Objects in the Review Mirror

It seems like that’s the way it goes in academia: Two years after I more or less abandoned my postdoctoral project at the roadside and entered another field of research, fame starts to trickle in. Well, fame is definitively too big a word, but visibility might just be about right.

It started out with a request for a background interview on masks in protest movements and continued with a request by journal Constellations to review articles on recent protests. Furthermore, an acquaintance I knew from conferences back in the day asked me to read his draft on protest movements as well before submitting it to journals.

I accepted those requests full well knowing –thanks to my involvement in higher education research– that reviews are a rather tiresome bit of extracurricular academic work. Yet, I also know that the peer review system depends on such little troubles. Otherwise, (even) more Sokal affairs may loom at the horizon.

Not following any metrics of my own work (maybe I should check my ORCID-database more regularly?), I can only guess if that sudden upsurge in visibility has to do with any article or book chapter being read furiously, or is just the normal timeline for academic researchers to be noticed. Starting out in 2016 with that strand of research and publishing bits and pieces on it in 2017/8, it has been four years now since I’ve been at the top of my protest movement-game. I’m just hoping my recommendations are still of any worth to the authors.

At least my relative distance from the subject and Cultural Studies as such (aha, there’s the link to that silly blog post title!) enables me, I think, to put certain grand assertions into perspective: Many articles breathe an air of all-encompassing importance of their subject matter which I remember quite well from my own involvement in that line of research. In other words: To draw attention to one’s research, articles position their subject as central to explaining a wide range of general social phenomena, which is often a bit overdrawn. The involvement of masks and masking in protests, as an example, is definitively noteworthy and should be investigated, but to assume that it is central for all kinds of protests ignores all the protests that have been going on recently without masks. Even, ironically, under circumstances in which masking was obligatory, due to the Covid19-pandemic.

Anyway, even though it’s an extra demand on my sparse time, I highly enjoy reviewing the novel research that is being done on the subject so close to my heart. Let those drafts keep coming, folks!


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