This issue of Tate Papers has a special focus on the work of nineteenth-century British painter John Constable, featuring seven articles that offer valuable new insights into his influences, working methods and the contemporary reception of his work. It also contains six other articles that shed light on the work of very different artists from a variety of perspectives, including technical examinations, historical studies and theoretical analyses. We are proud to be publishing such a broad spectrum of scholarship and are excited to share it with our readers. Yet we acknowledge that, despite the variety of authors, reviewers, editors and topics, they share one crucial characteristic: all are white. We are keenly aware that this bias mirrors the institutional structures of the art and academic worlds that we occupy, not least that of the museum. And just like the latter, we too must change.
As Tate’s flagship peer-reviewed journal, Tate Papers aims to represent the diversity of the museum’s research and the values and convictions laid out in the Tate Research Strategy. These include a commitment to providing a reflective and critical space for debate within and beyond Tate about matters of cultural importance, such as decolonisation, representation and sustainability, and the impact they have on art museum collections, practices and audiences. In light of the systemic racisms and structural inequalities highlighted by global protests and the Covid-19 pandemic, the need for equitable representation throughout the journal’s structures and activities has never been more urgent or clear. If a diverse multiplicity of voices and experiences are not shaping the journal, then it fails to address the world we are trying to engage with.
The aim of this editorial is to be transparent about some of the things we have done, some things we are working on, and some things we will do next to ensure the journal supports and does justice to multiple histories, fields of knowledge and experiences. We know that some of these actions need refinement, that some might not go far enough, and that we still need to work out how best to achieve some of them. What we can say is that our communication will reflect our commitment to being more open and accountable.
What have we done so far?
- We paused publication of the present issue, which was due to be published in the spring, in order to take our time to learn, listen and plan how to remodel the journal around commitments to anti-racism and equitable representation.
- We have made the decision to permanently abandon the biannual publishing model that we have followed for the past sixteen years and will now move to publishing thematic groupings of articles in a more iterative way, unbound by arbitrary seasonal deadlines. This will give us more time and flexibility to proactively cultivate scholarship that relates to our core priorities, and ensure that our commitments to anti-racism and equitable publishing are enacted with care, criticality and openness.
- Starting with the present issue, we are including an editorial postscript for every article, which provides information about the origins of the article, the review process, and the relationship between the author(s) and the journal, as well as an expanded acknowledgements section. The aim of the postscript is to demystify our practices and facilitate ongoing reflection and learning within our editorial team. We would be grateful for any feedback on the first iteration of this as we adapt and enhance the postscripts (please find contact details below).
What are we doing now?
- We are conducting an audit of the journal’s recent history and scrutinising the factors that have shaped the development, reviewing and editing of articles, the choice of subjects, artists and practices represented, and the criteria for decision-making. The results of this audit will help us to identify what could have been done differently and enable us to create new processes that match our values and commitments.
- We are exploring inclusive language practices and applying these to all aspects of our editorial work.1 In doing this we are trying to embrace the fact that language continuously evolves, and that different subjects and subjectivities merit different editorial approaches.
What will we do next?
We will continue to research and consult on the following areas, and then set targets and timeframes for which we can be held accountable:
- Expand and diversify our pool of contributors, going beyond the journal’s existing networks and actively seeking out and supporting the publication of research from people who might not have thought to contribute to Tate Papers before. This will allow us to prioritise the publication of research on histories and practices other than the white-dominant ones that the journal has traditionally upheld.
- Ensure that the journal’s Academic Advisory Board has a wider diversity of expertise and lived experience. We will review and be transparent about the roles and responsibilities of its members, and work with them to foster an environment of open and constructive criticism and guidance.
- Make changes to the peer review process to ensure an even greater diversity of thought.
- Explore equitable citation practices in the writing, reviewing and editing of articles to encourage a wider diversity of cited work, and to protect against and tackle instances of plagiarism and erasure that disproportionately affect academics of colour.2
- Collaborate with other journals to share best practice and encourage progress.
We’d like to hear from you
We are initiating conversations and actively listening to readers, contributors, critics, co-workers and advisors about the changes they want and expect from Tate Papers, and from research at Tate more broadly. Your questions, suggestions or reflections are very welcome and we are especially interested in recommended reading or good examples of anti-racism in editorial and publishing practices.
Christopher Griffin, Convenor, Research Programmes and Publications and Editor of Tate Papers
Celia White, Senior Research Editor and Deputy Editor of Tate Papers
Arthur Goodwin, Assistant Research Editor
Susannah Worth, Digital Editor, Research