Response

My reflections are of an entirely practical nature and are based on my experience as editor of an area-based journal, Central Asian Survey. I entirely agree with the observation in the mission statement that we are poised at a crucial moment when disciplines and area-based knowledge can enter into more meaningful interaction.

However, in the UK at least, institutional research performance auditing (such as the former Research Assessment Exercise [RAE], now the Research Excellence Framework [REF]) exerts powerful pressure on scholars not only to publish in discipline-based journals but to favor those on a particular league table of supposed excellence in their parent disciplines. As a result, we have had to rethink the ways in which we could make the most effective contribution. In our case we found that unfolding events in the region we cover (such as the various “colour revolutions” in the post-Soviet space, for example) receive shallow and often misleading commentary, and we started to think about how we could combine current “hot” topics with attention to the longue durée and solid analytical grounding. Agenda-setting special issues were the means we used to drive this orientation, put together through a combination of conference papers, calls for papers, and sometimes invited contributions — all subject of course to a rigorous peer review process. I think it has worked. Left entirely to the vagaries of regular submissions, we would never have achieved the goals we set ourselves.

The task of CSSAAME is even more complex since it has a broader geographical scope than Central Asian Survey. But it should not be impossible to identify clusters of issues that can be put in a comparative cross-regional perspective and to draw upon different disciplines. (In our case, for instance, the dialogues between political scientists and anthropologists, in particular political anthropologists, turned out to be fascinating.) In brief, initially at least, a proactive editorial policy that targets specific issues or clusters of issues that have immediate real-world relevance seems desirable. The issue of so-called postauthoritarian transitions will run and run, and so will resource issues and the geopolitics thereof. What is more important than the actual list of concerns at this point is what editorial mechanisms will be mobilized to create a new platform. In my experience this sort of thing actually takes shape in the doing anyway. Best wishes with this new undertaking.

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