Volume One, No. 2 | Spring 2000

j_spot online edition ISSN 1481 8 5842

'Weblish' or Perish, or, 'I Touch Myself': Reflections on j_spot the Journal of Social and Political Thought

[ b y M . M i c h a e l S c h i f f | E d i t o r i a l C o l l e c t i v e ]

A version of this introduction was presented at the Northeast Modern Language Association Annual Convention, in Buffalo, New York, at the Hyatt Regency, Ballroom C, on April 8, 2000, in a session entitled, "Working with Journals: Opportunities Beyond ‘Publish or Perish.’"

I presented another version at Social Theory 2000, in the session, "Social Theory and Academic Journals," on May 12, 2000, in 357 Student Centre, University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky.

As Sessions Go, These Went Well. Each time, I handed out printed copies of the journal homepage, its manifesto and table of contents, the call for submissions for issues 2 and 3, and a copy of our secret online reviewers' form. At this point in each of the presentations, I noted that a version of my talk would be published as this editorial.

At the first talk, the Northeast MLA one, the other editors on the panel and the audience of
Literature Critics politely listened and expressed interest in j_spot, and asked a lot of questions about the secret online reviewers' form.

Both talks also served as something of a shameless plug for j_spot. All of us leading the roundtables were journal editors of this or that ilk, a couple even editors of electronic journals like myself. At the NEMLA there was another Canadian boy, Kevin Flynn, from McGill University, the Associate Editor of Essays on Canadian Writing. Professor Aeron Haynie from the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay, the Editor of the Journal of Critical Pedagogy also spoke, as did Elizabeth Abele, of Temple University in Philadelphia, Editor of Schuykill (apparently pronounced "skoi'-kl"). She was a last-minute replacement for the unfortunate cancellation from Princeton University, Lisa J. Fluet, Co-Editor of Critical Matrix: the Princeton Journal of Women, Gender and Culture. The session was organized and chaired by Melissa Bradshaw from the State University of New York, Stony Brook.

At the Social Theory 2000 talk, I followed presentations from established print and online journals. These journals included Rethinking Marxism from the University of Notre Dame; disClosure from the University of Kentucky Committee on Social Theory, Cultural Dynamics from the University of Ghent, Belgium, and Thesis Eleven from Latrobe University in Australia (although its representative co-editor is now at Harvard). Despite the wealth of experience and intelligence that preceded me, every question turned to j_spot. Questions were of 2 kinds. The first took the form of a challenge or agreement with credit and accreditation related to online academic publishing (by editors of online social theory journals who came as spectators, no less). The latter kind of question was exemplified by Tim Luke * of Virginia Tech's excellent Political Science and Science and Technology programmes, taking the form of questions intended to push the bounds of j_spot further than their current reach, beyond areas of web scholarship and hypermedia. I reviewed j_spot's mandate for Tim, reminding the Large Retinue of Social Theorists present that j_spot is a social and political and cultural theory journal primarily, and not a publication intended to change the world of academic publishing. Nor is it intended as a Web Portal for academics. Publish or perish, indeed. We sincerely hope that our authors are still extant as we go online, and offer our apologies for the gross delay. 































Material | Issues

| first spot | second spot | third spot | fourth spot | fifth spot |

If you haven't already, do have a look at the first issue of j_spot the Journal of Social and Political Thought, in all its (former) glory:

| home | manifesto | contents | calls |

| notes to contributors | collective | guests |

Volume One, Issue 1 of j_spot : Strategies of Critique: A Retrospective has been online since the Spring of 1999. This Issue, no. 2, is being published in Spring of 2000. No. 3 will follow soon, in theory.

This editorial is intended to serve as an introduction to Issue 2, and proposes something of a creation myth: how this virtual journal thing came about. Our Manifesto remains unchanged (click here for the manifesto in miniature, what we poster as our Mini-Manifesto). But this is a story of the object itself, the fort-da, existing in perpetual disappearance and return, how it is perpetuated on the net, and how it now appears before you. Voila!

I Touch Myself

| first spot | second spot | third spot | fourth spot | fifth spot |

The website created for the Graduate Programme in Social & Political Thought at York University by Caitlin Fisher and myself in the Fall of 1997 is called SPoT. At the time of SPoT's creation, we envisioned space for an academic electronic journal, and templated a holding page for it early on. The Graduate Programme in Social & Political Thought at York University is a prestigious, interdisciplinary programme which offers study leading to Master's and Doctoral degrees; it is unique in Canada at the Doctoral level. After the name "j_spot" presented itself, I floated it with Caitlin and we made a preliminary announcement among students in our programme of study only. Although appearing on York University's website, j_spot is a separate and distinct entity, which belongs to its editors.

Keeping up web appearances, j_spot will also be permanently archived at the National Library of Canada.

In 1998 we began meeting with interested parties, and asked other advanced students in the programme to join us as a collective. In addition to Caitlin Fisher and myself, there was Mike Palamarek, Chris McCutcheon and Janet Lucas. Together, we decided to publish a retrospective of conference papers in order to provide a forum for the wider dissemination of the work of the conference presenters in Issue 1, and, practically speaking, to obtain a web presence, to make it easier to solicit papers for Issue 2 and beyond. Strategies of Critique is an annual graduate student conference hosted by students in the programme: it always attracts strong interest from a wide range of students, and serves as a forum for interdisciplinary creativity. But there was some resistance to publication in Issue 1 of j_spot, being the first. Many students promised papers subsequent to their delivery at Strategies of Critique conferences but balked when it came time for final submission to j_spot, some perhaps since they did not have time to translate papers delivered in conference format to journal format. But for some potential contributors there were clear issues related to web publication. Issue 1, then--now--consists of papers derived from Strategies of Critique conferences; these papers were reviewed anonymously in their abstract format prior to successive conferences and not in their final text. We intended only to give a sampling and called the first issue a retrospective of past conference proceedings, with every intention of following through in due course with a Fully Refereed Journal.

When we announced Issue 1 in 1999, we included the call for submissions for Issue 2, "material / bodily / strata," and Issue 3, "Ethics and Debt (Or, Debt to the Other)." The editorial team divided up the responsibility of finding reviewers for each submission, but continued to work as a team. This soi-disant editorial/introduction (this thing you are reading) fell to me as the architect of the call for submissions for Issue 2. Janet Lucas excused herself just after Issue 1, and Kathryn Walker came on board. The other founding co-editor, Caitlin Fisher, has been focused on most of our design & format, and on the not subordinate task of completing her dissertation, an examination of feminist hypertextuality: "Building Feminist Theory: a Hypertextual Heuristics." Keeping the review process entirely anonymous, co-editors found reviewers for each submission; they did not themselves know who their authors were. The response for Issue 2 was something of a jolt: there were a large number of submissions from around the globe, from individuals at varying stages in their careers. There was also a strong show of support generally. Issue 2 is online here before you, and Issue 3 is in preparation and will be online in a relatively short period of time, perhaps by early September 2000. The launch date for this issue was June 1, 2000. (The more important launch party, shortly after).

Issue 2 is the first fully anonymous and peer-refereed issue of j_spot. [It comes to you after an extended ellipsis: the call for submissions had a deadline of mid-1999, after We, the editorial, electronic, collective-squad, issued the call for papers. Since the deadline, we have been initiated into the strange, wonderful, vicious, encouraging, and above all distended process of scholarly review. Papers have been accepted, rejected, revised, and published elsewhere; and, in a few cases, are being published somewhat as they originally arrived in our inbox, jspot@yorku.ca


Bodily | Strata

| first spot | second spot | third spot | fourth spot | fifth spot |

About "material / bodily / strata": the editors of j_spot recognize the irony of calling an online journal material, and bodily; however, its stratification may very well be obvious. I contemplated at this point a discussion of the speaking subject that enunciates itself into discourse, the fetishism of commodities that needs to be articulated for online scholarship.

Let me tell you at least about the call for papers, which consists of a short quotation from Mikhail Bakhtin's Rabelais and His World. A brief suggestion of what might transpire completed the call:

"The material bodily principle is contained not in the biological individual, not in the bourgeois ego, but in the people, a people who are continually growing and renewed. / The cosmic, social, and bodily elements are given here as an indivisible whole."

[Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World [1984 (1965) (p. 19)]]

That was the Bakhtin quotation, and then this description followed:

The body is social, material, historical; a stratified whole, grotesque and carnal? Whose critical theory effectively empowers, redresses, incarnates, the material, bodily strata? For this issue of j_spot we ask for essays that attempt to strafe the bodily armour of critique.
It may be that the call for papers should have induced its author to write all 6 papers for this issue. It may have been too specific, but it elicited a lot of interest. In the months following the circulation of the call for papers on various listservs with global readership, we received enquiries from all over, and eventually, as noted above, many submissions. Some submitted quickly, perhaps more journal savvy, perhaps better equipped and better connected to the net. Some papers sloughed towards us over a period of months, and some successful attempts were made to skirt the deadline (for future reference: not a practice we encourage).
j_spot promises at least one faculty member and two advanced Ph.D. student referees for each article. In fact all were doubly anonymous since as the holder of the spot@yorku.ca email address I took in the articles and then as I said distributed them among my co-editors stripped down, so when assigning reviewers neither editor nor reviewer knew the authors' identities. For forthcoming issues, please note that the address for submissions is jspot@yorku.ca. This inbox will be reviewed by one of the editorial collective acting, on a rotating basis, as a spot issue co-editor.

Once every year we publish a list of
reviewer base, which now
includes International Scholars.

If you wish to be a reviewer for j_spot,
Please write to jspot@yorku.ca or sign our guestbook and indicate your interest.
You don't have to be an International Scholar,
but it helps if you are going to be one Some Day.

This has been an incredible process to oversee, and having this imperial gaze of Editor has been unique and instructive to say the least. As a university administrator working for the Faculty of Graduate Studies at York University and as a long-time graduate student, I hope that I already have some insight into the twisted imaginings of my colleagues. But the editor of a journal has a special vantage point on academic review: watching over the colonizing of the scholarly frontier. 

I would like to elaborate on the reviewspeak that j_spot's editors have encountered. While that is not appropriate in this context, suffice to say that on occasion reviews were shining examples of interdisciplinarity, scholarship and thoroughness, and that all submissions benefited. Reviews were sometimes as informative and stratified as the essays on which they elaborated.

j_spot offers the opportunity for complete internet peer review. It sounds like a 12-step programme for a reason. Reviewers are invited to fill in an online form, which automatically submits their commentary to a specific email address, after having read the article under consideration online at a secret URL to which only reviewers have access. 
An article on internet peer review published in 1996, "
The Hundred Years War Started Today: An Exploration of Electronic Peer Review" by John Peters (who organized a 1995 internet conference called Electronic Peer Review), suggests that nothing changes in the online review process. He cites a real romanticization of the lofty goal prevalent in web discourse that contraindicates that although nothing has changed yet, surely this revolutionary process will mean something someday. Cf. also anything by Douglas Kellner.


This Body Before Us
Speaks Several Truths

| first spot | second spot | third spot | fourth spot | fifth spot |

With a reminder that j_spot publishes articles on its stated issue theme as well as within its general mandate, here is a list of articles in Issue 2:

"Left Out: Politics and Postmodern Hermeneutics"

by John S. Howard, Ph.D., Dean's Scholar, School of Law

St. Louis University

This article begins with a quotation from Georges Bataille's The Solar Anus:

Everyone is aware that life is parodic and that it lacks interpretation.
Thus lead is the parody of gold.
Air is the parody of water.
The brain is the parody of the equator.
Coitus is the parody of crime.

We see this piece on the postmodern turn as an excellent precursor to j_spot's issue 4: "Language: Cage or Frontier?"


"Primitive Spectacle in Black Narcissus" is an exploration of Michael Powell's 1946 film from the point of view of primitive spectacle and the imperial gaze.

by Anh Hua
Ph.D. Candidate
York University


"Adorno and the Muse of the Dialectic (a fable)" an examination of Negative Dialectics using Nietzsche and a fable by Kafka 

by Chris McCutcheon
Ph.D. Candidate, Graduate Programme in Social & Political Thought
York University

(Chris co-edits this journal; his article, like all the others, was anomymously reviewed)


"Contract Labour and Bondage in Andhra Pradesh (India)"

visits a bonded labour system extant in some regions in the state of Andhra Pradesh, "throwing light on the pervasiveness of unfree relations," a fascinating social, economic and political account by lecturers in quantitative development economics and economics law

by Wendy K. Olsen, PhD
Senior Lecturer in Quantitative Development Economics, Graduate School
University of Bradford, United Kingdom


R.V. RamanaMurthy, PhD
Assistant Professor
NALSAR University of Law
Hyderabad, India


"Grotesque Performativity: Orlan and the Limits of Materialization"

serves as an examination of the work of French performance artist Orlan and the eleven planned operations in a series of videotaped surgical performances entitled The Reincarnation of Saint Orlan in which she invites international audiences to watch as a surgeon splits the skin of her face and re-models it; following Judith Butler the author suggests that connections to the abjection of sex are not the only ones that should be disavowed

by Jasmine Rault
Ph.D. Candidate, Graduate Programme in Social & Political Thought
York University


"Outside of Power, or the Power of the Outside"

a clever essay on the scholarship of Judith Butler, Deleuze and Guattari, and Foucault;

by Jon Short
Ph.D. Candidate, Graduate Programme in Social & Political Thought
York University


Notes on Contributors

For more information about the individuals who shaped this journal by writing, editing and web authoring, please go to the Contributors webpage.

Sitting on the journal panels at the Northeast Modern Language Association Annual Convention and at Social Theory 2000, it was hard not to reflect on the variations between hard copy journals with readerships in the hundreds vs. online journals. The latter undertake the same peer review process, and obtain readership in the thousands and tens of thousands.


| first spot | second spot | third spot | fourth spot | fifth spot |

j_spot has yet to meet the fate of some electronic journals, facing extinction not because of lack of institutional support, since they started and proceed without it, but because submissions do dry up, especially when certain conditions remain to be met.

Demonstrations of permanence are usually involved in successful online journal ventures. So is a demonstration of usage. j_spot Issue 1 has generated nearly 3,500 unique visits, 1,500 of those in the year 2000, all with very little promotion so far. As well, although we don't usually track downloads we have reports of articles published in j_spot Issue 1 now in use in some classrooms in England and Australia. Of course, for a commercial website, 3,500 hits in one week is supposed to indicate some kind of failure, but for readers to visit j_spot Issue 1 and perhaps read through it is something of an accomplishment. SPoT is now indexed and linked in scores of scholarly cultural studies websites.

Association with York University and the National Library of Canada guarantees long-term access to our publications, and is certainly a factor in the calibre of papers submitted. Online access via the National Library of Canada is set up to be, in effect, permanent.

We invite you to read, write, review, critique and celebrate with us. Share us with others. We especially look forward to comments and critique. Let us know where you see j_spot discussed, and what is being said. Help us track j_spot's indexing, and take part in its collective academy. Across and between disciplines, help us chip away at "breaks in the monolith."


M . M i c h a e l S c h i f f on behalf of the j_spot collective

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z



*editorial *table of contents *the j_spot collective *call for submissions *
*manifesto *guestbook issue cover* home


j_spot online edition ISSN 1481 8 5842

[ Social and Political Thought main page ]