Since its launch in 2016, The Journal of Interrupted Studies has sought to engage a neglected but significant aspect of the migrant crisis: displaced academics. Fleeing their homes and workplaces, they carry not only a lifetime of research in their discipline; they bare the fragments of their society’s dispersed intellectual and cultural tradition. Since our launch, we have attempted to document and platform their thoughts, fears and aspirations as they negotiate this unprecedented situation. Its main mission: to champion intellectual discourse on an eye-to-eye level.
In this issue you will find a cross section of authors from around the world. Their subjects range from art history to the hard sciences. Likewise, you will find academics represented at all stages of their career, from PhD candidates to tenured professors. The unifying principle is that their work has been interrupted or affected by a situation of forced migration. Together, these voices testify to an extraordinary resilience and the tragedy of forgotten human potential.
With time we have found that the nature of displacement varies greatly with place and time. Initially, we expected submissions primarily from Syria. But by 2017 the purge of critical academics in Turkey was increasingly reflected in the submissions we received. We have thus had to continually re-evaluate the nature of forced migration and the various ways displacement manifests itself at a local and international level. Furthermore, we have been repeatedly reminded that migration is rarely mono-causal – political, environmental and social factors play into the equation. As we are one of the few initiatives navigating this tricky intersection of academia and forced migration, we continually learn and adapt.
The exceptional circumstances in which our authors make their submissions is reflected in the nature of their work. Sometimes their papers build on limited data sets as they could not conclude experiments. Other times, authors have suffered from a lack of basic resources such as journals and feedback from peers as their networks fell apart. Finally, English is often a second or even a third language. The articles themselves thus bear the imprint of the complexity of the author’s circumstances and are themselves important documents of the human cost of flight. In some cases the lines between reportage, narrative and academic analysis are fruitfully blurred. As one of our authors put it in response to peer review feedback, she wanted to maintain the ‘rusty pendulum’ implicit in her article’s style, swinging between personal experience and academic discourse in hermeneutic circles. This for her captured what it was like to suffer under the political crackdown she was both experiencing and analyzing.
This has undoubtedly expanded the nature of our work as editors and we are grateful for the generosity of our peer reviewers who have invested both time and effort to support the work of our authors. Their support and open heartedness has fostered a real exchange in mutual respect across cultural, linguistic and political barriers. Our authors have been thrilled to respond to honest and rigorous feedback, especially after long periods without the chance to receive responses to their work. Having embarked on this project as a response to the reductive presentation of refugees in western media, it has been enormously rewarding to be able to facilitate such a dialogue.
We have also been helped by the tireless efforts of our team in Oxford who have helped scour the world for submissions and source some brilliant academics to evaluate them. Thanks to Danny Coleman, Emma Christie, Anna Lukina, Chesney Ovsiowitz, Thomas Munro and Richard Birch. We would also like to thank our copy editors for their careful work helping us work through language difficulties and tracking down sources from around the world.
It remains for us to express our gratitude to everyone at Brill who has made this presentation of the Journal possible. Brill generously reached out and offered to publish this and forthcoming editions as part of their open access collection. For us this represents a consequential step forward in bringing to light these neglected yet crucial perspectives. With their support we look forward to pressing on with our work and gratefully receiving your feedback.