A tribute to Harold Isaacs.
I met Harold for the first time in 1984 at the ATWS conference at University of South Carolina (Columbia). I was presenting on a Caribbean panel with Edward Cox of USC and Ron Keppart of the University of Florida. It was a year after the US invasion of Grenada. I had been on the faculty at USC in 1983 in a visiting capacity and both Ed Cox, of Grenada, and I had commented on the invasion at the time it had occurred. The ATWS panel was, therefore, a more scholarly follow-up to the TV and newspaper commentaries of the year before.
I remember overhearing some of our African colleagues at the meeting asking Harold about his plans for a journal. Was it going to be a refereed journal? Was it going to be focused on political science or interdisciplinary? Although I was not a party to the conversation, I found the prospective project intriguing, not the least because I anticipated my own quest for publication outlets since all of my work was going to be on Third World Issues. I should point out that my previous conference presentations were at the American Political Science Association and the International Studies Association. What I had found was that Third World studies were the step-child at the APSA and the ISA, certainly at that time, and my initial engagement with the ATWS was a far better experience.
I was to follow up with paper presentations at ATWS conferences at Pacific Lutheran in Takoma, WA; Palm Springs, Costa Rica, Jacksonville, Peru, Savannah, Ghana, and Brazil. Participation in all of these had confirmed that the ATWS was a better, more intellectually hospitable locale for discussions of Third World issues. My allegiance has since been to the ATWS, and I followed up with conference presentations at most of its meetings.
As my conference participation increased, so also was the number of acquaintances I made, including Harold himself, Bill Head, Gary Kline, Paul Rodell, Don Simmons, John Mbaku, Doyin Coker-Kolo, and others present at this meeting and some whose presence I have missed in recent meetings. I say this because scholarship thrives in a community, and my ATWS colleagues became valuable sounding boards for my own ideas as well as inspiration for my intellectual ventures into different regions such as Asia and Africa owing to my interest in civil-military relations.
I was not allowed, however, to be just a conference presenter. Senior members of the organization, Harold, Gary, and Bill Head, to name a few, had been talent spotting, and I was soon drafted to be the organization's secretary. Following that, I served as the Associate Editor for Latin America on the editorial board of the association's journal. I relinquished that position shortly after being named Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences at Berry College. However, a few years later, after I had stepped down from that position, I was elected as the Editor of the Association's Newsletter and, later, Associate Editor of the Journal.
If this all sounds like a resume listing, it's not meant to be. It is rather to show the capacities in which I interacted with Harold Isaacs, the organization's Founder and the Journal Editor. Some here, and others not present such as Bill Head and Tom Leonard, had close personal relations with Harold. I did not. Oh, we were friends, but ours, as I have mentioned before, were more of a professional nature.
In the fall of 2012, following the Berry College conference and after my stint as the Editor of the Newsletter, I was again tapped to serve as the Latin American Associate Editor for the journal, a position I continue to hold. Harold's communications with me were generally brief notes, with an attached paper submitted for publication consideration. My turnaround time was short, something that really pleased Harold, and as was the practice, I copied him with the reviews I sent to the papers' authors. We received far more submissions on Latin American subjects than in earlier periods and, apart from U.S. scholars, submissions came from South America, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. The geographical dispersion of the submissions is a testament to the publication's reputation as a premier journal on Third World issues. That reputation was validated by the fact that approximately one half of those submissions were rejected on solid scholarly grounds.
It is hard to estimate how many careers have been influenced by publication in this journal, but I would venture to guess that many have been, and that others will be. Ours is a profession that demands much of its practitioners, a demand often encapsulated in the expression, "publish or perish." The journal has, over its existence, provided an outlet for the scholarly production of numerous third world scholars. If their institutions are like mine, their articles have made it into the annual reports of their departments and of their colleges or universities and, at some level, impact the careers of the authors.
The Journal and the organization itself are the vision of a modest man, who started modestly, and eventually built both a huge organization of scholars and friends, with the commitment to see both projects thrive. Harold has missed this only conference, but he is present in spirit. One is tempted to say that the organization he built and the journal he launched are his legacy and indeed, they are. But they are not his only legacy. Look around you at the scholars and friends convened at this conference and others who could not be here on this occasion but are likewise bound in the determination to carry on his work. Therein lies the rest of the legacy of our friend, Harold Isaacs, Founder of the Association of Third World Studies and, until his passing, Editor of the Journal of Third World Studies.
Dr. Chaitram Singh, Associate Editor for Latin America, Journal of Third World Studies, Gund Professor of Government & International Studies, Berry College.
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|Title Annotation:||Tributes From 2015 Conference|
|Publication:||Journal of Third World Studies|
|Article Type:||In memoriam|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2015|
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