Postgraduate/Early-Career Researcher Forum on Academic Publishing

This forum of postgraduates and early-career researchers on the topic of academic publishing was curated by Charlotte Bell. It arose from the understanding that emerging scholars today are navigating a particularly challenging career landscape. As new technologies and shifts in institutional support structures affect all aspects of academic activities, including publishing, these changes are felt perhaps most strongly by those who are near the beginning of their careers. This forum is intended to create a space for airing concerns, challenges, and also senses of possibility and transformation.

Respondents were given the following brief:

These short pieces should respond, broadly, to the state of academic publishing as it is experienced by postgraduates and early career researchers in theatre and performance studies. Responses will likely vary in content, but some areas to explore might include: the writer’s own experiences with publishing as an PGR/ECR; the writer’s experiences with editing; publishing and broader issues of career development for PGR/ECRs; perspectives on the politics and economic conditions of academic publishing; comparative reflections on different systems (such as arts journalism, criticism, etc.).

The five contributors responded to the brief from significantly different perspectives, and the results bring up a variety of pressing issues and ideas. These include issues of national identity, potentials of collaborative working methodologies, technology as both challenge and problem, disciplinary definitions, and issues of support and academic freedom in an increasingly instrumentalised professional climate. As part of an issue focused on editing, this forum brings useful attention to the many questions beyond the page which affect how publishing develops.

– Johanna Linsley


Publish or Perish / Publish and Perish

Charlotte Bell

‘Publish or perish’ is becoming an increasingly popular phrase among postgraduate and early career researchers in and beyond theatre and performance studies. There are a number of unwritten rules and guidelines to which postgraduate researchers now adhere. Getting at least one solo-authored publication in a reputable peer-reviewed journal is fairly high up the ‘hit list’. This may not seem like a lot of extra work and the benefits of the peer-review and editing process are extremely helpful. However, ‘getting your name out there’ may not be the most productive or helpful process for a project or researcher during the PhD research and writing up journey. This is particularly concerning when some universities are considering making or require publication a requirement of submission for the viva. Bernstein et al. state that

the life sciences department of at least one leading Chinese research university requires a PhD candidate to have at least two papers accepted for publication in Institute for Scientific Information journals before the candidate’s thesis can be examined (Office of the President, Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou, 2008). And in many European countries, such as the Netherlands and Denmark, the PhD candidate produces the thesis (which includes an integrated introduction and conclusion) as a publication or collection of publications brought out by the university from which the doctorate is sought.1

If implemented as standard practice this might risk putting postgraduates off from pursuing ‘riskier’ research topics. Whilst the conditions of meeting the criteria for a doctorate include an original contribution to knowledge and, hence, material that meets the standards of professional publication, there has been a significant shift in understandings of what this means in practice.

Conducting and pursuing research at doctoral level is about much more than publication output: symposia, conferences, gaining teaching experience, challenging your own and other’s assumptions about your topic, forming, building and sustaining relationships and collaborations internal and external to your research centre, department or institution. Publication is, in fact, one part of what it is to be an academic and a researcher.

A PhD should be dedicated time to think, reflect, experiment, and repeat as necessary. Yet, in the Arts and Humanities (though of course this does apply to other fields too) this process is often at odds with market-driven principles of contemporary academia: quick turnaround, quantifiable impact, and solution-based foci. B.L. Bernstein et al. suggest that ‘PhD graduates are expected more and more to make effective contributions on the global stage.’2 These contributions take a number of formats: dissemination of research and conferences and symposia, delivering undergraduate teaching, book review publication and journal articles or chapters. What counts as an ‘effective’ contribution is, of course, a topic for debate. If it helps an individual think through a particular set of problems or realise gaps in knowledge and action points for future research then surely an ‘effect’ has been made. However, it is more likely that ‘effect’ in this sense refers to more quantifiable outcomes such as the number of views or downloads a particular article has or the number of citations it receives. Publication, as that performance of research that leaves a visible trace and through train to institutional affiliation, makes for an inherently attractive spot on the world stage. However, conceived as a series of ‘products’ or ‘outputs’, the PhD process (and research more widely) becomes inflected with market-based principles. The resulting risk is that publication becomes a physical and emotional challenge.

In 2003 and again in 2008, a Working Group for Mental Wellbeing in Higher Education conducted research into experiences of and access to Mental Health services in UK Universities. Their findings suggest that between 2003 and 2008 80% of those institutions surveyed had a ‘significant increase’ in demand on their mental health services.3 In May 2014 the Guardian published findings on a survey it conducted on mental health in UK Universities. The results suggest that issues of mental health among academics (from PhD researchers to Vice Chancellors) are on the rise with heavy workload, lack of support and isolation emerging as three key contributing factors.4 The survey results show that 64% of PhD researchers experience feelings of isolation. Though not definitive and an area that demands more research, these survey results point to a worrying trend among those early career researchers entering the profession. The demands of performing effectively on the world stage risk fragmenting academia and work that benefits from collaboration and ‘spending time’ as researchers increasingly isolate themselves in order to meet demands of publication. The irony that I’m writing this at the weekend in order to fit publication deadlines in and around the demands of my job as a secondary school English and Media teacher does not escape me. I’ve spent the past two weekends visiting family and moving house; it’s about time I made up for that by getting back to my 75+ hour working weeks.

The findings of the Working Group for Mental Wellbeing in Higher Education and the Guardian paint a rather bleak picture for PhD and early career researchers looking to establish themselves in a global economic climate in which fixed term contracts are increasingly competitive and casualisation of labour is increasing, a move described by Times Higher Education as a ‘negative creep’ as PhD researchers are increasingly employed to fill the gap in teaching staff. 5 In ‘What About the Workers?’ Colin Bryson finds that despite low morale and insecurity among university researchers, ‘resilience continues despite the commodifying pressures, and ‘traditional’ values remain strong.’6 However, whilst ‘traditional’ values about what it means to be an academic in a contemporary university (such as the status given to monographs and peer-reviewed journals) remain, Gottschalk and McEachern’s research findings support a growing opposing trend in the casualisation of researchers. Their research is based on an Australian example, but chimes with the status of many working in university settings across the globe: ‘the traditional [employment] profile no longer exists’ as ‘the casual teacher is now more likely to be a person holding several casual jobs and seeking a career.’7 The shift in labour status of many researchers is not compatible with the more ‘traditional’ academic practices, which often demand extensive periods of research and writing as well as lengthy editing cycles, and are still favoured by many in the university or systems of quality assurance such as the Research Excellence Framework (REF) in the UK. If casualisation is to become an accepted part of the university workforce then universities need to support the integration of research time into their workers’ contracts in order to facilitate and better their research communities and the students those workers teach, mentor, guide and inspire.

So what does this mean for postgraduate researchers in the Academy? Personally, the PhD experience has challenged and exceeded the expectations I had entering the process. The pressure to publish whilst also completing a research project has helped me to re-assess and refine my thesis and to rehearse arguments for what I hope will develop into a larger research and publication project. The peer-review process offers another form of critical questioning that, in my case, has been a helpful and useful way for defending my research position. Furthermore, it has allowed me to test out and play with ideas that emerged out of my research and yet didn’t find a place in the final articulation of the project itself. The pressures to publish have certainly not lessened. Having entered the education sector as a full time teacher, finding time to conduct and develop research projects at an scale are increasingly difficult. I am acutely aware that the publications I worked hard to push through during my PhD research process are more than likely not sufficient to secure a job in the academy as I’m not able to produce definitive evidence of ‘output’. The PhD experience offers a precious space to dedicate time, energy and space to questions, problems and situations that require careful and sustained attention independently and in collaboration with others. The risk is that the pressures to validate this research through publication might result in competitive and disparate PhD cohorts or contribute to impressions of PhD projects as less valuable if not accompanied by publications that offer only a snapshot of the complex processes that shape PhD research.


Intellectual Equality in Postgraduate Publication

Will Shüler

I am currently working on my sixth issue of the postgraduate-run journal, Platform: Journal of Theatre and Performing Arts. Based at and funded by Royal Holloway, University of London, Platform, as the name suggests, aims to provide a printed publication venue for postgraduate and early career researchers. Refereed by both peer and established academic reviewers, Platform also offers valuable research feedback on all submissions. When asked to reflect upon the experience of editing a postgraduate publication, I am reminded of a section that used to be in Platform under various titles: ‘Artist Documents’ (6.1), then ‘Performance Documents’ (6.2) and finally just ‘Documents’ (7.1) – which one e-board member rightly referred to as the least sexy title for a section, ever. The impulse behind having this section was to create a space in our journal for contributions that did not quite fit the look/formula of the average article, particularly owing to the fact that they were presenting practiced-based research. This section was the ‘platform’ for a different kind of postgraduate research. In having this space, we appeared to be following the example set by established academic theatre journals – indeed Contemporary Theatre Review has such a section. However, as we continued to wrestle over the section’s title, we began to realise that there were unintended consequences of sectioning-off some of our articles: would they appear ‘less-academic’ to some readers? In this way an article under the label ‘Documents’ may also be seen to fall under the sign of intellectual inequality. I shall discuss the evolution of these section titles and explain why Platform has chosen to remove this separation and leave it to our journal’s authors and readers to determine just what a submission seeks to do.

In my first issue as an editorial board member we had an ‘Artist Documents’ submission about the performativity of dinner preparation: Molly Beth Seremet’s ‘Multiplied Trajectories: A Traveller’s Dinner’.8 We thought it was an intriguing submission and fitted the journal’s theme, ‘Representing the Human’. However, it was not as formal in style as the other articles, in that it was largely the author’s reflection on an experience and a wrestling with theory in a very practical/lived way. It was also not specifically an exploration of art, so much as an engagement with performance terms in an inquiry into non-art. As such, ‘Multiplied Trajectories’ was sent to live under the newly re-titled section, ‘Performance Documents’. By isolating the article from the other submissions, we felt we were flagging up for the reader: ‘Hey, this article’s formula is something a little different from the standard academic article. Please approach it as such’. In this area, authors can express feelings and explain practice in a way which will not raise eyebrows, as it may have in the front part of the journal. In our next issue, ‘On Corporeality’, we had a submission which was a reflection on another artist’s performance. Much more than a long piece of criticism, Jane Frances Dunlop’s ‘“Try to follow the sound of my footsteps”’ reflected on theories of kinaesthetics, space, and imaginative geographies.9 Instead of a theory paper supported by a case study, it was a case study that evolved into a critical interrogation of theory. As it was not a document of Dunlop’s own performance, we had to wrestle over a new title that could encompass its aims and those of any other submissions which may come along. We were only able to land upon ‘Documents’.

In issue 7.2 we had one of my favourite submissions (if I may be so biased), which was Matt Cawson’s ‘Towards an Anarchist Theatre’: a delightful manifesto about performance making.10 Brilliant, polemical, and very self-aware, this article challenged both theatre making and how one writes about it. Just looking at the article was enough to tell the reader: this is something different. At first it was assigned to the ‘Documents’ section. Then we, as an editorial board, began to question why it had to be set off from the front section of the journal, which, indeed, had no name at all. It was simply ‘the journal’. We worried that this might suggest to the reader that the main bit of the journal was where the serious work lived and the ‘Documents’ section was where something less, something other, dwelled. As practical academic work became more and more prominent in scholarly publications, we wondered if our separate section – which was intended to be a platform for practice-based research – began to emphasise difference rather than equality. To have a ‘Documents’ section was to say that the first few articles were… what? We struggled. More ‘authentic?’ More ‘scholarly?’ More ‘formulaic?’ These simply were not the case. ‘Towards an Anarchist Theatre’ was just as scholarly and demonstrated as much rigor as our other submissions and as all of the submissions previously quarantined as ‘documents’. We did not want to state that this article, or any, was somehow ‘less’. We were proud of everything we published, just as we always had been.

The intention behind the separate section had been to let the readers know that the article was structured differently and/or presented practical scholarship, but we began to worry that we were saying something else. We worried that we were creating an inequality in research output. Our wrestling over what to call the section should have been our first clue. Maybe we were not giving our readers enough credit. Surely by reading the abstract of a submission and then beginning the article, the reader knows what kind of writing they have started to read and why it exists in the state that it does. We decided to abolish the ‘Documents’ section.

Issue 8.1 holds another favourite submission of mine, and one that is surely the nail in the coffin of any future ‘Documents’ section: Penny Newell’s ‘Merz Merz Merz Merz: Performing the Remains of Mr. Kurt Schwitters’.11 The article problematises the neatly-written scholarship on the collage work of Schwitters for seemingly ignoring the fact that Schwitters’ work itself functions in intentionally ambiguous ways, leaving the spectator to intuit their own meanings. ‘Merz Merz Merz Merz’ evolves into a collage of its own (even its title has that deliciously awkward fourth Merz). It challenged what an article can look like and how it can present its argument in more than words. In more than photographs. Just, more. This article is a performance. It is dramatic. It does not apologise for being ‘non-traditional’ and neither does Platform​. If postgraduate-operated journals are not the place to challenge what it is to be an article, what it is to be ‘academic’, then where is? We no longer publish manifestos, collages, photo essays, and practical research anywhere that is not alongside traditionally structured research outputs . We trust that our reader can discern what they are getting into and we trust that our authors can convey their arguments thoroughly and creatively in a myriad of forms. In a discipline with an ever-growing field of practiced-based research, Platform​’s dissolution of the ‘documents’ section is a stand for engaging with this scholarship on more equal footing.


Whaur’s Yer Wullie Shakespeare Noo? Nationhoods and nationalisms in academic publishing

Ben Fletcher-Watson

This article explores academic publishing in a national(ist) context, reflecting on the Scottish Journal of Performance as a response to and possible generator of Scottish national identity. I briefly discuss its foundation (in the run-up to the Independence Referendum) and then explore concepts of nationality as a performative practice, where ‘discourse produces the effects that it names’.12

The story goes that during the opening run of John Hume’s tragedy Douglas at the Canongate Theatre in Edinburgh in 1756, a triumphant voice was heard from the gallery: “whaur’s yer Wullie Shakespeare noo?” The state, like the nationalist, tends to take pride in the flowering of its culture, but the academy has a more complex relationship with national identities and the arts. For example, journals proudly bearing the Saltire are plentiful (from the Scottish Journal of Performance to the Scottish Medical Journal, with theology, political economy, geology, philosophy and child care also represented), yet no equivalent journals trumpet their Englishness. Arguably, the English Journal of Theatre sounds parochial, even old-fashioned. Indeed, the very word ‘English’ remains as contested and divisive as ever. Nonetheless, ‘English votes for English laws’ has been on the front pages of the UK press since the Independence Referendum in September 2014. If ‘British’ is the default for the English academy, why then do many journals rooted in Scotland, Ireland and Wales declare their nationalism, especially in an era of vaunted internationality and the REF’s quest for quality that is recognised internationally, internationally excellent or world-leading?

Taking Scotland’s relationship with England as an example, the Acts of Union of 1707 left untouched the separate church, law and schooling of both nations. Universities and models of scholarship thus developed on parallel but distinctively different tracks: for instance, the Royal Society of Edinburgh was founded 123 years after its London-based counterpart, and includes the humanities within its fellowship. Today, with ever-greater devolution mooted, Scotland and England are perhaps more culturally distinct than in any time since their union. The Scottish Journal of Performance, which I co-founded in 2012, is a peer-reviewed Open Access publication focusing on the performing arts in a Scottish context. It is published by the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. As a hybrid journal, publishing Scottish authors on any area of performance or authors from abroad on Scottish topics, SJoP aspires to internationality. However, the belief that Scottish theatre, film, music, dance and performance art are under-represented within academia drove and still drives the journal today.

Image of the Kelpies, by Andy Scott, from ‘Home: the celebratory opening of the Kelpies at Helix Park, Falkirk’. Reproduced by permission of the Scottish Journal of Performance. Image by Claire Warden.

Image of the Kelpies by Andy Scott. From Claire Warden, ‘Home: the celebratory opening of the Kelpies at Helix Park, Falkirk’, Scottish Journal of Performance, 1.2 (2014), 9-16. Image by Claire Warden. Reproduced by permission of the Scottish Journal of Performance.

Arguably, by situating Scottish culture as separate from UK culture, SJoP creates its own definition of nationhood, casting the English, Welsh and Northern Irish as foreigners by default, while admitting those at Scottish HEIs into a distinct academic polity. This has parallels with the Scottish Government’s definition of Scottish nationality, had the referendum results in a Yes vote; their White Paper referred to ‘British citizens habitually resident in Scotland’.13 Thus, perhaps unknowingly, academic discourse can work to characterise sovereignty, creating a performance of nationhood. As Cynthia Weber has argued,

if we accept that – like sex and gender – states and sovereignty are both discursive effects of performative practices, then it follows… that there is no sovereign or state identity behind expressions of state sovereignty. The identity of the state is performatively constituted by the very expressions that are said to be its result.14

SJoP’s engagement with international relevance extends beyond its hybridity, and even beyond a commitment to Open Access publishing (licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License). Buela-Casal et al. make a valuable distinction between internationality (connections between two or more nations) and multinationality (connections between multiple nations), and it is apparent that this first definition, while accurate, retains a parochialism absent from a more generalist conception of internationality.15 For SJoP, the viewpoint of the outsider looking in shares equal validity with the Scot looking out, or the Scot examining their own culture for a global readership. All three modes inhabit, at the very least, a zone of internationality, if not multinationality. This is perhaps best evidenced by website analytics, which indicate that readers from 82 countries visited in the first year of publication, with more than a third of sessions originating outside the UK.

Watson et al. provide several suggestions for enhancing international relevance, including a global literature review, explanation of national policies / organisations, and, preferably, comparison with studies from elsewhere.16 Editorially, SJoP tends to require authors to comply with these guidelines, for example assuming that a reader has little knowledge of Creative Scotland or the geographical location of Inverness. This may add a didactic flavour to some articles, in an effort to provide salient facts, but aims to achieve a balance between local colour and global accessibility.

Lastly, the issue of language can problematise concepts of nationality. SJoP accepts papers in Gaelic (with accompanying translation), despite a notable absence of Gaelic-language journals. There is perhaps a question over Gaelic and Scots as acceptable modes of academic discourse, with English often seen as the lingua franca of scholarship. Yet only around 5% of the globe speaks English, outnumbered by both Mandarin and Spanish, and there are almost twice as many Spanish/Portuguese-language journals as English ones.17 Again, the act of recognising cultural difference may serve to enhance or perform that difference.

William Christie claims that ‘the critical reaction of our eighteenth-century Scottish nationalist to Home’s Douglas plays sensationally into the hands of those who argue that a critical or aesthetic response can never be anything other than a cultural and cultured (conditioned) response’.18 Taking this view, the Canongate heckler stands in for publications which melodramatise their nationality, embedded within culturally-specific modes of discourse and lurching towards parochialism. Yet a more tantalising prospect emerges – journals which walk the tightrope of national identity, acknowledging the impact of nationhood(s) while also troubling preconceived notions of language, sovereignty and nationalism.


Collaborative Digital Research

Eero Laine

If theatre might offer anything to the digital humanities or digital theatre scholarship, it is a mature and practiced collaborative methodology. How exactly such a methodology is taken up is still open for consideration, but some direction might be found in a recent report on digital publishing published by a joint committee of the American Society for Theatre Research (ASTR) and the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE). The report considers and addresses many facets of digital academic writing including peer review, accessibility, ethics, and collaborative scholarly projects. The report concludes by advocating for digital publication to be considered both ‘as an indicator of proficiency and success in our fields, as it already is for scholars in other areas of academia, and explicitly encouraged and celebrated by our organizations.’19 This push toward new models and methodologies of theatre research will certainly impact the tenure and promotion cases of theatre and performance scholars, as well as hold significance for graduate students and early career researchers working both digitally and collaboratively.

It is perhaps uncommon that one should be particularly excited about a subcommittee report. However, through its explicit legitimatization of digital and collaborative projects accompanied by clear recommendations for their evaluation, I read the report as a substantial endorsement of experimentation and new models of scholarly production within our field. Indeed, the report notes that ‘The profession is at a significant threshold in which digital humanities and new technologies offer, and call for, new practices and resources for pedagogy.’20 These new pedagogical possibilities might be read not only in relation to work in the classroom, but also as a sort of peer-to-peer pedagogy taken up in light of the digital and collaborative methods of research, publishing, and editing endorsed by the report.

New practices and resources seem to point us toward a necessary level of digital literacy for ourselves and for our students. However, new pedagogies might also be considered as facilitating the very old theatrical technology of collaboration.  That is to say, digital technology may allow for multiple authors in different parts of the world to edit the same document simultaneously, but technology does not teach us how to interact, organize, or learn from each other while doing so.

For me, explicit links between collaboration and pedagogy emerged from my training at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York, which strives in many ways toward collaborative and democratic processes among all levels of the institution. Such aims are inscribed in the governance of the Graduate Center, which places students on program and institution level committees not as mere observers or representatives, but as full voting members. Students are thus tasked with and share decisions on the basic functioning of the university from admissions to curriculum to policymaking. In addition, the Graduate Center is investing heavily in digital initiatives that create collaborative opportunities for students and faculty. On the department level, at the Theatre Program’s Segal Center, graduate students edit print and online journals, produce programming, and curate a wide variety of media in collaboration with faculty and staff.

I’m not alone in that my experiences at the Graduate Center have led me toward work that is both collaborative and facilitated by digital technologies. It’s both exciting and challenging to work on projects that involve up to a dozen authors or are written collaboratively and simultaneously across oceans and time zones or organized in ways that were more lateral than hierarchical. In practice, to give a very basic example, such work often involves a shared online document where, like other academic writing, sources and notes develop into sentences and are strung together into arguments and conclusions. The slight twist, however, is that everyone working on the document can write, revise, and edit—often at the same time. One gives one’s prose over to the project knowing it will likely be reshaped, expanded, or even cut. Because everyone can edit in real time, the group must organize and re-organize as the project develops.

Obviously, this level of academic sharing takes a certain amount of trust and understanding among collaborators. Theatrical paradigms prove immensely valuable for negotiating ideas and structures as well as the interpersonal connections among collaborative partners. Sometimes roles are clearly proscribed or someone takes the role of director, sometimes the process is closer to a workshop or devised performance. As in improvisational theatre, one of the basic tenets of collaborative writing is being able to respond with ‘Yes! And…’ It is a response that is generous to the others’ prose and ideas while allowing for redirection and expansion. Beginning with even this baseline shared understanding, I am more open to sharing unfinished and developing work because the process teaches me how others think and forces me to reconsider my own premises and conclusions. The shared work collapses research and pedagogy towards a common goal—like theatrical rehearsal, research becomes a form of mutual pedagogy that establishes and moves toward a shared goal.

It is noteworthy, however, that such horizontal methodologies of collaboration at times highlight and even rely on a vertical organization of expertise. Separating methods from proficiency in such work opens the possibility of working with and learning from colleagues that are, in traditional terms, ranked more senior or more junior than oneself or who posses vastly different skill sets and bases of knowledge. Because everyone brings something to the project, it is difficult to not learn from them if fully invested in the work. As an early career researcher, it is exactly this promise of shared academic labor and learning that continues to bring me back to collaborative models of scholarship facilitated by digital technologies.

It is perhaps ironic that taking a detour through digital humanities opens possibilities for theatre and performance scholars to adopt some of the methods used to create the very art form we study. As the joint ATHE-ASTR report on digital publications indicates, there are many new digital and collaborative possibilities to explore in terms of what we even consider and reward as rigorous, peer-reviewed scholarship. I am excited to imagine that some of that experimentation will see an expansion of collaborative, democratic and, yes, theatrical, methods of research.


Reflections on Editing and the Digital

Diana Damian Martin

Editing is tenacious; it barricades itself in the particularity of contexts and disciplines. Nevertheless, it imposes a certain to the process of (re)writing; it pauses that which is already articulated, be it in the form of an intervention, a footnote, a general comment. I will not be dealing here with the plural dimensions of editing: the conflict of scope, the teasing out of language, the abrupt interruption, the gentle attack. Instead, I will discuss editing from the vantage point of a nomad whose work has travelled across contexts, returning to the digital but in love with the material.

Every textual form imposes a certain mode of editing and likewise, any singular editorial relationship invites a position-taking. I am thinking here of the necessity of peer reviewers to consider the wider thrust of an academic argument and the microcosm of its coming into being; or the conflicts between a young, novice writer and her . This political dimension of editing is further configured by the pressures within which that particular work might .21

In academia, there are growing demands made on scholars to pursue regular publishing, and to situate this form of argumentation as a mode of public output. This demand of regularity not only creates pressure on the text itself, its scope and ambition, but also on the editor, whose teasing out of ideas or arguments requires time and expertise, elements that come under immediate strain. This is not dissimilar to the impositions placed on an editor working with a digital publication; particularly in the field of theatre criticism, where money is scarce and sustainability a recurring issue – the editing process struggles to be central, despite its fundamental . In this landscape, however, the editor also has to negotiate the publication’s own agenda, the ambition of the discourse and the requirement of the context, be it formal or linguistic.

In a recent article for Times Higher Education, Thomas Docherty22 makes a highly compelling argument for the necessity of academic freedom. He argues that in a cultural and political landscape that threatens what can be said, and the very dimensions of thought through institutional bureaucracy and processes of neoliberalisation, academic freedom is fundamental – it seeks to oppose the neutralisation of critical .23 The very notion of academic freedom presupposes an editorial position – one that can liberate an idea from certain constraints and encourage its substantiation; one that can encourage a building on legacies of thought whilst also opening up formal and thematic directions. So the demands made on the editor these days involve a dangerous balancing act, between encouraging clarity, ambition of thought and argumentative eloquence, and dealing with the strains imposed by specialisms, particular contexts and quantification.

Recently I took part in the annual conference of the International Association of Theatre Critics in Beijing, which dealt with criticism in the Internet era. I was there in two positions: as a critic entering a dialogue on the digital realm with colleagues whom I had not had the opportunity to debate before, and as an editor of conversations. For the duration of the symposium, I curated and wrote for a digital publication, , that was to record, critique, assert, re-contextualise elements of the unfolding conversations. In some sense, I was a scribe and in others, an editor: a constant conflict of meaning, of texts, or referents, of ethics.

This patchwork of enacted texts and editorial interruptions foregrounded a clear, perhaps generational, divide between those whose experience of was constituted by newspapers or academic print, and those whose point of entry into critical writing was made through and in the digital realm. The digital presents both a challenge and a problem, beyond issues of legitimation or reach; it re-territorialises the boundaries between those who are in a position to speak and those who are not; those who find themselves in an institutional position that enables them to take a position, and those individuals who seek it.

This extension of the editing process as a mode of critique and appropriation is not new to the digital realm, and neither is it foreign to an academic context. It pertains to a mediation of a communicative relationship between writing, text, meaning and readers; yet I propose that, considering the extent to which many of my generation have engaged with such forms of editing, a re-situating of this process as an editorial process might allow for a more in depth interrogation of the more recent impositions on editing as a practice both in academia and beyond.

In this landscape, the editor enters into a zone of visible, palpable conflict; the funding structures underpinning academic publishing have already been significantly challenged by the rifts and shifts in institutional scopes and financial distribution and the digital has contributed to this. It has both offered a place in which contextual distinctions are blurred – Interventions being a case in hand – but has also problematized notions of expertise and authority, sometimes to the detriment of . For editing, the digital has made visible distinctions otherwise muddled – between context and referent, breadth and voice, authorship and anonymity. Editing is both highly necessary for work that sits within this particular space between academia and wider cultural circles, and highly problematic given the tension between individual and collective, institutional or .

In the case of Beijing Live, editing became a process rather than a practice; it dealt with ways in which the work of others can be contextualised within a digital realm, both allowing wider access without losing specificity, and delineating the problems made visible by China as a context for this conversation. Such a parallel process between the referent – the symposium itself – and the unfolding texts on the digital publication makes visible a concrete process of critique, enacted in the moment of a thought’s articulation, and of conflict, existing at the meeting point between intervention and re-.

I want to end on a more open-ended note; editing, particularly navigating both the academic and more public contexts, is inadvertently a process of . If as Hannah Arendt argues, thinking is that which removes us, albeit temporarily, from the moment, then editing is that which marks the history of a thought, sets a dialogical process in motion, and thus foregrounds the vulnerability of thoughts in motion. The digital has foregrounded editing’s powerful ability to either make visible or censor, but has also allowed for processes to inter-mingle, to learn from each other. As a result it has opened up the relationship between writer and editor, expertise and specificity, language and .



Charlotte Bell completed her PhD at Queen Mary University of London. Her research focused on site-specific art and performance in/about council estates in southeast London. Her work has been published in Wasafiri, Contemporary Theatre Review and New Theatre Quarterly and she has contributed to Platform. In 2014 she started  working in a state comprehensive school in Birmingham teaching English and running GCSE Media Studies.

Will Shüler is a teaching fellow and PhD candidate at Royal Holloway, University of London. His current project employs the theories of Plato and Jacques Rancière to examine ancient Greek theatre as a source of common knowledge. Will is co-editor of Platform: Journal of Theatre and Performing Arts, based at Royal Holloway.

Ben Fletcher-Watson is completing a PhD in drama at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, researching theatre for babies. He is editing a book on children’s theatre for Intellect’s Playtexts series, and has published in Research in Drama Education and Youth Theatre Journal. He co-edited the Scottish Journal of Performance from 2013 to 2015.

Eero Laine is a PhD candidate in the Theatre Program and Film Studies Certificate Program at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). His work appears in Theatre Journal, Performance Research, and Western European Stages. He teaches acting, script analysis, performance history, and introductory courses at CUNY’s College of Staten Island and Marymount Manhattan College.

Diana Damian Martin is a writer and critic. She is Performance Editor for Exeunt Magazine , founder of the Institute of Critical Practice, and a member of the Generative Constraints collective. She is a Lecturer in Performance Arts at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, and is completing a PhD examining performance criticism as a political event.



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  1. B.L. Bernstein et al., ‘The Continuing Evolution of the Research Doctorate’, in Globalization and its Impacts on the Quality of PhD Education: Forces and Forms in Doctoral Education Worldwide, ed. by Maresi Nerad and Barbara Evans (Rotterdam and Boston: Sense Publishers, 2014), pp. 5-30, p. 21.
  2. Bernstein et al., p. 8.
  3. Annie Grant, ‘The Development of Mental Health Policy and Practice in UK HEIs’ <>
  4. Claire Shaw, ‘Overworked and Isolated – work pressure fuels mental illness in academia’, Guardian (UK), 8 May 2014, <>.
  5. See Jack Grove, ‘Negative Creep of Casualised Labour Threatens to Engulf All, Delegate Warns’, Times Higher Education Supplement, 14 June 2012 <>.
  6. Colin Bryson ‘What About the Workers? The expansion of Higher Education and the transformation of academic work’, Industrial Relations Journal, 35.1 (2004), 38-57 (p. 38).
  7. Lorene Gottshalk and Steve McEachern, ‘The Frustrated Career: Casual Employment in Higher Education’, The Australian Universities’ Review, 52.1 (2010), 37-50 (p. 37).
  8. Molly Beth Seremet, ‘Multiplied Trajectories: A Traveller’s Dinner’, Platform: Journal of Theatre and Performing Arts, 6.2 (Summer 2012), 71-85
  9. Jane Frances Dunlop, ‘“Try to follow the sound of my footsteps”: Walking and the Theatricality of Imaginative Geographies in Janet Cardiff’s The Missing Voice (Case Study B)’, Platform: Journal of Theatre and Performing Arts, 7.1 (Spring 2013), 67-79.
  10. Matt Cawson, ‘Towards an Anarchist Theatre’, Platform: Journal of Theatre and Performing Arts, 7.2 (Autumn 2013), 52-68.
  11. Penny Newell, ‘Merz Merz Merz Merz: Performing the Remains of Mr. Kurt Schwitters’, Platform: Journal of Theatre and Performing Arts, 8.1 (Spring 2014), 44-68.
  12. Judith Butler, Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex (Abingdon: Routledge Classics, 2011), p. xii.
  13. The Scottish Government, Scotland’s Future: your guide to an independent Scotland (Edinburgh: The Scottish Government, 2013), p. 271.
  14. Cynthia Weber, ‘Performative States’, Millennium – Journal of International Studies, 27 (1998), 77-95 (p. 91).
  15. Gualberto Buela-Casal, Pandelis Perakakis, Michael Taylor and Purificación Checa, ‘Measuring internationality: reflections and perspectives on academic journals’, Scientometrics, 67 (2006), 45-65.
  16. Roger Watson, Merilyn Annells, Elaine Amella and Thomas Wong, ‘Editorial: what makes a JCN paper international?’, Journal of Clinical Nursing, 16 (2006), 1-2.
  17. Gualberto Buela-Casal, et al., pp. 48-49.
  18. William Christie, ‘“Whaur’s Yer Wullie Shakespeare Noo?”: Literary Influence V’, Arts: the Journal of the Sydney University Arts Association, 21 (2012), 65-92 (p. 67).
  19. Scott Magelson, Sara Bay-Cheng, Susan Bennett, J. Ellen Gainor, D.J. Hopkins, David Z. Saltz, Henry Bial, Heather Nathans, Robert A Schanke, ‘The Value of Electronic Publishing for Scholars in Theatre and Performance: A White Paper’, Prepared by the ATHE-ASTR Joint Subcommittee on Non-Print Book Publishing, August 2013 <>, 9.
  20. Ibid., p. 6.
  21. Mark Lilla, ‘Arendt and Eichman: The New Truth’, New York Review of Books (21 Novemver 2013) <>
  22. Thomas Docherty, ‘Thomas Docherty on Academic Freedom’, Times Higher Education (4 December 2014) <>
  23. Bifo Berardi, The Uprising: On Poetry and Finance (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2012).
Comment [DDM]:
I emphasise here the importance of considering duration as a way if opening up the process of editing, alongside that of writing. This is, I propose, precarious and particular in the context of writing both in academia and beyond.
Comment [DDM]:
I am thinking here of the intersection between the academic and the wider sites of cultural debate, particularly in the context of theatre and performance – the digital as the site of their intermingling, of problematic homogenisation yet powerful difference.
Comment [DDM]:
We can take this further; think of the controversy surrounding Hannah Arendt’s reporting on the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem for the New Yorker. As Mark Lilla proposes, “no one would have been offended [had she] made the unwise choice of hanging her thesis on the logistical ‘genius’ of the Holocaust” Whether this is true or not is a matter of debate; but the editorial process that rendered those articles possible, and the difficulties surrounding that relationship, provide a key example by which position-taking and editorial processes construct the dynamics of a piece of work. This is both in terms of its implications and the ways in which it greets its wider context.
Comment [DDM]:
I have taken part in several projects that encourage a foregrounding of the editorial process as a collaborative, supportive practice and as a way to nurture new writing. These seem to be sites of possibility, as they allow particular emphasis on the processes of writing, unlike my regular editorial work with digital publications where consistency and regularity are prioritised, particularly given everyone’s limited and irregular time commitments as a result of lack of funding or simply juggling commitments.
Comment [DDM]:
Franco Bifo Berardi takes this problematic further in The Uprising, in which he discusses the very impositions neoliberalism has on language. In his argument, language becomes fiscalised, appropriated by managerial, corporate and institutional demands. In this instance, does the editor’s role become that of a guardian of language and nuance?
Comment [DDM]:
Comment [DDM]:
Comment [DDM]:
Comment [DDM]:
Reference the collective nature of certain digital publications and the expertise of academic publishers seeking to develop a presence online.
Comment [DDM]:
Yet the digital is not a space devoid of gender politics, and the authority with which editing can sometimes be invested with in this context is problematically patriarchal. Secondly, particularly in the context of China, the legislation of the digital, and the power structures that situate that, means that editing can be either powerful resistance or ruthless censorship- and this is a fundamental tension.
Comment [DDM]:
Comment [DDM]:
At the same time, the digital carries the heavy baggage of problems that plague both public and academic contexts.

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