Thursday, December 13, 2012

re third text

There is no more point in mincing words: the journal Third Text has been hijacked by its own Board of Trustees. The fiats of this administrative regime have, over the last two years, shut out founder Rasheed Araeen and turned over editorial control to a usurper whose abilities inspire little confidence and whose politics are dubious. This, in the name of bureaucratic values: "professionalization" and neo-liberal "governance." In the background, publisher Taylor & Francis and funding agency Arts Council England may have welcomed such changes, but for all those who know the history of this journal and value its committed critical vision, this takeover is unacceptable. 

Rasheed Araeen at Asia Art Archive, 2009

In the 1970s, artist Rasheed Araeen emerged as a leader in the struggle against institutionalized racism in the London art world. Positions first expressed in his 1975/6 "Preliminary Notes for a BLACK MANIFESTO," were developed in the late 1970s into the anti-imperialist Black Phoenix, and eventually, in 1987, into Third Text. Through the 1990s and into the new century, this journal nurtured many new voices, including my own, and was truly a forum for global critical perspectives on contemporary art and culture. Its feisty spirit was fed by its origins in struggle, and practical amnesia from above will not make this history disappear.

Funding cuts created the pressures and opening for this takeover, but the Trustees' unilateral actions were disrespectful, excessive and alienating to the Third Text community. Efforts to rescue the situation and work out a reconciliation continued through most of last Fall; by early December, it was clear that those who have seized control of the journal have no intention of restoring its postcolonial vision and critical integrity. Under this leadership, Third Text has lost its political credibility. Therefore: no more manuscripts, no more submissions. Meanwhile, Routledge T&F's monopolizing appetite for academic journals encourages the reduction of critical thought to a standardized plurality of brand names. In the context, this is a real loss, and an independent successor journal is urgently needed.

For more, read Rasheed Araeen's 6 Dec. letter to Third Text supporters.

On 5 December, 18 out of 23 Third Text Advisory Council members collectively resigned and issued the following open letter (most of the TT Editorial Board having already resigned earlier).

Postscript: on 18 December Advisory Council member Ian McLean added his name to the open letter and resigned; only three members of the Advisory Council now remain with journal. -GR

Open Letter to the Trustees of Black Umbrella (Marjorie Allthorpe-Guyton, René Gimpel, Paul Goodwin, Joanna Mackle, Lord Bhikhu Parekh and Ziauddin Sardar):

5 December 2012

With this letter we announce our collective resignation from the Third Text Advisory Council.

With the full sadness of a long look back, we take our leave from a journal that has occupied a vital place in our critical lives and, for many of us, our artistic and intellectual formation. We do not leave gladly, but we are bound to accept that Third Text, under its current Trusteeship and editorial leadership, is no longer the journal we knew and loved.

By a series of unilateral actions, missteps, and a refusal of the spirit of consultation, current leadership has transformed Third Text from a committed and catalytic forum for critical postcolonial reflection to one more domesticated instance of neoliberal standardization. We are well aware of the funding pressures and administrative arguments that can be summoned to justify your actions and decisions. Indeed we are too well aware of them, since they have become the dominant norm in too many fields today. We are not, however, bound to accept or endorse them. We expect more than bureaucratic logic from those who would be the leaders of this journal, with its origins in anti-racial struggle and its two-decade history of critical commitments.

Taking into account all that has occurred and has come to light in the last two years, documented comprehensively in Jean Fisher’s report of 15 October 2012, and considering above all what you could and should have done to resolve the crisis of confidence that surrounds the journal, we find that your ‘final offer’ to Rasheed Araeen, dated November 2012, falls too short by far. In our letter of 13 August 2012, signed by a strong majority of the Advisory Council and some hundred Third Text associates, contributors and supporters, we made clear the conditions for an acceptable solution: having precipitated this crisis by your unilateral actions, the onus was on you to restore dignity to Rasheed’s role and reputation and to return his experience and editorial judgment to the journal, thereby reassuring us that its historical vision and integrity is being protected.

The steps by which you could have done so were outlined in Jean Fisher’s report. Rejecting them, your invocation of your legal obligations dresses up a mere assertion of control. Your overriding concern, as you repeatedly emphasize, has been to keep Routledge Taylor & Francis and Arts Council England happy. We are unconvinced by these self-exonerations. There was no communication with the Advisory Council regarding the situation at Third Text or the decisions you subsequently took; furthermore, the Trustees Board has acted unilaterally in what has been, over the last year, a major editorial reorientation of the journal – away from political and intellectual integrity and in the direction of an apolitical academic careerism bereft of that critical perspective for which Third Text historically stood.

With this transformation, we want nothing more to do. Kindly remove our names from the Third Text masthead and website without delay.

    Third Text Advisory Council Members:

Rustom Bharucha International Research Centre, Berlin, Germany
Guy Brett Honorary Professor, University of the Arts, London, UK
Denis Ekpo University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria
Geeta Kapur art critic and curator, New Delhi, India
Tabish Khair Aarhus University, Denmark
José-Carlos Mariátegui Editor, Tercer Texto, Lima, Peru
Gerardo Mosquera Havana, Cuba
Laura Mulvey Birkbeck, University of London
Benita Parry University of Warwick, UK
Howardena Pindell Stony Brook University, New York, USA
Mario Pissarra Africa South Art Initiative, Cape Town, South Africa
Gene Ray Berlin, Germany, and Geneva University of Art and Design, Switzerland
John Roberts University of Wolverhampton, UK
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak Columbia University, New York, USA
Julian Stallabrass Courtauld Institute of Art, London, UK
Victor Tupitsyn Professor Emeritus, Pace University, New York, USA
Stephen Wright European School of Visual Arts, Paris, France
Slavoj Zizek Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, University of London, UK, and University of Ljubljana, Slovenia

1 comment:

  1. A very sad outcome for a great journal! I hope that all of you will join forces and create something new, with the same (and more!) critical vigour!