[Marxism] Fwd: After a major flap, history's premier journal announces series of changes aimed at diversifying viewpoints and contributors

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Jan 31 06:00:05 MST 2018

The typically tame world of academic publishing got heated last year, as 
several journals took flak for editorial decisions about content 
regarding historically marginalized groups. Now one of those journals 
has a plan to “transform.”

“I have no illusions about what an enormous challenge this will be, and 
I fully expect it will make people unhappy on both sides of the 
barricades,” said Alex Lichtenstein, professor of history at Indiana 
University at Bloomington and editor of American Historical Review, in a 
new column announcing changes to the journal.

While there “will be failures and limitations, and the pace of change 
may not satisfy everyone,” he wrote, “my fervent hope is that by the 
time my editorship ends in August 2021, I will have set the journal on 
an irrevocable course of change.”

The American Historical Review, the academic publication of the American 
Historical Association, is one of the discipline’s most revered 
periodicals, publishing work across subfields. But it made -- in the 
eyes of many critics -- a major blunder in early 2017 in asking a 
scholar who has expressed arguably racist views to review a book on 
inequality and urban education.

In that review, Raymond Wolters, professor emeritus of history at the 
University of Delaware, both praised and criticized the book in 
question, Making the Unequal Metropolis: School Desegregation and Its 
Limits. Specifically, Wolters said that author Ansley T. Erickson, 
assistant professor of history and education at Teachers College of 
Columbia University, had done her research but challenged her argument 
for metropolitan busing programs to promote racial integration in schools.

Most significantly, Wolters chided Erickson for not considering 
“sociobiology.” To Wolters’s critics, the term blew like a dog whistle 
endorsing racial hierarchies.

Wolters has defended himself, saying that sociobiology is a 
well-established concept that, in his words, “focuses on the way biology 
(including genetic adaptations to evolution in different environments) 
affects the social behavior of humans and other living beings.”

But the AHR, as the journal is known, quickly apologized. Robert A. 
Schneider, a professor of history at Indiana University and AHR’s then 
interim director, said he should have “lingered longer” over the 
sociobiology plug, and that the journal was previously unaware of 
Wolters’s views on race and white identity. He also promised that the 
journal would review its policies and procedures to prevent similar 
incidents going forward.


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