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Radical Review: Editor's Note

The following post originally appears in CSC's inaugural edition of Radical Review.

The title ‘Editor-in-chief’ belies the essentially collaborative nature of a project like this. From early discussions aimed at formulating a theme, to the peer-review, editing, and proof-reading processes, this has very much been a collective effort. With that in mind, I would like to thank Yasmin Jones, Erika Mukherjee, Aalok Vora, Marisa Tramontano, and Nousha Nematzadeh, for their help at various stages and throughout. Special mention is reserved for CSC founder Saghar Birjandian, for coming up with the idea for the Radical Review in the first place, and for playing a crucial role throughout its development, as made clear in her Preface (p3) and Introduction (p5). In the collaborative and necessarily adaptive and problem-driven approach taken to its compilation, this inaugural Radical Review solidly reflects CSC’s driving ethos.

During those initial preparatory discussions, in the throes of 2020, it became obvious that the pandemic would be central to our theme. As a crisis felt across the world, it necessitated radical thinking in a number of ways. It is worth reproducing part of our initial concept note here to illustrate:

A common refrain among scholars of space and infrastructure reminds us that the systems that sustain us only really become visible when they are put under strain and start to break down, or stop working altogether. The ongoing COVID crisis is having this effect on society (or societies) writ large. As a genuinely global crisis, all over the world it is functioning like an x-ray, throwing in sharp relief the systems, structures, and principles that order our societies. Inequalities of all stripes are exacerbated, networks of infrastructures placed under new stresses, and governance priorities are laid bare by how and when those in power choose to intervene to mitigate the effects of the crisis, if at all.

But as clear as it was that the pandemic would be an appropriate springboard from which to launch the Radical Review, we knew it would that it would also make it challenging to bring it together in a focused way. As much as the pandemic was an almost universally disruptive force, the intensity of that disruption was wildly unevenly distributed. It is perhaps because it was universally disruptive that the nature of those disruptions varied so much. Our focus on governance meant that submissions would reflect the diverse forms of governance in operation around the world, and the diverse ways in which they became or were revealed as acutely problematic during the pandemic (whether through their continued or truncated operation). This varied both within and across polities. This is how, for example, we have an essay proposing radical solutions for the reclamation and repurposing of common green space in North American cities (Sample, p15), alongside an essay offering innovative suggestions for the rehabilitation of police and army officers responsible for gratuitous violence against civilians in Uganda (Okoth, p38). Maintaining a coherent thread across such a broad range of topics presents editorial challenges, and an overview that places each in context, grouped according to two broad interpretations of the central theme can be found in Birjandian’s Introduction (p5).

There was no way of knowing exactly what shape this volume would take at the start. It unfolded organically, and its substantive contours reflect the turbulent period during which it was produced. More is said on what there is to learn from the diversity of the contributions itself in the Conclusion (p60). But for now, I would like simply to thank all of the authors for working on these essays during what has been a difficult year for more or less everyone. I’m proud to be able to present this to the world and you all should be too.

Another core value of CSC’s comes from the belief that every single one of us is relevant to processes of violence prevention and to peace more broadly. Gatekeeping is an enemy of genuine progress. Yet it rears its head in few places more than the academy, despite more idealistic characterizations seeing the latter as a site of potential liberation. All of our contributors have some kind of academic background, but they are not all writing as academics. This is not a document that is simply by scholars, for scholars.

One potentially insidious example of scholarly gatekeeping is the insistence on peculiar linguistic conventions. While these may admirably intend towards objectivity and clarity in theory, in practise they can arbitrarily exclude the uninitiated. Especially, that is, those for whom English is not a first language, or whose English is not the precise vernacular spoken among particular social classes in the UK and North America. This is not meant to condescend by suggesting anyone find difficulty in writing in a defined style because of their background but rather to, at least for now, do away with the need to do so. Central to the enterprise of demystifying radicalism is allowing as many different normalities as possible to share an equal epistemic footing. Central to that is the preservation of every author’s voice. Ensuring readability and effective flow while maintaining what is unique about a writer’s style is a basic skill required for editing, but it is one that I feel is particularly important to emphasize here. We are not aiming for authorless objectivity but rather to radically foreground subjectivity. We are not aiming to translate ideas into academic English, but rather to make it clear that knowledge production and knowledge sharing are not confined to the academy, however valuable a role it may have to play.

It is our hope that this volume is read as widely as possible. This is not just about the number of people who read it (although a lot would be nice!), but about the range of spaces and circles in which it can be shared and considered relevant. We hope that it sparks conversation, thought, and action, and that it can do so for anyone.

To download all essays comprising the inaugural Radical Review, click here.

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