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‘Just One Day of Unstructured Autonomous Time’: Supporting Editorial Labour For Ethical Publishing Within The University

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Adema, Janneke 


Universities have traditionally supported the distribution of critical and cultural theory through departmental and centre publishing (e.g. Working Papers in Cultural Studies) and the establishment of university presses. However, over recent decades publishing has been increasingly outsourced to commercial providers, buttressed by volunteer academic labour extracted for profit by the publishing industry. At the same time, faced with ongoing casualisation and ever-increasing workloads, the labour required for academic publishing is severely undervalued by the university and in a permanent state of crisis. In this article we put forward a radical proposal for universities to provide scholars dedicated time to support publishing as part of their academic service work. We intervene strongly into discourses that approach the publishing labour crisis by arguing for calculative solutions in the form of payment or credit. Instead, this article explores reorienting the labour underpinning academic publishing within the university itself by positioning it as an integral part of scholarly research and what it means to be a researcher. We make this argument through an in-depth engagement with debates on academic citizenship on the value of service work and discourses on academic labour derived from within critical university studies. We further support our argument by drawing on discussions on labour and open access (OA) publishing, referencing various alternative models currently being developed that, based on scholar-led, library-led and ‘new’ university press publishing, are experimenting with innovative ways to value and perform labour relations as part of community-controlled collective organisations. As universities are increasingly financially and infrastructurally supporting such initiatives, particularly with recourse to library budgets, we explore how this in many ways has left labour issues for publishing as a service performed as part of an academic’s workload unaltered. We therefore argue for the urgent need to reconfigure how universities view the labour behind academic publishing, to support more ethical engagements and relations with publishing, bring knowledge production back under the control of academic communities, and to support greater academic autonomy within universities.



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New Formations

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Lawrence and Wishart

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