Why Publish? The Politics of Communication in Perishing Times

Video archive - Sarah Kember's inaugural lecture | July 6, 2016

Introduction: A Manifesto for Future Publishing?

In this, the first in a series of short, polemical articles addressing key debates in academic publishing, we take a moment to reflect on what we are doing here, and to ask: Why Publish? Collated in response to Professor Sarah Kember’s 2016 inaugural lecture, 'Why Publish: The Politics of Publishing in Perishing Times' this issue both archives Kember’s lecture and invites responses. A video of the full lecture can be viewed above and is accompanied by a recent article by Kember on Open Access. Invited responses from Kember’s colleagues, Paula Gardner and Joan Haran complete the collection but we plan to add to these as your responses come in. 

Why Publish? The politics of communication in perishing times

In a context of ongoing crisis and policy reform in publishing, in the humanities, and the academy more widely; when it is no longer possible (if it ever was) to earn a living through commercial publishing while at the same time it is obligatory to earn a living (publish or perish) through academic publishing; when publishing is conservative and regulatory; when it is measured, individualised, competitive and anxiety-provoking; when the forms of academic and commercial publishing have become increasingly standardised and when we are not free to write how we would like to (and have in the past) even if we are still free to write what we would like to, Kember asks: why publish?

The question, she explains, is not entirely facetious. What is at stake is not, or not only the future of the publishing industry, the book or the individual’s career but the politics of communication inside the academy and beyond.

In as far as the politics of communication is at once negated and strongly enacted through policies oriented exclusively to commercial innovation, what is the value of revitalising strategies of invention and intervention in writing, scholarship and publishing?

There is a new generation of independent and university presses that are online and open access. In this talk, Kember considers what they can do to reinvent rather than reinforce what counts in scholarly and artistic practice.

Professor Sarah Kember
Director of Goldsmiths Press
Professor of New Technologies of Communications, Goldsmiths University of London