Voices and Viewpoints

Inaugural Campus Symposium Designed to Ease Academics’ Publishing Panics

by Sal Nudo / Mar 22, 2019

Keynote address by Jill Petty relates inequities in publishing

Getting published can often be a formidable, even intimidating, process for scholars.

The inaugural University of Illinois Press Publishing Symposium, held Feb. 15 at the Levis Faculty Center, was designed to ease anxiety about publishing and demystify the route toward getting published in academic books and journals.   

Julie Laut, the outreach and development coordinator at UI Press, said it made sense for her unit to host the event.

“Members of our staff have presented workshops on various aspects of publishing to Urbana-Champaign campus departments as well as in conjunction with other units such as the library’s Savvy Researcher, the Graduate College’s thesis program, and the OVCR’s first book writing group,” she said. “A daylong event devoted to the ecosystem of academic publishing was a natural outgrowth of these commitments.”

The symposium included interactive workshops, roundtable discussions, and talks centering on publishing. It was deemed a successful day, according to Laut, with positive feedback given by attendees afterward and more than 100 people in attendance, many of whom were graduate students and faculty and staff members on campus. Laut said community members and a contingent from Illinois State also attended.

Petty's talk covered how the mainstream publishing industry has sustained and protected racial and gender hierarchies within knowledge cultures.

The keynote address by Jill Petty (pictured above), an experienced editor who has worked for South End Press, Beacon Press, and Northwestern University Press, was “powerful and deeply personal,” according to Laut.

Titled “#PublishingWhileBlack: Reflections on ‘Diversity,’ Antiracism, and Equity,” Petty’s talk covered how the mainstream publishing industry has sustained and protected racial and gender hierarchies within knowledge cultures. Laut said Petty was chosen to give the featured talk to expand the conversation beyond the “nuts and bolts” of academic publishing and into broader issues.

“Drawing on her own history as a devoted reader and her decades as a social justice editor at several presses,” Laut said, “she traced histories of power within publishing to tease out some of the narratives that have resulted in the shocking lack of diversity in publishing today.

“She challenged the audience to move beyond the language of ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ to embrace antiracist praxes in order to effect long-lasting, structural change.”

Laut and her colleagues are excited about future UI Press Publishing Symposiums. One of their goals is to more actively target community members who want publishing information. With that in mind, future events may have additional sessions that focus on a wider range of topics for more people—from advanced graduate students working on their dissertations to experienced authors seeking info on rights and permissions.

UI Press will hold a similar symposium this fall at the University of Illinois at Chicago. As for next year’s symposium on campus, Laut said ideas are welcome, as are potential partnerships.

“We want to ensure that this event fulfills the needs of our community,” said Laut, who can be reached at jlaut2@illinois.edu.

Learn more about the symposium and watch presentations from the event.

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