Postcolonial Text / Author

Welcome to Postcolonial Text

We take great pleasure in launching Postcolonial Text, the first fully online, refereed journal for postcolonial studies to come out of Canada, published on an “open access” basis to enable a worldwide readership.

This journal had its beginnings in a conversation I had with John Willinsky in August of 2002, on my return from a visit home to Sri Lanka when I told him about a reading I attended in Colombo organized by Lakshmi de Silva, at which she, Sita Kulatunge, and Yasmine Gooneratne read from their recent work. As I listened to their short stories, transported from daily activity to the realm of literature in English through their well-formed thoughts on life in Sri Lanka, I wished that people outside countries such as Sri Lanka could have better access to material that is published so sparsely there, mainly due to the expense of publishing and resultant lack of interest of the general reading public, and that in a country with a very high literacy rate. It was clear that there needed to be a better facilitation of production and easier distribution of publications of writers who produce their work in relative isolation, as even the major book stores carry very few copies of academic and creative works of local writers.

These feelings resonated with what was happening in Canada. In March 2002, the Commonwealth Foundation in London, England, which funds the Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies (ACLALS) had expressed a desire to see greater public engagement on a local and global level on the part of scholars associated with its work, and, in fact, had noted it as a requirement for ongoing funding. Since the Canadian chapter is one of the branches of ACLALS that receives some of this funding, this was an important concern for us. The following year, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada began a self-transformation, seeking better, more effective ways of disseminating knowledge and building bridges between the academic community and the public. What better way to move in this direction, I thought, than through this online medium by which journals could provide free access to published material to readers, scholars, and students anywhere who could find their way to an Internet browser.

Meanwhile, John Willinsky was working on Open Journal Systems, which is designed to help scholarly journals publish online in an open access format by reducing costs and improving their management. The moment was ripe for collaboration - and with the proverbial wave of a magic wand came the opportunity provided by this free software, along with assistance from John’s Public Knowledge Project at UBC to set up an online scholarly journal. Encouraged by the 2002-2005 executive of the Canadian Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies (CACLALS) and senior postcolonial scholars in Canada and overseas, the journal got under way, with an international Editorial team from several countries of the former British Commonwealth. Within just a few days we began to get submissions, and thus began a test of patience and perseverance in journal editing and publishing.

Naming the journal was our first challenge. After much debate and many provocative suggestions, including slashes, dashes, and a particularly tempting title Caliban, we agreed on Postcolonial Text (despite "that pesky Post," to quote Jo-Ann Episkenew of the First Nations University of Canada). Our title embodies the contradictions and dialectic struggles within postcolonial studies and we hope the journal will become not only a vehicle for fine expression of ideas but also a tool for social transformation.

The major incentive for electronic journals in an open access form is that it affords much greater and more equitable participation in the circulation of knowledge than print and electronic subscription models. This does not mean burning printed materials or cancelling subscriptions. It is about seeking to provide far greater breadth of research resources to more people. Many libraries (especially in the “third world”) stand to gain far more than they could well imagine as we seek new ways to expand access.

Admittedly the need to establish this journal as a point of academic and scholarly exchange militates against including significant departures from received, standard English, particularly in the Articles section as it is sadly ironic that the practice of editing is at odds with philosophies of transculturalism and diversity. Still, to the extent possible, we remain committed to following the expression and intent of the authors.

Every new venture arguably entails risks: of succeeding (or not), of being questioned as a viable alternative to existing practices, or as to the motives and the situatedness of those who start projects such as these. Nevertheless, we chose to take this risk, hoping for a better distribution of research and writing with the electronic medium that has become available in recent years.

I want to thank John Willinsky for his consistent and untiring assistance in helping this journal come to life. Without his patience and dedication none of this would have been possible. Grateful acknowledgement is due to David Maulsby, Layout Editor, and to James Millard and Kevin Jamieson, Layout and Software Assistants, and all others, too, who volunteered their time and service so generously. My thanks as well to Kwantlen University College for time release provided for me to launch and manage this journal. Above all, to those who believed in this project and helped us in many and various ways, we convey our deep appreciation.

Please note that because of the enthusiastic response to our call for submissions, we have had to publish our inaugural volume in two issues, the second of which is to follow in a few months’ time. We hope you will find this journal to be a truly valuable and interesting e-venture.

Ranjini Mendis
Co-Founder and Managing Editor

July 19, 2004