about the fifteenth anniversary of Donald G. Mathews’s article on spectacle lynchings in the JSR. He asked four scholars from a wide spectrum of interests to think critically about Mathews’s piece and ways we may move forward. Ed has written an introductory piece that sets the stage for why Mathews’s work was groundbreaking both in content and in delivery. Given the events of the past year (and longer by most accounts) related to “black bodies,” this conversation is as timely as it is conceptually intriguing. The pieces will rollout over the next month so folks can sit with them, reflect on them, and engage them. It is my hope that by coming back over and over to JSR all sorts of folks will begin to find it a source for thinking deeply about the region and its people as they develop meaning in their lives. In this current conversation, violence and its meaning take a front seat.

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