Journal published by doctoral students increases world readership
Fifty years after release of Hannah Arendt’s controversial book “Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil,” student scholars in Virginia Tech’s Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical and Cultural Thought graduate program reflect on the author and the issues in the latest edition of SPECTRA.
A peer-reviewed online journal led by Virginia Tech students, SPECTRA uses global interest in a timely topic to expand its borders, publishing essays by scholars in Germany, Brazil, and England as well as the United States in its September 2014 edition.
“A lot of articles have been written in the last year about the 50th anniversary of ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem,’ ” said François Debrix, professor of political science and director of Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical and Cultural Thought. “But, to my knowledge, the SPECTRA special issue is the only full journal edition that seriously reflects on Arendt’s work and her overall political contribution.”
Besides being its first themed edition, the latest issue marks three years of publishing success for ASPECT.
Since its launch in February 2012, the journal’s website has been viewed from nearly every country in the world, said Sascha Engel of Frankfurt, Germany, its current editor.
In the past year, it has averaged 350 visits a month, a majority from the U.S. but increasingly from other countries.
Engel attributed the growing interest in part to the broad geographic area from which essays are solicited. Calls for submission are posted on the journal’s website and emailed to all current and previous Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical and Cultural Thought students, who spread the word to their colleagues.
The call is also posted on Facebook and announced at academic conferences.
Working with Engel on the journal are Jordan Laney of McDowell County, North Carolina, and Anthony Szczurek of Chicago and New York City, co-editors-elect; and Christian Matheis of San Antonio, Texas, editor emeritus.
“The work we invite and publish questions the boundaries of contemporary scholarship in a number of fields,” Matheis said, “extending and challenging my own thoughts about the questions we need to prepare to ask in the 21st century.”
The editing team reviews each submission and, if a majority approves it, sends it immediately to a peer reviewer.
Two essays for the February 2015 edition are already in review, Engel said, more than a month ahead of the Nov. 3 submission deadline.
The review process is double-blind, Engel explained. “We haven’t had a case yet where somebody could tell who reviewed something or who wrote it.”
Leading SPECTRA has given Engel invaluable management experience plus a view of scholarly publications from both sides: as a scholar submitting a potential article and as an editor evaluating that submission. Also, he said, “I value the opportunity to provide my fellow graduate students with a platform to publish often-daring interdisciplinary research while maintaining a friendly environment for them to do so.”
Engel learned about Virginia Tech’s Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical and Cultural Thought program while working on his master’s degree at Germany’s Darmstadt University of Technology, which has an exchange program with Virginia Tech.
Enrolling its first cohort of Ph.D. students in 2008, the Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical and Cultural Thought is a problem-centered, theory-based, multidisciplinary doctoral program in the humanities, the social sciences, and the arts. Among its activities are working papers through which faculty members present their ongoing research, a book presentation series to showcase faculty authors’ recently published texts, a lecture series, and hosting an annual conference that attracts scholars from around the globe to discuss their research.