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AFS Review: News

AFS Seeks the Next Journal of American Folklore Editor

Monday, March 4, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Evangeline Mee

The Journal of American Folklore (JAF) is searching for a new editor or editorial team to transition into the term beginning in January 2021. A range of editor configurations have been successful in the past, and we are open to creative and feasible proposals going forward. Editor(s) have customarily served for a five-year period. The deadline for proposals is May 1, 2019.  

Published continuously since the founding of the American Folklore Society in 1888, JAF is one of the most prestigious and respected journals in the field of folklore, offering articles, reviews, notes, and opinion pieces on folklore and folklore study throughout the world. Since 2002, the University of Illinois Press has published JAF on behalf of the Society, which retains ownership of the journal.

The next editor(s) will arrive at an important moment. Academic publishing is changing; the communication needs and practices of scholars across folklore and the humanities are changing; and the place of our field and of the humanities in the world is also changing. Each of the many forms of communication now used by folklorists—in print, in person, in public programs, and on the Internet—has a niche in the overall ecology of folklore communications. Supporting a lively, healthy communications ecology for our field in a time of rapid technological, legal, and economic change is a major (perhaps the major) responsibility of the American Folklore Society. The Executive Board wants JAF to remain at the center of this ecology, and the new editor(s) will have remarkable opportunities to articulate and realize an editorial vision, to advance the field, and to shape as well as communicate the best work of our colleagues.

Here are some of the questions with which the new editor(s) will engage:

1. How can JAF preserve its existing strength as a print and digital journal?

2. Given its central position in the field of folklore, how should JAF weight different evaluative criteria in deciding what to publish?

3. How can JAF balance the traditional "slow" communication of peer-reviewed, well-considered scholarship with the need to respond to current issues and urgent questions within the field?

4. How can JAF promote robust scholarly interaction among folklorists, taking account of the diverse professional and social commitments, research paradigms, ethnographic involvements, and interdisciplinary connections within the AFS membership?

5. How can JAF assist the Society by catalyzing a field-wide conversation on such key scholarly communications questions as open access, open data, copyright, peer review, dissemination, and preservation?

6. How can JAF take advantage of new media affordances and experiment with new approaches to increase the consequence and visibility of folklore scholarship?

 Editors work in concert with these constituencies:

  • Student assistants who help administer the manuscript review and editing process;
  • An editorial board, chosen by the editor(s), which provides counsel and outreach to the field;
  • Review editors who are responsible for soliciting and shaping critiques of recent scholarly products (e.g., books, sound recordings, films and videos, exhibitions and exhibit catalogs, digital projects and other public presentations);
  • The AFS Publications Committee, which provides advice on publications policies;
  • The staff of the Journals Division of the University of Illinois Press, who take JAF from manuscript to finished publication;
  • The AFS Executive Board and Executive Director, to which the editor provides a report each year.

The editor or editorial team has final authority and responsibility for the contents of the Journal, including absolute authority to accept, edit, and reject all manuscripts, including reviews. Decisions in this area are not subject to review by any AFS officer or employee.  The Society has a standing agreement (which it will ask the editor(s) to sign) that describes the responsibilities and authority of the editorial staff, the Society, and the University of Illinois Press. Candidates interested in reviewing this document can request a copy from the AFS Executive Director’s office.

The Society provides an annual amount (currently $8000) to the JAF editorial office to help offset operating expenses, including postage, supplies, editorial assistance, and travel to conferences to hear new work and solicit that work for submission. Each year, the Journal’s leadership presents to the Board goals and a budget request for the coming year as part of the Society’s annual program and financial planning process. We expect that JAF’s future home institution will also provide support for the editorship.

A successful proposal for the editorship will provide evidence of:

  • A compelling editorial vision for JAF
  • Extensive knowledge of the field and strong reputation(s) within it
  • Commitments of institutional support for the costs of operating the editor’s office, including some appropriate combination of space, equipment, supplies, editorial assistance, and release time

as well as:

  • A grasp of the major issues surrounding academic publishing in the humanities, including those concerning online publishing and open access
  • Excellent writing skills
  • Strong editorial experience
  • Strong organizational and deadline-meeting abilities
  • Excellent oral communication and persuasive skills, indicating the ability to be proactive in acquiring excellent submissions for the Journal

In order to allow for a full year of transition, the Board plans to select the next editor(s) no later than the end of summer 2019. The new editor or editorial team will begin work shortly thereafter, during a question-and-answer session at the AFS annual meeting in October 2019. At this session in Baltimore, the editor(s) will discuss their vision and plans with the membership. The Baltimore meeting will also serve as a prime acquisitions opportunity for the new editor(s).

The first issue under new leadership will be due to the University of Illinois Press in mid-summer 2020 and will appear in early 2021. Contributions already in the JAF publication pipeline will help populate that first issue.

The American Folklore Society’s Executive Board gives its deepest thanks to JAF’s current team for their outstanding service to our Society and the field. The team, led by editor-in-chief Ann Ferrell with Brent Björkman, Erika Brady, Tim Evans, Kate Parker Horigan, and Michael Ann Williams is based at Western Kentucky University’s Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology. We encourage candidates to contact the current editors (at or AFS Executive Director Jessica Turner (at 812-856-2346 or with their questions, including those pertaining to operating expenses.

How to Apply:

The major element of a proposal for the editorship is a letter that articulates a vision for the Journal, details accomplishments and abilities in the areas mentioned above, and describes the institutional support available. As part of your proposal, please also include current CVs for all candidates, as well as a letter from the relevant institutional official confirming the availability of resources for the editor’s office over a five-year period.  

The deadline for submitting proposals to AFS Executive Director Jessica Turner (American Folklore Society, 800 East Third Street, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA; is May 1, 2019. Please submit materials electronically to  

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