Asian Studies Review – history of a journal

Asian Studies Review – history of a journal

Asian Studies Review was founded in 1977 and was originally known as the ASAA Review. The Review replaced the ASAA Newsletter, which appeared six times between 1975 and 1976. The first editor was Tony Reid, who oversaw most of the first decade of the journal’s life. The journal published three issues per year until 1998, when it switched to quarterly issues.

            As the original name suggests, the journal initially served mainly as a means of communicating with members of the newly formed Asian Studies Association of Australia. Although it was common for a substantial portion of any given issue to be devoted to book reviews and review essays, the first few volumes dedicated most of their pages to developments in the field (e.g., upcoming events, lists of recently completed doctoral, MA, and Honours theses, and publications on Asia by Australian scholars), resources provide by and for secondary-school teachers, and reports on Asia-related conferences. By the early 1980s, there was a quiet campaign underway – including in the pages of the journal – to convert the journal into a place for more ‘intellectual inquiry’ and less ‘organisational details’ (see e.g., Jamie Mackie’s commentary in vol. 4, 1980).

In the late 1980s, under the editorship of Tony Milner at the ANU, the journal slowly began to resemble something like a conventional academic journal. An editorial committee was put in place, with individual editors assigned to specific discipline and countries. While ASR retained much of its communicative functions, substantive research essays became more common. There was an initial focus on Asian literature, and authors (and editors) conveyed a belief that the journal could play a role in making Australians more familiar with the culture of their neighbouring societies. Other topics included urban development in Asia, the history of the Indian Ocean region, and democracy and development in comparative perspective. A commonality was a sense that Australians needed to become more knowledgeable about the momentous changes in the region.

            In 1990, the journal acquired a new name, design, editors, and base, when Bob Elson assumed responsibility for editing Asian Studies Review at Griffith University. Common themes at this time included the Garnaut report, Australia’s growing economic enmeshment with Asia, and Australia’s future in the Asia–Pacific. A new ‘communications’ section was introduced to cater to ‘organisational’ matters, but by now most of the journal was devoted to formal academic studies. In the mid-1990s, the journal was based at Monash University, and this trend continued. The mix in topics became more even between the humanities and social sciences, and some themes covered at this time were women and the state, economic liberalisation, democracy, the East Asian miracle, and pre- and post-colonial history, and literature (including e.g., Shakespeare in Asia). The editors introduced a short section for film and video reviews.

            Since 1998, under the editorship of Kam Louie and his successors, the journal has made the transition to a conventional academic journal. Areas that have traditionally fallen outside of the scope of Asian studies, such as film, popular culture, health sciences, the environment, religion, diaspora, gender, and sexuality (sometimes collectively referred to as ‘the new humanities’), have been given much more prominence in the pages of the journal. At the same time, there has been ample coverage of the social and political sciences, with themes such as identity politics, patriarchy, class and power, governance and capitalism, and the developmental state.

            With the emergence of ASR as a comprehensive area-studies journal, it achieved SSCI listing in 2011. The Impact Factor has gradually risen, and reached an all-time high of 1.761 in 2020. The journal’s quartile ranking has also improved in recent years, and achieved Q1 status in 2021.

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