Inclusion and the Mechanics of Social Justice

By Katrina McFerran

The decision to prioritise “inclusiveness, socio-cultural awareness, and social justice” in the vision of Voices has provided a firm foundation for building a community of committed authors, reviewers, translators and editors. It is what makes Voices a social and political endeavour where we strive to enact our respect for diverse cultural identities. As musicians, we know that music can afford particularly empowering conditions for the expression of mutual respect, but the world of online publishing provides a more challenging context, with very little face-to-face contact between community members and far less capacity for transcending the pressures of time.

Inclusion takes time. It is simply not possible to engage meaningfully in a dialogue between authors and editors and reviewers without dedicating significant chunks of time, but this needs to be weighed against the desire for swift communication that we also share. Following a meeting of our editorial team in 2015, we surveyed all authors who had submitted a manuscript for publication in the past two years and asked them to comment on issues such as whether they felt respected in the process of reviewing and publishing. A report that described the results of the survey more fully (download report in full length) includes the fact that 21 of the 27 authors described the processes as respectful, with a number of people sharing feedback such as “there was something refreshing about it, comparatively…” and “one reviewer was blunt, but the editor supported the dialogue respectfully” as well as “one of the best editors I have worked with.”

This feedback on our processes is extremely important for our editors, our reviewers and our authors. It is easy enough to subscribe to an ideology of social justice, but the mechanics of valuing diversity require ongoing reflexivity and careful attention to the ways we unintentionally reinforce our own privileged positions. This feedback suggests that our actions are congruent with our ideals on most occasions. This is also evidenced in a number of the articles in the current edition of Voices which have involved ongoing dialogues between authors, editors and reviewers – some of them extending over a year. At its best, we believe this lengthy discourse is a way of enacting a non-violent stand against the oppression of diverse voices in a publishing industry that is dominated by English language and evidence-based understandings. Not that there is anything wrong with either, but there are many forums, including ours, for hearing those voices. Our journal particularly invites interdisciplinary dialogue and discussion about music, health, and social change. This is sometimes apparent in the topics being addressed by authors, but at other times it is inherent in the diversity of the authors themselves and the fresh perspectives that are featured on our pages.

We also enact this commitment through the inclusion of abstract translations with each edition. Our translation team takes the English language abstracts provided by authors and returns them in German, French, Italian, Japanese, Portugese, Spanish, and now also in Chinese. Some of the translations are developed by groups of academics and their students, while other translators contribute individually to ensure that people from their own countries have the opportunity to decide whether the content of articles is interesting to them. Once again, enabling participation takes time and resources, but here the freeware we use for publishing the translations is limited in the languages available, and despite enthusiasm from the many Polish members of the Voices community, we still have some way to go before we can reach them and others.

There are other limitations to what we do as well, and the survey also notes that our diverse authorship are interested in faster publishing processes. Being an open-access online forum means that we aspire to be both freely and quickly available. The first is aligned with our vision and values, whilst the second is an indicator of our contemporary context. While many journals still take up to two years from submission to publication, we endeavour to be much faster. But since inclusion takes time, and since we are all imperfect humans, it doesn’t always work that way. In response to the findings from the survey, we entered into another dialogue between our reviewers and editorial team, and we have all made a renewed commitment to the expected pace for online publishing. We have already discovered that it will not always be as swift, and perhaps that it will only sometimes be as quick as we would like, but we will continue to explore ways of balancing our vision with our mechanics.

In the meantime, I invite you to explore the diversity of topics, perspectives and forms offered by the authors in this edition. The authors have provided a wealth of new knowledge, and many of these pieces are underpinned by editorial, reviewing, publishing and translating processes that are not immediately apparent, but are absolutely essential to the ways we do what we do. Happy Reading!