Black Leaders in Academic Publishing: 7 Stories
Three Researchers, three Editors, and a Managing Director discuss what they're most passionate about.
Photo of Dr. Nishaun Battle by Saraellen Bagby
Photo of Dr. Nishaun Battle by Saraellen Bagby
A few months ago, I came across a great article in the New York Times about Black authors, editors, and booksellers who discussed their particular experiences in the publishing industry. I searched far and wide and saw that there was very little out there written about Black researchers, editors, and professionals in academic publishing and their work. I think it is important to highlight the work that Black researchers are doing, all over the world. So I took it upon myself to reach out to several Black researchers and professionals in academic publishing, and ask them what they're working on right now.
I had the privilege of speaking with seven professionals, including researcher and author Rihana S. Mason, Ph.D.; editor in chief and author Moradewun Adejunmobi Ph.D.; researcher and author Tracie Q. Gilbert, Ph.D.; researcher and author Nishaun T. Battle, Ph.D.; editor in chief and author Louis Chude-Sokei, Ph.D.; publishing industry professional Leon Heward-Mills; and journal founder and co-editor Godwin Siundu, Ph.D.. What follows are their stories.
Rihana S. Mason, Ph.D., Research Scientist, Urban Child Study Center, Georgia State University, College of Education and Human Development; SEPA President; Co-founder Academic Pipeline Project, LLC. Author, Academic Pipeline Programs: Diversifying the Bachelor's to the Professoriate
"I have always been fascinated by the ways in which cultural diversity shapes word learning and our ability to communicate our knowledge of the world to others. My desire to become a psychologist was inspired by witnessing two things: the issues a young woman faced with reconciling how to simultaneously learn two languages and the consequences of designing an intervention without considering the variability among the human experience. I was intrigued by a young girl's success in learning a foreign language but struggles to learn the vocabulary and grammatical structure of her native language. Her challenges provided the basis for me to later become trained as a cognitive psychologist."
"My dissertation research explored how learner characteristics influenced one’s ability to acquire the meanings of novel words during reading. My dissertation and later research examine differences in the processes that learners devote to acquiring depth of knowledge for new words. Participation in several subsequent multidisciplinary research and evaluation teams has strengthened my evolving interests in studying diverse learning contexts and methods for ensuring that diverse voices are included in the design of new assessments of learning and teaching tools."
"As a mid-career professional, I am devoting more attention to ensuring the successful training of the next generation of scientists by illuminating the historical contributions of persons of color to science and education."
"As a mid-career professional, I am devoting more attention to ensuring the successful training of the next generation of scientists by illuminating the historical contributions of persons of color to science and education. This emphasis is related to my co-authorship of book publications, including Early Psychological Research Contributions from Women of Color (Grahe, et al., in progress) and Academic Pipeline Programs: Diversifying the Bachelor's to the Professoriate ( Byrd & Mason, 2021). I am passionate about connecting others with new knowledge and resources, enriching others’ lived experiences, and sharing my 20 years of experience as a researcher, professor, visionary leader, and mentor."
Moradewun Adejunmobi, Ph.D., Professor, African American and African Studies, University of California, Davis; Editor in Chief, Journal of the African Literature Association
"My own research is in the area of African literary and cultural studies. While academic work has been devoted to this field at least since the early 20th century, the need for sustained attention to this area of work has continued to grow. Like many other scholars, and in the early years after completing my PhD, I thought of the effort to shape the field in which I worked mainly in terms of my own research and my own publications. Over time, I came to realize that the question of pushing the field in new directions was not just a matter of carrying on with my own publications. It would require giving attention to the institutions that structure the production of knowledge: obviously universities, research foundations, publishers, and also journals among many others."
"Over time, I came to realize that the question of pushing the field in new directions was not just a matter of carrying on with my own publications. It would require giving attention to the institutions that structure the production of knowledge: obviously universities, research foundations, publishers, and also journals among many others."
"Becoming the Editor in Chief of the Journal of the African Literature Association in 2020 presented me with an opportunity: that of working with a team on our Board of Editors to open up our field to new questions and subjects. For one thing, we could publish articles on a wider range of expressive works connected to Africa and the African Diaspora. We could publish articles exploring a wider range of approaches to these expressive works, unlike journals that are not focused on African literary and cultural studies, and which tended to limit their interests in Africa and the African diaspora to a select grouping of expressive works and critical approaches."
"Among scholars working on subjects pertaining to Africa, there have been many debates about the politics and ethics of knowledge production about Africa. With my colleagues at the Journal of the African Literature Association, we have an opportunity to contribute to these debates through what we publish and, in so doing, to also grow our field."
Tracie Q. Gilbert, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Widener University Center for Human Sexuality Studies/Author, Black and Sexy: A Framework of Racialized Sexuality
“I am a researcher and educator who uses her work to pursue sexual wellness for African American people and racial justice in sex education spaces. I’ve been at this work for just over a decade now, and what I’ve found in that time is that, while the sexuality profession has an increased awareness that race impacts the ways people grow up to understand their sexuality and sexual selves, we have not yet articulated in full how that impact shows up, and what it looks like in real time. My first book, Black & Sexy: A Framework of Racialized Sexuality, is an attempt to help answer that question; it is based on grounded theory research conducted in 2016 and 2017 on structures and schemas of racialized sexuality among African Americans.”
"while the sexuality profession has an increased awareness that race impacts the ways people grow up to understand their sexuality and sexual selves, we have not yet articulated in full how that impact shows up, and what it looks like in real time."
“Race emerged as an impacting factor in two explicit ways through the research: as a life-affirming expression of sexiness (“the stuff of sex”) via performative Blackness (coined by E. Patrick Johnson) and as an adverse external influence on one’s sexiness expression via forms of anti-Blackness and racial maligning like colorism, fetishization, and politics of respectability (coined by Evelyn Higginbotham). While the emergent theory I discuss, Black Sexual Epistemology, explores the elements and process of sexual development more broadly, I am most passionate about how the specific aspects of racialization impact not just Black lives, but those of society’s citizens as a whole. For example, how do non-Black people reconcile anti-Blackness in their conceptualizations of sex and relationships, particularly given the simultaneous influence of Black sexiness on mainstream pop culture? As well, I’m interested in how other groups of color understand the impact of racialization on their own sex lives—how it converges with and diverges from Black experiences, as well as producing its own unique dimensions.”
“As I continue my own research agenda, I will be paying attention to other deeper questions—particularly the parts of racialization that have caused African Americans sexual shame and trauma. Hopefully, what is unpacked in future research will prove informative for creating more culturally competent and impactful practitioner modalities among this population.”
Nishaun T. Battle, Ph.D., Associate Professor,
Undergraduate Coordinator of Criminal Justice,
Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, Virginia State University. Author, Black Girlhood, Punishment, and Resistance: Reimagining Justice for Black Girls in Virginia
"My work centers on raising awareness and creating solutions with and for Black girls who continue to go unheard, unseen, and devalued in society. I am interested in social justice spaces intentionally designed and created by Black women, to help foster spaces of joy, affirmation, and opportunities for learning and development for Black girls. My book, Black Girlhood, Punishment, and Resistance: Reimagining Justice for Black Girls in Virginia, offers insight into social justice themes that are of interest to me, including leadership development, wellness, and sisterhood, just to name a few. Additionally, my interest in the role Black women have played and continue to play, for the advancement of Black girls, highlights the work of Janie Porter Barrett, the founder of the Virginia Industrial School for Colored Girls. Both my research and personal interests include exploring spaces created by Black women, and engaged by Black girls, in which they have the opportunity to navigate demeaning social narratives, and resist against anti-Black narratives that are stereotypical, oppressive, and limiting."
"I am passionate about Black girls having the opportunity to live their lives as girls, and not being subjected to adultification by both societies at large"
"I am passionate about Black girls having the opportunity to live their lives as girls, and not being subjected to adultification by both societies at large, and within interpersonal settings they socialize in. I want the harsh, and beautiful realities experienced by Black girls to become a part of the larger societal narrative, in helping to shape and develop programs designed for them to flourish in life. I am a strong advocate for mentorship, and as such, in addition to being a Professor, I serve as a technical assistant consultant for a nationwide mentorship program that helps individuals who want to start youth-based non-profit organizations. I also serve as a board member for a local non-profit, youth-based organization, for young Black girls and girls of color." You can learn more about Dr. Battle's research and interests at www.drnishaunbattle.com.
Louis Chude-Sokei, Ph.D., Professor Of English, George And Joyce Wein Chair In African American Studies, Director Of The African American Studies Program, Boston University. Editor in Chief, The Black Scholar. Author, Floating in A Most Peculiar Way.
"The more work I do, the harder it is to describe the work that I do. Ostensibly I’m a scholar who trained in Literary studies. Within that discipline I was able to pursue interdisciplinary commitments in performance, migration, sound, and technology. I’ve written on everything from Blackface minstrelsy in America, Africa, and the Caribbean, to the Harlem Renaissance; from the literatures of new African migration to reggae music and post-turntable sound cultures; from Anglo-American modernism, Caribbean theory, and African internet crime, to robotics, science fiction, and now Artificial Intelligence. These interests have led to extracurricular work as a sound artist and curator, working with international museums and now Carnegie Hall with whom I’m co-curating the 2022 Festival of Afrofuturism."
"'Blackness' has had... a problematic US-centrism"
"Because I came into the scholarly world as a writer of non-fiction, I’ve always balanced my academic work with public writing, which ranges from newspapers, magazines and museum catalogs to belletrist work that culminated in a memoir published at the start of 2021. That memoir, Floating in A Most Peculiar Way, gave narrative to the life and work thus far."
"What it might not have given shape to is how I became Director of African American Studies at Boston University as well as the editor in chief of The Black Scholar, one of the oldest and still leading journals of Black Studies in the United States. The memoir is the story of someone for whom 'Blackness' has had such a problematic US-centrism that Diaspora is less an organized continuity than a sphere of endless conflict, tension, and difference. As such, I never thought of my work as being 'African American' or 'Black' Studies at all! However, it is because I see Blackness as fragmented, fissured, discordant and often irreconcilable I’m able to see and hear things most others can’t, or won’t."
Leon Heward-Mills, Managing Director, Researcher Services, Taylor & Francis
“My work is geared around developing Taylor & Francis’s services for expert research communities. It all begins with our purpose as an organization: using knowledge to foster human progress. This concept of human progress at the center of everything Taylor & Francis does is a critical starting point to think about what we do and why we do it. I endeavor every day to use my time, energy, and talents to enable the dissemination of quality, data-driven research that is essential to drive human progress.”
“What I'm working on now with my colleagues is removing some of the friction from the process. We want to speed up the movement of research and make it as easy as possible for researchers to connect, collaborate, and disseminate good quality, trusted content. I’m committed to democratizing that research, in order to make sure that the widest and most diverse range of expert voices are heard. I'm really keen to level the field so that the best of the best can emerge, and ensure that the most relevant expert knowledge is surfaced and disseminated. Bringing diversity, equity, and fairness to academic research communication is my passion. Making sure that we’re giving researchers a voice and a trusted platform and that we are creating valued services. This work has caused me and my team to think more creatively about what we do as a business.”
"what Routledge and Taylor & Francis have always done... (is to) create a place where curated, validated content can exist and evolve, where ideas collide and where thinking and insight can develop."
"Quality and ethical integrity is the basis of the trust on which all research and research communication has to be based. Our role is to ensure all research that we publish is thought through, validated, and properly curated. If it is wrong, we will say that it's wrong and, if necessary, working with our expert communities, will remove or adapt it. We create a place where curated, validated content can exist and evolve, where ideas collide and where thinking and insight can develop. That is what Routledge and Taylor & Francis have always done. To do this work is a privilege; it’s one of the most rewarding and one of the most vital things that anybody could be doing in communications right now."
Godwin Siundu Ph.D., Professor, University of Nairobi; Founding co-editor of Eastern African Literary and Cultural Studies
"I am a literary and cultural studies scholar based at the University of Nairobi, and founding co-editor of Eastern African Literary and Cultural Studies, which has regularly run since 2014. I have passionately focused on highlighting literary and cultural scholarship in and on the region for greater visibility and use across Africa and the world."
"I am driven by an understanding born from my appreciation of the limited opportunities available for scholars who are based in the region to conduct and publish innovative, timely, and relevant research that also speaks to trends and emerging philosophies of knowledge in the rest of the world. This means that little that emerges out of the region travels across the world. This problem is traceable to conceptual limitations of what is ‘new, relevant, publishable knowledge’ that is relatable to other scholars from elsewhere. The conceptual constriction is further complicated by the popularity of archaic pedagogical approaches that emphasise ‘lecture’ methodologies, which undermine dialogic exchange of ideas between our students and their lecturers. This is frustrating to everyone."
"I find passion in mediating instructional and publishing experiences among colleagues, current, and future researchers, as a way of facilitating a deeper understanding of literary and cultural trends in eastern Africa in the current world order of knowledge-based economies."
"Therefore, as a journal editor and educator based in one of the most privileged spaces of knowledge production in the Global South, I find passion in mediating instructional and publishing experiences among colleagues, current and future researchers, as a way of facilitating a deeper understanding of literary and cultural trends in eastern Africa in the current world order of knowledge-based economies."
Please tell our readers about the work you do, and what you are most passionate about.
"I am most passionate about how the specific aspects of racialization impact not just Black lives, but those of society’s citizens as a whole."