Thursday, October 7, 2010

Social Text – some collected thoughts

After perusing the Social Text website, multiple recent abtracts, and a few articles (including the 30-year anniversary introduction) we have emerged with a few general impressions about the journal.

Social Text seems to be particularly invested in examinations of concrete political issues and events, often alongside the generation or discovery of new archives to investigate. However, there seems to be an ongoing, or at least recurring methodological debate, about the role and usefulness of formal analysis in relation to cultural and social theory. Cultural objects seem to serve primarily as starting points for reflections and critiques (on/of ideology, power, etc.).

The way the journal operates through an editorial collective (eschewing anonymous peer review) has changed over time but remains a distinguishing feature. It's hard to determine, without doing further research, the composition of the current collective or what impact this has on what the journal publishes.

According to the introduction we read, the journal has sustained its interest in the "politics of academic labour," the "complexities of war and imperialism," postcolonial theory and queer theory, while debates focusing on mass culture or postmodernism seem to have fallen by the wayside (17) – the latter inevitably(?) tied up with the misleading Sokal incident of 1996.

There appears to be little explicit referencing of Marxism in what the journal publishes now, but its Marxist origins might be glimpsed in its continued emphasis on material and empirical matters. Though Social Text still describes itself in terms of the leading edge it probably lies much closer to the centre now in terms of cultural studies scholarship and research. Key words like "globalization," "diaspora," "corporate culture" and "transnational history" seem to reflect predominant more than groundbreaking concerns in contemporary cultural studies.

This last point led us to broader, open-ended questions about the role of journals in contemporary academia and the inherent conventionalism of a standard print journal of academic essays. Food for future thought...

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