After more than a decade at the University of Southern California, the editorial offices of the journal American Quarterly recently found a new home at the University of Hawai’i. The transition began almost a year ago, and was recently completed as the editorial teams at USC and Hawai’i worked together on several issues. The journal will remain at its new home for a 10-year term. New editor Mari Yoshihara joined us for a Q&A to talk about the transition and what readers can expect from the new editorial team.
Now that the transition is complete to your editorial team in Hawai’i, what stood out as the most challenging aspect of the process?
Because of the many submissions that were already under review when we officially began our editorial work on July 1, 2014, the actual transition took several months to complete. Our editorial team implemented a somewhat different review process than the one that had been used by the previous team. We worked through the logistics of handling essays submitted both before and after the transition date. After several months, all the essays submitted before the transition had moved through the pipeline, and we now work completely with our new review process. A lot of hard work went into maintaining the integrity of the review process during this time.
How gratifying was it to have collaboration between your team and the Southern California editorial group during the transition?
Members of the USC editorial team, especially my predecessor Sarah Banet-Weiser and previous Managing Editor Nic Ramos, were extremely generous in showing us the ropes of the editorial process. I spoke with Sarah both in person and on the phone, and Nic flew in to Honolulu for a couple of weeks to train our new editorial staff. They have also been very gracious in answering our many questions after the official transition.
Compared to many other scholarly journals, American Quarterly is unique in the heavy involvement of the entire editorial board in the review and editorial process. This not only adds to the rigor of the review process—the author gets feedback from over a dozen scholars in addition to the external reviewers before his/her essay is accepted—but also makes the editorial work a truly collaborative intellectual endeavor. We are honored to inherit this tradition of American Quarterly established by our predecessors and learn a great deal ourselves from the process.
What symbolism is there in basing an American studies journal in the 50th state?
When American Quarterly moved to California a decade ago—the first time that the journal was located on the West Coast—it marked an important moment in the history of the field. The journal’s relocation to Hawai’i further pushes the boundaries of American studies. Precisely because of our geographic location outside of the continental United States, with rich histories of Native Hawaiian communities as well as the history of colonization, illegal annexation, contested statehood, militarization, and tourist-oriented development, our Hawai’i-based editorial team brings perspectives and voices of critical importance to understanding “America.” Being in the Pacific, we also have different perspectives on the “Pacific Rim,” “Pacific Century,” and other narratives of trans/cross-Pacific movements that are dominant in political, economic, as well as academic discourses. We believe that our lived experiences on the island in the middle of the Pacific and our expertise, vision, and standpoint shaped by it bring a critical edge to the field by resituating and reframing “America” even more rigorously than has been done in the last few decades.
In your recent Editor’s Note, you talk about the great diversity of your team. How does that affect a journal focused on American studies?
While American studies has taken a so-called transnational turn in the last few decades, most of the scholarly work read in the United States had been produced by U.S.-based scholars. We wanted to incorporate the field’s transnational turn in the actual practice of knowledge production by making scholars outside the United States integral members of the editorial team. Thus, in addition to scholars based at the University of Hawai’i, our editorial team includes scholars in and from South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and a number of them, including myself, were raised and educated outside of the United States and speak, read, and write in languages other than English while all maintaining active scholarly lives in U.S. academe. This team thus brings understanding of both the United States as well as issues such as migration, transnationalism, globalization, hybridity, and displacement in ways that are simultaneously grounded in the particular and also pushing the traditional boundaries.
Our team is also diverse in terms of areas of expertise and disciplinary and methodological orientations. Having scholars with specializations ranging from religion and law to Indigenous studies and digital humanities, we are well situated to review scholarship in all areas of American studies, both traditional and emergent, and to undertake exciting new projects of interest to the field at large.
What are some of the short-term plans you have for American Quarterly?
The first special issue under our editorship, “Pacific Currents,” will be released in September 2015. Under the guest editorship of Paul Lyons and Ty Kawika Tengan, this special issue presents a very different look at the currents—of people, ideas, cultures, capital—in and around the Pacific from the dominant narratives that often equate the Pacific with Asia and ignore the islands inside the Pacific Rim. We believe this is an important and bold intervention we make to the field.
We are also undertaking several other new projects that reflect our vision for the field. We have just created a new section of the journal, Digital Contents Review, co-edited by Stephen Berry and Scott Nesbit. As digital contents and methodology will clearly grow in importance to American studies, we believe it is important to have a venue for critical assessment of such materials. This section is designed as a site for scholarly review of digital archives, databases, websites, and other digitally-based materials of relevance to American studies.
To further advance transnational scholarship, we have also decided to begin reviewing books written in languages other than English. There is a great deal of high quality scholarship produced outside of the United States in languages other than English, much of which never reach U.S. readers. To be sure, the actual number of American Quarterly readers who will be able to read the foreign-language books being reviewed will be small; nonetheless, we believe it is important for AQ readers to be exposed to the kinds of work being produced outside the United States. The Book Review Editors, Matthew Basso and Laura Briggs, are enthusiastically accepting proposals for reviews of books in all languages.