The First Year of Pakistaniaat–Some Thoughts

It is now the second year of Pakistaniaat’s publication. I thought I should take this opportunity to reflect upon our first year and share some thoughts about our future.
The Decision to Start a Journal
Pakistaniaat, as might be obvious by now, was not really launched on a whim. As a scholar of Pakistani origin living and working in the United States, I had felt a sort of responsibility to my mother country. Finally, after a long process of thought, I decided to launch an academic journal focused primarily on all aspects of Pakistani life. I am grateful to Jenny, my wife, for bearing with me during the whole process and by letting me use her computer to launch the journal.

This decision was also facilitated greatly with my experience of having published in the Postcolonial Text, a wonderful online journal in my field of study. I found the software that the Postcolonial Text used to be very user-friendly and ideally suited for a launching a new open-access journal. The software, called the Open Journal Systems (OJS), was developed by John Willinsky (Stanford University, USA & University of British Columbia, Canada) and made freely available to whole world for publication of academic journals online. Thousands of journals now use this software to publish there content.

Early Steps

The Pakistaniaat website was launched in January 2009, not yet using OJS, but sustained by Audra and Mike of Karma CMS. With the help of Karma CMS I was able to launch the journal in the hope that I will be able to find, eventually, a company with an affordable OJS platform. Besides these technical aspects of the journal, I also needed to put together a professional editorial team. Thus, the launching of the journal had tow immediate fronts, technical and administrative, but the most important aspect of this experience was to start attracting good submissions. I am gratified to say in hindsight that for Pakistaniaat all three important strands of the launching process came together.

Assembling an Editorial Team

A good journal, it goes without saying, must have a highly professional editorial team. I was lucky to find from amongst my friends and colleagues a brilliant team of scholars and writers to head various sections of the journal. Deborah Hall, Valdosta State University, a close friend of mine from Florida State was the first one to join us as our Fiction Editor. Jana Russ, an accomplished poet and a Lecturer at the University of Akron rendered her support as the Poetry Editor. We were  also lucky to garner the support of David Waterman, Université de La Rochelle, France, an emerging scholarly voice on Pakistan Studies, as our Review Editor. Mahwash Shoaib, an accomplished translator, and Yusaf Alamgirian, a journalist and writer from Pakistan, joined us respectively as our Translation and Urdu editors. We were also lucky to have Waqar Haider Hashmi, a dear friend, who handles our contacts with Pakistan. But we also needed, besides these brilliant scholars and writers, a computer wizard to join us as out layout editor. The layout editor has the crucial job of formatting all submissions into the wonderful and professional format in which they are made available to the public. My colleague and friend Jason W. Ellis volunteered to perform the task of our Layout Editor, thus completing my search for an editorial team. I was also, simultaneously reaching out to the senior scholars of Pakistan Studies to join our Editorial Board.

Editorial Board

During the early stage of launching the journal, I wrote approximately 5000 emails. Some of those emails were addressed to senior scholars, requesting them to join our editorial board. The board was crucial to us in two respects: it would would give us a chance to draw on the expertise support of these scholars for the progress of the journal, and it would also allow us to rely on the scholarly prestige of these scholars to bolster the image of of our newly launched journal. The following scholars were kind enough to join our editorial borad and I am grateful to them for lending us their support:

Tahera Aftab, University of Karachi, Pakistan
Fawzia Afzal-Khan, Montclair State Univeristy, United States
Waseem Anwar, Forman Christian College, Lahore, Pakistan
Kamran Asdar Ali, University of Texas, Austin, United States
Katherine Ewing, Duke University, United States
Robin Goodman, Florida State University, United States
Pervez Hoodbhoy, Quaid-e-Azam University, Pakistan
Babacar M’Baye, Kent State University, United States
Mojtaba Mahdavi, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada
Hafeez Malik, Villanova University, United States
Muhammad Umar Memon, University of Wisconsin, Madison, United States
Tariq Rahman, Quaid-e-Azam University, Pakistan
Amit Rai, Florida State University, United States
Amritjit Singh, Ohio University, United States
Anita Weiss, University of Oregon, United States

The Submissions

We received our first submission two weeks after we launched the journal. It was an Interview of Fawzia Afzal-Khan by Nilanshu Kumar Agarwal.  The rest followed at an amazingly astonishing pace. I would specially like to thank Dr. Muhammad Umar Memon (University of Wisconsin, Madison, United States) and editor of the Annual of Urdu Studies who has supported us throughout by contributing his works to the journal and by supporting us in our quest for funding. Now in our second year, we keep receiving submissions related to Pakistan from all over the world, but this has been made possible by those brave few who took the risk of sharing their work with Pakistaniaat during its first formative year.

Financial Support and Move to OJS

We started the journal with no promise of institutional support. Help came from various places. Ron Corthell, Chair of Kent State English Department, was the first one to give us financial support by paying our hosting fees to Karma CMS. In March we finally found a wonderful hosting company with and OJS Platform. Scholarly Exchange, a non profit organization, provides the hosting free of charge for the “First Year” and then makes it available for the subsequent years at a very affordable rate. Our transition to OJS was facilitated by Julian Fisher of Scholarly Exchange, and we are grateful for his constant support throughout our first year. During our first year, we were also lucky to garner the support of the American Institute of Pakistan Studies, who adopted us as one of their “supported” journals and gave us enough funding to host and run the journal for the year 2010.

Besides the institutions, we also got a lot of help from individuals who either subscribed to our print version or donated for our cause. Here are the names of these generous friends of Pakistaniaat:

David Waterman, Université de La Rochelle, France
Deborah Hall, Valdosta State University, United States
Akbar Zolfaghari, University of Putra, Malaysia
Donald E. Schmid, New York, United States
Mashhood Ahmed Sheikh, University of Tromsø, Norway
Andrew Smith, Florida State University, United States
Saba Waheed, California, United States

The Future

We are now publishing three issues/ Year and the future looks really bright. The journal is now self-sustaining and has already garnered attention from all over the world. I have no doubt that we will continue publishing quality works from/about Pakistan.

Ways of Helping Us

The best way you can help Pakistaniaat is by sending us you work and by passing the word around. You can also help us:

We do not ask for a lot, but would be thankful for whatever you can offer to help us continue publishing this wonderful journal. Thank you all for your support so far.

By M R

Originally from Pakistan, Dr. Masood Ashraf Raja is an Associate Professor of Postcolonial Literature and Theory and the editor of Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies.
Raja tweets @masoodraja

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