published in Volume 10 Issue 1 International Journal of Media and Cultural Politics
Katharine Sarikakis and Francisco Seoane Pérez
When a decade ago French public intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy set himself to retrace the footsteps of Tocqueville in America for the The Atlantic magazine, he consciously followed an old sociological principle: in order to understand any culture, one must visit the centre and also the periphery. This was one of the classic pieces of advice that the father of the Chicago School of Sociology, Robert Park, would give to his students: “Go and sit in the lounges of the luxury hotels and on the doorsteps of the flophouses: sit on the Gold Coast settees and on the slum shakedowns; sit in the Orchestra Hall and in the Star and Garter Burlesk. In short, gentlemen, go get the seat of your pants dirty in real research.” (Park, cited in Blumer, 1986, p. 97). Parks was most possibly speaking not only to gentlemen but rather a wider audience who might or might not be wearing pants that would get dirty. The ‘back and forth’from the periphery to the centre and, indeed, in the words of feminist scholars, the attention to the margins of social power as both a duty and a method offer more than a contribution to the culture ‘how we do things’ in academe, but changes the scope and substance of knowledge. Sandra Harding, Donna Haraway and Patricia Hill Collins are among those scholars who argue that knowledge is socially situated and research into power relations must have as its starting point the margins. Yet, the notion of fluidity in the politics of identity, arguably even in power relations, although commencing at the other ‘end’of the materiality spectrum allows to reconsider difference and reflexivity. Sitting nowhere comfortably, the commitment of moving in and out of the centres, mainstreams, orthodox ways of seeking and generating knowledge in the fields of media and culture has been the politics of this journal for over a decade. This has been a field of politics in media and culture, defined as they must, with attention given to the needs of time and space, as forces that situate academe within the ‘real’world and its affairs.
MCP, as the International Journal of Media & Cultural Politics became known, under the stewardship of Neil Blain and Katharine Sarikakis, committed to: 1) being a home for interdisciplinary research, transcending the boundaries of established disciplines and academic sub-fields; 2) continuing the trend of dewesternising communications and cultural politics and policy research, and 3) dealing with current global issues of wide societal concern, from public service broadcasting in the digital age to children’s and adolescents’ appropriations of the Internet and social media, by way of the so-called ‘war on terror’ or minority media and expressions of multiculturalism and postfeminism.
By transcending the boundaries of disciplines MCP has encouraged unlikely connections, which have become the source of true innovation; by never settling into the comfortable remit of a particular field of research, MCP has been recognised as a major academic initiative in pushing the boundaries of our discipline and making methodological and epistemological spaces. Always committed to theorisation and attention to power relations, MCP has published authors from 37 countries across the globe. We, at MCP, are convinced innovation rarely comes from treading the well-known paths; rather, it emerges when new grounds are broken. MCP is renewing this commitment in the decade to come.
This journal saw the light in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. That was the day when history ‘returned’, if it ever had gone away. When Europe celebrated the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the world was suffering the effects of the Big Recession, a financial meltdown that forced governments to apply the lessons learned after 1929. Neo-Keynesian intervention, however, did not chase away the fears of a faltering of national welfare states. Austerity became the new economic – and political – keyword, as the populations of Southern Europe have learned only too well. Global challenges, like pandemics, climate change or terrorism have been dealt so far with national concerted action, although the old power politics of the strong are still in play, bringing about an uneven share of the costs of the crisis, both among countries and within their respective societies. The Washington Consensus gave way to the ‘reinvention of capitalism’ and as these lines are being written a 600-page book on economic inequality by French economist Thomas Piketty (2014), Capital in the Twenty-First Century, has become a best-seller and has brought another old keyword, inequality, from the periphery to the centre. We believe that communication scholars ought not to remain outside these ongoing global debates. In as far as traditional scholarly publication schedules allow, and remaining obliged to the rigorous peer-reviewing that we have kept since our beginnings, we want to invite academics to put politics back into policy, and to assess the role of communication and culture in these new or recurring global crises.
This decade has also witnessed the ubiquitous emergence of social and self-media (Cloutier, 1975). And just as health care became ‘preventive’ to educate individuals in their own role of preventing illnesses by modifying their behaviour, academics have sought to become ‘public scholars’ to help society explain current events and make those explanations available beyond the Ivory Tower. In the forthcoming decade, MCP aims to embrace the challenge of public scholarship by sharing our research and findings in social networking sites or whatever their substitutes might be, linking them to contemporary timely issues that have been, and will continue to be, one of the defining remits of our publication.
Volume 10 offers a signal of things to come as scholarly publications. We celebrate having enjoyed the enormous support and leadership of Neil Blain who, for over a decade, paid enormous attention to detail and quality and gave intellectual leadership to this journey. Without his wit and sense of duty and attention to maintaining not only the highest academic standards, but also safeguarding academic integrity, none of this would have been possible. Neil is one of these colleagues who remind us of the reasons why we entered academia in the first place: to seek for answers, while not avoiding hard questions and do so with the highest sense of integrity. Neil is stepping down as co-editor after 12 years of service and leadership. Any ‘thank yous’to him will be simply too little.
In celebrating its 10th volume, MCP never tires to recognise the contributions of many people around the globe. It has benefited from the amazing professionals at Intellect who make sure everything about the journal is impeccable and in support of its mission. As editors, we have been blessed with the tireless support of MCP’s advisory board and the many reviewers from around the world who worked only in service to the academic community. We thank them all!
With the 10th volume, MCP pledges to continue supporting academic work that pushes disciplinary boundaries, breaks down conceptual, methodological and other silos, proves its relevance and intervenes in understandings and critiques of world affairs. Join us!
Beck, U. (1992). Risk society: Towards a new modernity. London: Sage
Blumer, H. (1986). Social interactionism: Perspective and method. Los Angeles: University of California Press.
Cloutier, J. (1975). L’Ere d’Emerec ou la communication audio-scripto-visuelle. Montreal: Presses de l’université de Montréal.
Goldberg, C. (2012). Robert Park’s marginal man: The career of a concept in American sociology. Laboratorium: Russian Review of Social Research, 4(2), 199-217. Retrieved from http://soclabo.org/index.php/laboratorium/article/view/4/119
Lindner, R. (2006): The reportage of urban culture: Robert Park and the Chicago School. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Piketty, T. (2014). Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.