An Uncommon Peer Review for Common Threads: a case study about expanding formats, their evaluation, and what we learned when we challenged norms.

by Alexa Colella

The scholarly communications ecosystem is one that is ever evolving. As publishers, we serve the scholarly community by collaborating with scholars to disseminate their work to a variety of audiences and with rigorous standards for quality and trust. While our processes and policies have been honed over of a long history of development and dedication, technological advances and multi-modal practices are pushing the boundaries of what research, and its outputs, looks like. In order to continue to serve scholars as we have so well for many years, we must question the way we have always done things and open our doors to new challenges and opportunities.

This was a topic of discussion at the recent National Federation for Advanced Information Sciences Roundtable (NFAIS), which opened the National Humanities Alliance Advocacy Day in Washington D.C., on March 10, 2019. In addition to discussing expanding formats in the humanities, particularly the digital humanities, and the challenges that occur when evaluating them for publication, the roundtable discussion also focused on changes in user experience and academic promotion and tenure. Two University of Illinois Press staff, Alexa Colella and Dawn Durante, presented a case study about the challenges we encountered in producing a non-traditional publication that met an immediate existing gap of scholarship in its field(s).

Palestine on the Air, by Karma Chavez, is an upcoming Open Access supplement to the Journal of Civil and Human Rights as part of the Common Threads series. This project is a collection of ten transcribed and fact-checked interviews Chavez conducted while hosting a radio show called “A Public Affair”. The ultimate approval of this project had multiple challenges from different perspectives about what was most appropriate form of peer review to the degree of oversight necessary (as a supplement to the journal, it would normally be under journal editor purview. With an added print retail component, was that still sufficient?). This project forced us to think about our processes critically when we are opening our doors to new content, formats, and projects.

Expanding formats will ultimately demand adjustments to our processes, even ones that are central to our workflows. Dawn’s research on the reception history of changes to writing technologies lends some insights into why making changes to publishing processes are difficult: “There are essentially three main transitions in the history of writing technologies: the conversion from oral history to the written record; the shift from the handwritten word to the printed word; and then our current transition from print to digital writing technologies. In each transition, the reception to new technologies has historically been mistrustful attitudes toward new innovations. Society has established processes to legitimize written documents—like signatures—to try to overcome this mistrust, and the peer review process in scholarly communities is one specialized form of legitimization tailored for the academy. Legitimizing processes are important, especially in the era of fake news, but the scholarly publishing industry should be thinking about ways to innovate more nimbly while still being rigorous.” While, today, we are able to look back on these developments and wonder “what took so long?” it is not an easy thing to challenge culture. It is especially not easy to change practices that have been put in place to ensure the reliability and maximize the impact of published work. And maybe that’s a good thing. It is both wise and brave to make incremental changes born out of real needs.

So, while the challenges we faced when piloting a project that had the potential to challenge norms in our processes, the discussions in favor of an alternative form of peer review and those in favor of convention has been the catalyst for many discussions and innovative ideas. Adapting to changes across fields and their functions ultimately requires a great deal of generative and productive conflict. The expansion of formats and in inclusion of multi-modality on a grander scale will undoubtedly spark many conversations, experiments, and even failures as we work collaboratively with scholars who are pushing their fields and research forward.

*Palestine on the Air is currently in production as an open access supplement to the Journal of Civil and Human Rights and has an estimated arrival date of November 1st 2019.






The following is an excerpt from Erica Lorraine Williams’s chapter “Niara Sudarkasa: Inspiring Black Women’s Leadership” in The Second Generation of African American Pioneers in Anthropology edited by Ira E. Harrison, Deborah Johnson-Simon, and Erica Lorraine Williams.

Remembering Niara Sudarkasa

Pioneering cultural anthropologist Niara Sudarkasa has traveled to twenty-seven African countries and conducted research in West Africa, the Caribbean, and the United States. Her research interests have included West African trade and migration, anthropology and development, the roles of African women, African and Caribbean immigration to the United States, African and African American family organization, race and ethnicity, and diversity, equity, and excellence in higher education. Born in 1938 as Gloria Marshall in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, she adopted the name Niara—an adaptation of a Swahili word meaning “woman of high purpose.” Her choice of this name is fitting, considering how she has earned nearly twenty fellowships, grants, and awards, more than seventy-five civic and professional awards, and honorary degrees from a dozen colleges and universities.

Sudarkasa has long been recognized for her many “firsts.” She was the first black woman to teach at New York University and the first African American woman to teach anthropology at the University of Michigan. In her twenty years at the University of Michigan, she was the first African American woman to earn tenure in the arts and sciences, become full professor, head an academic center, and become the associate vice president for academic affairs. In 1972, at the age thirty-four, she became one of the youngest people to be elected to the executive board of the American Anthropological Association (AAA). From 1987 to 1998, Sudarkasa served as the president of historically black Lincoln University. This chapter explores Sudarkasa’s trajectory as a scholar, advocate, and higher education administrator, and describes her contributions to scholarship on feminist anthropology, gender and migration, black women’s leadership, and extended families in the African diaspora.

Niara Sudarkasa was born to seventeen-year-old Rowena Marshall and raised by her maternal grandparents, who had migrated to Florida from the Bahamas. Her mother “picked beans, scrubbed floors and worked in a dry-cleaners most of her life to send her four children to college” (Sudarkasa, “Don’t Write Off Thomas”). Her grandfather was a farmer and her grandmother was a housewife. Sudarkasa’s upbringing in an extended family, where financial responsibility and decision making was shared between her mother and grandparents, most likely fueled her later research interest in extended families in the African diaspora. Sudarkasa started school at the age of five and skipped the sixth grade. She reflected, “My mother assumed that we were all going to go to college. She was very keen on our going. So were my grandparents and my teachers at Dillard High School, which was the only school that black children could attend in Ft. Lauderdale.”

In 1953, at age fifteen, Sudarkasa entered Fisk University on a Ford Foundation early entrant scholarship. Sudarkasa majored in English at Fisk, but transferred to Oberlin College in 1956 after participating in a domestic exchange program. Sudarkasa’s time at Oberlin introduced her to the anthropology of Africa and the African diaspora. In a course with George E. Simpson, she was amazed to discover that the esus (practice of pooling money together) that she witnessed in the Bahamian community in South Florida were cultural legacies from the Yoruba people. Another course introduced her to topics such as polygyny, polyandry, patriarchy, and matriarchy. She reflects on the impact Simpson had on her career trajectory: “I was really fascinated by the courses that I had with George Simpson, who had been a student of Herskovits and had done his research in the Caribbean—that’s when I learned a lot about the African cultures that had survived in the New World.”

In 1957, she graduated from Oberlin College at the age of eighteen in the top 10 percent of her class. Sudarkasa pursued her master’s and doctoral degrees in anthropology at Columbia University. Her decision to apply to Columbia was largely motivated by the fact that her mother had moved to New York a few years earlier. Interestingly, she described the process of applying to graduate school as one that was shrouded in mystery: “I didn’t know a lot about getting into graduate school. When I decided I wanted to go, nobody at Oberlin gave me any advice about it. I thought if I go to Columbia, I could always stay with my mother if I didn’t get a scholarship.” She was awarded a scholarship for tuition, lived with her mother, and worked part time in the registrar’s office. Influenced by the work of Melville Herskovits, Sudarkasa’s master’s thesis focused on the historical influences of African and European mutual aid associations on benefit societies in the West Indies. . . . Sudarkasa benefited from having Eliott Skinner as her research supervisor. She says, “I didn’t feel discouraged from studying Africa, because Elliott Skinner was at Columbia. . . . He encouraged me to do research in Africa as opposed to the Caribbean.” Skinner pointed out that before she could study the diaspora, she must first know the continent.

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We are pleased to announce that Dockworker Power: Race and Activism in Durban and the San Francisco Bay Area by Peter Cole was a co-winner of the Philip Taft Labor History Book Award, awarded by the Labor and Working-Class History Association (LAWCHA) and the Cornell ILR School. From the award announcement:

Dockworker Power: Race and Activism in Durban and the San Francisco Bay Area offers a powerful story while detailing a lesser-known chapter in American labor history. Peter Cole supplies us with an innovative comparative study examining dockworkers in Durban, South Africa, and San Francisco, California, illuminating their similar struggles as waterfront laborers and the different ways they worked as union activists to improve labor conditions under the threat of containerization.  Simultaneously, Cole points out how the two groups participated in transnational political and social movements, fighting against apartheid and American racism while also struggling for racial equality within their unions.

Congrats, Peter!

We are pleased to announce the winner of the 2019 LAWCHA (Labor and Working Class History Association) Gutman Prize!

Congratulations to Alina R. Méndez, whose dissertation titled “Cheap for Whom? Migration, Farm Labor, and Social Reproduction in the Imperial Valley-Mexicali Borderlands, 1942-1969” will be published in the Working Class in American History Series at the University of Illinois Press.

LAWCHA encourages the study of working people, their lives, workplaces, communities, organizations, cultures, activism, and societal contexts. It aims to promote a diverse and cross-cultural understanding of labor and working-class history. And it encourages innovative, theoretically-informed and interdisciplinary approaches.

The dissertation prize is named in honor of the late Herbert G. Gutman, a pioneering labor historian and a founder of the University of Illinois Press’s Working Class in American History Series. LAWCHA hopes that the spirit of Gutman’s inquiry into the many facets of labor and working-class history will live on through this prize.

Congratulations Alina! We look forward to publishing your book. 19

Other recent winners of the Gutman Prize include:

We are pleased to announce that Media, Geopolitics, and Power: A View from the Global South by Herman Wasserman was named Book of the Year by the Global Communication and Social Change division of the International Communication Association (ICA). The award was announced at the annual meeting of the ICA in Washington, DC, May 24-28. The award is granted to a book that provides a major contribution to research on issues of production, distribution, content and reception of communication at global, “glocal,” transnational, transcultural, international, and regional levels.

Congrats, Herman!

Erika K. Jackson is an associate professor of history at Colorado Mesa University. She recently answered some questions about her book, Scandinavians in Chicago: The Origins of White Privilege in Modern America.

Q: Why did you decide to write this book?

I have a complicated identity as an adopted child raised in a family with a strong Swedish-American heritage. I would always get asked if I was Swedish, and when I told people that I was at least Scandinavian according to my adoption records, there was always a sense of intrigue and recognition of racial privilege. In my early twenties, I worked at the Swedish American Museum and Center as a museum intern and felt even closer to my (adopted) ancestors, which led me to investigate the origins of ethnic privilege I recognized when speaking with people from a contemporary perspective about my ethnic roots. When first reviewing the secondary literature in researching my book, I was struck by the notion that many scholars focused on the privileges Americans granted Scandinavians during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but it was almost as if there was a hesitation among some writers to be forthright in their assertions. Based on my lived experience, as well as primary source research, I knew I had stumbled upon a new direction of focus, especially as whiteness studies was becoming more prominent during the mid-2000s.

Q: Who were your biggest influences?

I had the immense opportunity to work with some of the individuals who had the greatest impact on my book, including Lisa Fine and Dag Blanck. Lisa was my graduate advisor at Michigan State who modeled excellence as a scholar and seasoned educator in women and gender studies and labor history. Dag saw potential in my work early on and has become an important mentor, most recently inviting me this past November to participate in a seminar on the future direction of Swedish-American studies at the Swedish Embassy in Washington D.C. and George Washington University. In my research, my greatest influences in regard to the history of race and ethnicity are Matthew Frye Jacobson, Thomas Guglielmo, and Russell Kazal, while Gail Bederman, Ruth Frankenberg, and Joanne Meyerowitz’s works helped me to integrate whiteness and gender into my study. From a more pointed perspective on Scandinavian American history, the scholarship produced by Catrin Lundström, Jørn Brøndal, Dag Blanck and Philip J. Anderson, Arne Lunde, and Joy Lintelman inspired me to rethink the direction of the field.

Q: How did you conduct research for your book?

 Research for my book took me across the country and the Atlantic Ocean and was the most fulfilling part of the process. Early in the process, I traveled to Växjö, Sweden, as part of a scholar exchange and did some initial research at the Swedish Emigrant Institute. After that, I began the bulk of my work in Chicago at the Newberry Library, Kenilworth Historical Society, the Chicago History Museum and the Swedish-American Archives of Greater Chicago at North Park University before receiving the Dagmar and Nils William Olsson fellowship at the Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center at Augustana College. In the early stages of my research, I knew I wanted to provide more of a balance between the voices of women and men in locating the origins of white privilege with Scandinavians in Chicago, but ultimately the sources I found guided the direction of the project. Over the years, I became more interested in the influence of newspapers on both Americans and Scandinavians, which took me to Pacific Lutheran University’s Archives and Special Collections and back to the Newberry to focus more closely on the foreign language and english language presses in Chicago and the Midwest. Research is still what I love to do the most and find great joy in discovering long-forgotten sources.

Q: What is the most interesting discovery you made while researching and writing your book?

There were two major discoveries that come to mind – those types of sources that historians gasp out loud when found in a quiet archive. The first was the image that begins the introduction to my book taken from a Chicago Daily Tribune article published on January 19, 1908 that asked, “Will the World’s Most Beautiful Woman Be Found in Sweden or Norway?” The article said everything that I wanted my book to convey, that Nordic whiteness was a concept created by Scandinavians and parlayed in American newspapers and popular culture. It was assumed that, of course, the most beautiful woman in the world would be located out of these two countries, regardless of the fact that the article discussed an international beauty contest. The second major discovery is featured in chapter two, “Vikings and Dumb Blondes,” which I believe is one of the first “dumb blonde” jokes published in the popular American satirical magazine, Puck, in 1909. The origin of the joke focused on the lack of intelligence among Scandinavian domestics, where a fortune teller tells a patron that there will be “a wreck in your home” caused by a blonde woman. The audience’s initial response is to sexualize the insinuation, that a blonde woman would cause marital disharmony, but instead, the patron indicates that the so-called wreck had already occurred when the “new Swedish maid” let the dumb-waiter fall, breaking all the dishes.

Q: What myths do you hope your book will dispel or what do you hope your book will help readers unlearn?

Ultimately, I hope to dispel the myth of the hierarchy of race constructed by “race scientists” like William Ripley, Joseph Deniker, and Madison Grant, which continues to drive race consciousness in America to this day. As I argue in the conclusion to my book, Nordic whiteness is the ultimate position of unquestioned racial hegemony to this day. This is one of many reasons why, I believe, that people are utterly fascinated by my adopted ethnic background. One of the first questions I am always asked is, “if you’re Swedish, why do you have brown hair?” These myths of race extend beyond perceptions of Nordic whiteness to apply to any racial or ethnic distinction we have created as a society over our history to negotiate identity.

Q: What is the most important idea you hope readers will take away from your book?

 I hope for my readers to come away with a better understanding of the ways in which race was socially constructed over our nation’s history. It may be a bit utopian, though my ultimate goal is for readers to have an appreciation of their own racial and ethnic background – adopted or not – and learn to embrace it if they have not already. Finally, I invite my readers to always use a critical eye when consuming newspapers and other media outlets.

Q: What do you like to read/watch/or listen to for fun?

The topic of my next book is taking a completely different direction in historical focus to investigate the experience of girlhood in the 1990s and the influence of white privilege on the third wave. Because research is joyful to me, I like to immerse myself in the popular culture of the 1990s to help shape the direction of my study. I listen to quite a bit of feminist rock by Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, and Hole; watch movies and television shows focused on the perspective of “girls” like My So-Called Life and Felicity; and read Sassy and zines from that period. I live in Colorado, so in my spare time I try to get outdoors and into the mountains as much as possible.

As part of the special blog tour in honor of Mark Saunders, we celebrate the generosity our staff demonstrates toward every student who walks through our doors.

Over the last year and a half, our newly formed internship committee has worked hard to grow and support a comprehensive internship program. We have expanded opportunities to undergraduate and graduate students in the region who wish to gain experience in academic publishing with the mission of increasing diversity and inclusion in the industry. By all measures, our staff’s efforts in this area have been a great success. We have continued to support paid staff positions and long-term internships, built a variety of opportunities for single semester practicums, and hosted several two-hour career exploration “field trips” during the academic year.

Staff involvement in these efforts has been incredible. An astonishing 80% of our staff members (representing every Press department) have volunteered their time in some way over the last twelve months to support the many elements of our growing program. Eleven staff members currently serve on the internship committee. Many staff members have met one-on-one with students for informational interviews. Others have shared their career histories during group field trips from the graduate college and the English department. Three-quarters of the staff have attended at least one monthly professional development lunch. And a large number serve as direct supervisors for student staff and interns – offering their years of expertise to those just beginning to explore the wide diversity of careers in publishing.

Spring semester 2019 was a high point in our collective efforts. A record 18 students were in the building on a regular basis, ranging from paid staff in marketing and journals to our third “Round-the-Press” intern. We hosted an additional two graduate students in April for an innovative one day “immersive” internship experience designed in collaboration with the Graduate College. Beginning in late April, I had the pleasure of speaking with eight students as they wrapped up their time with us. One student had interned in our art department for two years designing book covers and marketing materials; five students from the iSchool spent the semester working on special projects; and one undergrad was leaving her paid position in the IT department. Each was invited to share the positive aspects of their experiences and make suggestions for the future. I was delighted – though not surprised – that no matter the length of time these students had worked with us, each and every one of them identified the openness and generosity of our staff as a highlight of their experience.

Thank you to each and every U of I Press staff member who has given of their time and expertise to help introduce a new generation of people to the world of academic publishing!

By Julie Laut, Outreach and Development Coordinator


Join us October 4-5 on the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus for conversations on past and present student activism in honor of our new book by Michael Metz, Radicals in the Heartland: The 1960s Student Protest Movement at the University of Illinois. 

October 4–5, 2019

Friday Keynote:

Lae’l Hughes-Watkins, University Archivist at the University of Maryland College Park, and co-founder of Project STAND (Student Activism Now Documented), which focuses on documenting student activism among historically marginalized communities.

Saturday Sessions:

Radicals in the Heartland: Reflections on the 1960s Protest Movement

Moderator: Michael Metz (BA ’70), author of Radicals in the Heartland

Panelists: Vern Fein (MA ’65), Vince Wu (MS ’66), and Vic Berkey

Documenting Student Activism: The Role of the Archive

Moderator: Ellen Swain, UIUC Student Life and Culture Archives

Panelists: Jessica Ballard, UIUC Archives, and Lae’l Hughes-Watkins, University Archivist, University of Maryland

Illinois Student Activism: Past and Present

Moderator: TBD

Panelists: TBD



Friday, October 4

Walking Tour of Key Anti-Vietnam War Demonstration Sites

Location: Meet on the South Patio (Quad side) of the Illini Union (1401 W. Green St.)

Start time: TBD

Join Vic Berkey (SFS and SDS leader) and Vern Fein (MA ’65) (Committee to End the War and SDS leader) for a FREE guided one-hour walking tour of some of the key sites of anti-Vietnam War demonstration sites on the University of Illinois campus. Some sites may require participants to navigate steps. Contact Vern Fein for more information.

Contact: Vern Fein (


Saturday, October 5        Check back soon for more related events!


Learn more here.

Co-sponsored by: The University of Illinois Press and the University of Illinois Archives

Questions? Contact Julie Laut, University of Illinois Press,

If sport provides a powerful lens through which social norms are produced, reproduced, and challenged, sports media compose key mechanisms through which these meanings are built and communicated. As studies of sports media gain momentum in the humanities and social sciences, this field-defining series will feature humanistic research that explores and critiques sports media’s significance, uses, and power.

Studies in Sports Media will bridge the gap between media studies and sports studies by paying attention to sport’s history, politics and particularities while probing the industrial, political, commercial, and aesthetic contexts that shape media’s production, circulation, and consumption. Books in the series will make important scholarly interventions while exhibiting the clarity, accessibility, and liveliness that nonacademic audiences expect.

Humanistic approaches to sports media analyze media industry, text, and public engagement in historic context. From “traditional” broadcast outlets to “new” media applications, sports media represent a rare site of broad public struggle over questions of community and identity. From the constant churn of SportsCenter to smartphone apps and talk radio, to team logo-wear as haute couture, fantasy gaming, and league appeals to corporate citizenship, sports media are an increasingly inescapable part of everyday life. 

The series’ editors encourage submissions that present humanistic approaches to the study of sports media as provocative and significant interventions by which to consider historic and contemporary questions of community, identity, “interactivity” and engagement, industry, text and context.

Single-authored monographs and edited collections will be considered for inclusion in the series.

Inquiries and proposals can be sent to Daniel Nasset:


Victoria E. Johnson is Associate Professor in the Department of Film and Media Studies and Ph.D. Program in Visual Studies at the University of California, Irvine, where she is also affiliated faculty in African American Studies. Her publications focus on U.S. television history, cultural geography, and critical race theory with current work examining the cultural history of U.S. television through the lens of sports media, and the marketing of sports culture to a post-Title IX generation of women.

Travis Vogan is Assistant Professor in the School of Journalism & Mass Communication and the Department of American Studies at the University of Iowa.  His research focuses on the intersections among U.S. sports media’s cultural history, industrial contours, and institutional politics. He is the author of Keepers of the Flame: NFL Films and the Rise of Sports Media (2014) and ESPN: The Making of a Sports Media Empire (2015).

The semester has finally ended and that means it’s time to catch up your TBR pile. To help you stock your shelves, we’re having a summer sale!

June 3-14, use Promo Code SUMMER on our website to get 40% off all books! That’s right, all books! And all formats too. So whether you prefer ebooks, paperbacks, or hardcovers, the promo code will work for all of them.

Happy Reading!