Earlier this year, the Journal of Asian American Studies turned over the editorial reins to University of Washington professor Rick Bonus. An associate professor of American Ethnic Studies at UW, Bonus will lead the journal for the next three years. He joined us for a Q&A about the journal's place in the field and what readers and contributors can expect to see.
What does it mean to lead JAAS at a time like this, politically and socially?
I’m excited to be editor of JAAS in so many ways and on so many fronts! The year 2018 marks our 20th year of publication with JHUP and, looking back all the way into our first issue in 1998, it’s quite breathtaking to see where we came from, how we started, and how we’ve matured over the years. There’s tremendous enthusiasm within our editorial collective and our association in general! I feel that most especially within our ranks of reviewers who read submissions with such vitality, vision, and deep intellect, all signaling to me and our readers that we’re taking on scholarship that is so robust now and replete with new ideas about our field’s depth and breadth. It gives me honor, then, to lead and serve JAAS with such a cohort of proactive writers and readers who are interested in and devoted to advancing the field. They signal how our field is gaining increased recognition as we continue our political work today — something that defined our origins, actually. Asian American Studies started out as a political enterprise, a critique of war and social injustice, and a pursuit of rights and representation. All of these continue to be so relevant and necessary these days. And, in many ways, I feel positive how we try to continue to hold ourselves to these benchmarks. And the journal is a key part of that commitment to keep alive our critique.
How important is the collective power of words and ideas from a group of scholars like those who contribute to JAAS?
JAAS has a commitment to exist as a critical and accessible forum for a wealth of ideas and practices that touch on Asian American studies. For those of us within the field, including bystanders and interested observers, we present our journal as a site of expression, discussion, and critique about things we deem important. At the same time, we also make sure to use our journal is also a site of celebration, a place of rumination, and a space of recognition. As editor, I want to keep reminding ourselves that we are a collective, so alongside the daily struggle of working collaboratively towards strengthening our ties through all kinds of advocacies that we care about, we must also have pleasure in sharing our achievements and providing ourselves with creative and imaginative ways of being and becoming. All these things are so important in making a collective flourish.
What short or long term plans do you have for the journal?
I have only three years to do my work as JAAS editor so my goals are quite modest. I want to make the journal grow a bit from where it was when I came on board to a place where its quality is much more impressive and top of the line, so to speak. I inherited all this tremendous work from previous editors who’ve made the journal really good, so I don’t want to disappoint them! I’ve been working on streamlining our editorial process so that our transition later to the next editor will be more smooth, along with improving other elements of the journal in the background that readers may not quickly notice (like listing our officers, clarifying our submission rules, expanding our reviews coverage, and enhancing our cover images). I want us to attract and publish more interdisciplinary work, as well as put out scholarship from the professional fields like law, education, psychology, and social work. I’ve also been working on being more thematic with every issue and, so far, we’ve managed to do that. We’re currently working on a special issue with a focus on labor, and another issue devoted to our field’s anniversary, and I’m very excited to shepherd them through.
What have you learned in the early days of your tenure?
I was anticipating a very heavy and tedious workload when I moved from associate editor to editor, but that moment did not last long, thank goodness! I’m lucky to have a very able and hardworking editorial assistant, Michelle Dinh, because I know that my work is made more manageable due to her meticulous and patient labor with me. Same with our reviews editor, Lan Dong, who has been so on point with her work. And of course, the JHUP staff for being so supportive of us. I’ve learned that editorial work can actually be pleasurable work even though the process entails a lot of serious thinking and critical decision making. There are so many elements in producing a journal, so I’ve also learned early on that trying to be calm in working through the multifaceted process is something I need to constantly improve on. I’m getting there!