Anne Platt on the Transformation of the Asian Studies Review

Anne Platt on the Transformation of the Asian Studies Review

Anne Platt is the Assistant Editor of the Asian Studies Review. In this post, she reflects on the transformation of the Asian Studies Review over the 25 years she has been involved with the journal. Read the other posts in this series celebrating women’s contributions to the ASAA here.

Tell us about how you became involved in Asian Studies, and ASAA in particular.

My interest in Asian Studies, and Japanese language in particular, was sparked when I was still at primary school – my father worked for a company that traded with Japan, and had many Japanese colleagues who visited us regularly, so when I had to choose a language for high school, Japanese seemed much more logical and appealing than French or German. A year-long exchange in Japan, more Japanese study, including as part of the second cohort to complete the interpreting/translation course at the University of Queensland, and I knew my interests lay squarely in Asian Studies. After a stint as a Research Assistant at Griffith University, I began working in the Key Centre for Asian Languages and Studies, later to become the Asian Studies Centre, at the University of Queensland. The Key Centre, a joint venture with Griffith University, was established as a national initiative during what is now generally recognised as a ‘boom’ period for Asian languages and Asian Studies. Those were heady days, when it seemed that Asian Studies had come of age, but as the boom subsided and federal funding ended the Centre was forced to find new directions and funding sources. Asian Studies Review turned out to be one of those directions.

When did you first start working as the Assistant Editor of the Asian Studies Review?

Almost unbelievably to me, it’s been more than 25 years since I started working on Asian Studies Review (ASR) – in 1998, Kam Louie took over as Editor of the journal and, as he was Director of the Asian Studies Centre at the time, the journal was produced through the Centre. I was thrilled to take on the work – one of my first tasks when working at Griffith had been copy-editing World Review, the journal of the Queensland branch of the Australian Institute of International Affairs, and I’d hoped to be able to do more editing work ever since. I’ve always been much more at home tweaking other people’s writing than writing myself, which possibly also explains my interest in translation! Kam’s remit as Editor was to turn ASR into a fully refereed academic journal, starting with appointing an international Editorial Board and a small number of Regional Editors to assist in the process.

How have you seen Asian Studies Review change and grow over time?

The changes in both the journal’s content and production process over the years have been remarkable. We began with a handful of Regional Editors, who oversaw both manuscripts and book reviews, and the entire refereeing process was handled through our office. For the first year or two, we scraped to have enough refereed content to fill each issue. Most referees’ reports were handwritten and often needed to be typed up to de-identify the authors, and articles were submitted on floppy disks – I can remember driving out to one author’s house to collect the latest version of his article on disk so that we could meet our deadline!

Possibly the most startling difference for me, as Assistant Editor, is the increased ability to cross-check information (publication details, inconsistent references or ‘facts’ in articles) over the years. I remember, not so fondly, checking the books on sale in the UQ Bookshop for missing publication details to accompany book reviews – if the bookshop didn’t stock the title, and the review author hadn’t retained the publisher’s blurb, it was impossible to track down details such as price, length, and format in time for publication. Now, a quick check of the publisher’s website provides all the necessary details.

Technology has impacted the timeliness of publication, too. Whereas the publisher once mailed us a full hard copy of the journal proofs, which we marked up and returned, again in hard copy and by courier, we now work on uploaded pdfs, and the whole process from submission for typesetting to online publication can, if everything goes smoothly, take just 2-3 weeks. And, probably most importantly for authors, we can now publish individual articles online as soon as they’ve been finalised, so authors don’t need to wait for them to appear in a hard copy issue, which often takes much longer.

What are the trends you have noticed in publishing in ASR in recent years?

The main trend I’ve noticed is the increasing diversity of the articles we receive and publish. As I mentioned, we began with just a handful of Regional Editors, but the journal now has a wide range of both Regional and Thematic Editors, and a truly international Editorial Board, and this is reflected in its content. When I was thinking about this piece, and wondering how I have continued to enjoy my work on ASR so much over the years, I realised that it’s because of the incredible variety the work offers – on any given day I might be working on articles on topics as different as women’s romances in metropolitan Japan and Chinese cross-border e-commerce.

You have seen many articles and special issues published. Do you have any favourites?

I don’t tend to have many favourite articles or themes, partly because I find that even the most mundane-sounding articles often turn out to be the most fascinating. One of the greatest surprises recently was an article on the involvement of the monarchy in urban transport planning in Thailand – a topic outside my usual areas of interest (apologies to the author!), but the article itself was a revelation, touching on the role of the monarch, issues of private vs public transport and their class implications, and recent protests against the monarchy. A recent special issue I particularly enjoyed working on was on ‘Everyday Politics in North Korea’, simply because it’s a topic I knew very little about and it’s so rare to have a collection of articles on North Korea brought together in one issue.

What would your hopes be for the journal going forward?

I would hope that it can continue to raise and sustain the profile and quality of Asian Studies research during a challenging time for Asian Studies (departments) around the country. And that it can continue to publish a balance of research from new and established authors, Australian and international scholars, and both traditional and emerging fields.

While I find it difficult to be optimistic at present about the future of Asian Studies in Australia, I am optimistic for ASR. With Dirk Tomsa taking over from David Hundt as Editor-in-Chief I think I’m now working with my sixth EIC, and each one brings new ideas and a slightly different direction to ASR that help it develop further. This regular injection of new editorial input is another thing that helps keep the journal fresh and will, I hope, see it through a difficult period for Asian Studies in this country.

Do you have any tips or suggestions for authors who plan to submit their article to the ASR?

I’m not really involved with the submission or refereeing process these days, so all I can really suggest is to keep the submissions coming – and please follow the style guide!

Feature image supplied.

Anne Platt is the Assistant Editor of the Asian Studies Review.

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