Founded in late 2015 by Oxford students Mark Barclay and Paul Ostwald, the Journal of Interrupted Studies has garnered the attention of PEN International, NPR and the Stanford Social Innovation Review for its groundbreaking efforts to lend a voice to refugee academics. Just this week, the journal (currently available in print) launched its blog, 'Interruptions', which aims to provide a platform for artists, activists, and academics to engage in wider discussions about refugee issues online.
The Oxford Writers' House caught up with JIS Co-Founder Paul Ostwald to ask about the journal's inner workings and new directions. - Publications Director, Theophilus Kwek
If you ask me there’s something wrong with putting chocolate in coffee, my co-editor Mark Barclay – a philosophy student – would call it a “category mistake”.
We'll start with an easy one: the Oxford Student has called coffee your 'preferred editorial tool'. If you had to choose to drink only this for the rest of your life, will it be a latte, a flat white, or a mocha?
Either flat white or latte depending on the coffee shop, never a mocha. If you ask me there’s something wrong with putting chocolate in coffee, my co-editor Mark Barclay – a philosophy student – would call it a “category mistake”. Coffee and hot chocolate are different categories, why mix them?
It’s going well, it’s just been a lot more work than we initially thought it would be. We started with an initial team of three people, which put a lot of weight on a few pairs of shoulders. It’s been rewarding to see how enthusiastic the team and the authors have been over the last few months, and that’s been the wind in our sails. From the second edition onwards, we’ll be published by Brill, a major academic publishing house in the Netherlands.
Your journal operates on an open submissions policy, and promises a reply within 24 hours. Could you tell us a bit about the editorial and peer review process that goes into each article?
It’s always been very important to me personally that the journal is available in physical form ... it is very important to our authors to have a printed version of their article at hand.
Sure. We’re an academic journal edited by students. Obviously, we don’t personally have the expertise to edit articles by displaced senior academics. Every article before publication is blind-reviewed by two academics around the globe, who do not know anything about the personal story of the contributor. That way we want to ensure that articles are only judged based on their academic merit. After a second stage of corrections and amendments from the author, we go into copy-editing the whole article before publication.
It’s always been very important to me personally that the journal is available in physical form, even if we reach much more readers online. My experience has been that it is very important to our authors to have a printed version of their article at hand.
We've seen important efforts recently to call out, and reverse, Oxford's prevailing Eurocentricism. Has it been a challenge for you and your co-editors to look outside Oxford's Anglophone/Western bubble in seeking contributors and partners?
Yes, it has. I was raised in Kenya and thus spent some time outside the “Oxford Anglophone/Western” bubble—or spent time in a different “Western” bubble as part of the Kenyan expat community, if you will. Working with authors from the Middle East and Africa (mainly) has led us into new territory, obviously. But it’s also shown me how “universal” academia is. Wherever authors might come from, academia functions as a language and pattern of communicating content that is quite universally acknowledged. It’s more like diving into the “Academic-scholarly” bubble than anything else.
Wherever authors might come from, academia functions as a language and pattern of communicating content that is quite universally acknowledged.
Finally, what do you think the city and university can do to complement and support the Journal's efforts?
We crucially depend on support from the University’s students. Our editorial team in Oxford is growing, and it’s great to see that students are so interested in the project. Especially students taking the MSc course in Refugee and Forced Migration students would be a fantastic addition to our team.