Mina Roces on Finding Sustained Support in the ASAA

Mina Roces on Finding Sustained Support in the ASAA

Mina Roces is Professor of History in the School of Humanities and Languages in the Faculty of Arts, Design and Architecture at the University of New South Wales. She was the Publications’ Officer and a member of the Council for more than ten years, from 2004 to 2015. In this post, she reflects on her experience finding sustained support in the ASAA. Read the other posts in this series on celebration women’s contributions to the ASAA here.

What role did you hold on the ASAA Council? Why did you get involved?

I was Publications’ Officer for the ASAA from 2004 to 2015 and a member of the Council.

I was keen to be involved because I enjoyed promoting other scholars work and because I thought it would be fun and interesting to work with both publishers and Book Series Editors.

I also wanted to gain insight into how publishers promote books and how Book Series Editors work with manuscripts for submission. At the time I was also considering whether I would accept an invitation to be Book Series Editor for the Sussex Library of Asian Studies (published by Sussex Academic Press).

You held the role of Publications Officer for a record 10 years, what motivated you to stay involved with the ASAA?

What motivated me to stay involved was that I felt very much supported by the ASAA Council. I became great friends with some of the members of Council and that was really important because it was possible for me to share my own experiences of rejections and challenges in the publishing world, which we all face. I was also fortunate to receive publishing advice and feedback from Asian Studies scholars, both those more experienced than myself and also from my peers. I also enjoyed organizing the book launches for other people’s books at the Biennial ASAA Conference, which is a great way to celebrate and promote these scholarly achievements.

During your time serving ASAA, what were some of the initiatives you were involved with? 

My favourite initiative was the introduction of the Mega Book Launch of all books in the four series (Women in Asia Publications Series, East Asia Publications Series, Southeast Asia Publications Series, and South Asia Publications Series) published in the two years prior to the ASAA conference. We held these Mega Book Launches at the reception of that year’s conference. My role was to liaise with the Book Series Editors, the authors of the books, and the publishers to bring them all together. It was very rewarding giving the authors the recognition they deserved for their books and publishers were always pleased to have the books promoted and sold at the launch. I enjoyed the key role I played in organizing this event.

We understand you also played a key role as a judge on a prize committee for many years (possibly another record!). What was your role on the committee and why should others consider volunteering for such a role?

As part of the Publications’ Officer role I also served as judge for the prize for the best dissertation in Asian studies. I think I did this also for about 6 or 8 years. The John Legge Prize for the Best Thesis in Asian Studies is a way that the ASAA recognises emerging scholarship. Applicants submit their thesis along with their examiners reports, and the committee assesses applicants on this basis.

We then often invited the winners of the prize and those shortlisted to publish in the ASAA book series, which is a fantastic opportunity. So it’s not just the prize and recognition that the winners receive, but the possibility of publishing their thesis as a book.

This experience also gave me insights and ideas that I put into practise when I became book series editor myself of the Sussex Library of Asian Studies from 2006-2021. From 2022 the series has been renamed the Liverpool Library of Asian and Asian American Studies published by Liverpool University Press. For example, like the prize committee, as a book editor I used the examiners’ reports of book proposals we received that were based on a thesis as a review process, which allowed authors to have their first books put in production much earlier than if they had to start a new review process.

As Publications’ Officer, I also had to exercise skills in diplomacy and negotiation in mediating and communicating between the authors and the Series Editors or publishers to ensure a smooth publishing process. I was also responsible for onboarding new Series Editors when the person was replaced (or when publishers also changed), making sure they knew what their role was and where they could get support.

Why would you encourage other women to join ASAA and become involved in the Council?

I think women should be involved in the ASAA Council because it gives them a voice and because it is a very good way to advance your leadership skills. At the same time, I felt very much supported by the members of the Council, some of whom became good friends. Sometimes it is not so easy to find supportive friends or colleagues because of the competitive nature of academic life, but the ASAA Council was always a safe haven and source of solidarity; a strong and diverse network of scholars who could mentor and/or give you constructive feedback on your research as well as moral support.

What else do you think ASAA, or academic associations, need to do to support women academics?

I think keeping the Women’s Caucus (now Women’s Forum) active is essential [Note: see the Women’s Forum Facebook page to keep up to date with its news]. One of the key contributions it made was to ensure there were gender panels at conferences. It also tried to ensure that committees had a gender balance and so on.

In the future, I also think that it would help to run initiatives that are women-friendly—like a stream with women’s studies or gender issues at the conference, running a mentor scheme where ECRs can have a senior woman mentor them, or having some online seminars about grant writing and how to take on leadership roles in your institution. It would also be useful to hold seminars on how to respond to rejections and readers’ feedback as this would help to navigate the publications process. I think the Women in Asia conferences are an essential tradition to keep going also. [Note: the Expressions of Interest for the 2025 Women in Asia Conference is now out! Contact the president if your institution might be interested in hosting the event.]

Image: Photo by Iñaki del Olmo on Unsplash

Mina Roces is Professor of History in the School of Humanities and Languages in the Faculty of Arts, Design and Architecture at the University of New South Wales.

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