Introduction to the Inaugural Issue

From: JUPS #1, 2015.

Ukrainians watching the stage on Maidan Square, Kyiv. Photograph: Street Work (2014)
April 2015
What?

Recent economic and geopolitical crises have forced contemporary global debates regarding the role of the state and the future of society. In light of the Eurozone Crisis, continued eastward enlargement of the EU, the EuroMaidan mass-mobilization, the annexation of Crimea, the Russian sponsored war in Donbas, and the ongoing tensions between Russia and the West, these debates have been especially pertinent in Central and Eastern Europe, and more specifically in Ukraine. More than ever, there is a need for sound, scientific knowledge of Ukrainian society, politics, and economy. Recent debates on Ukraine have engaged intellectuals in far-flung places across the globe. Our discussions have been sped up by new information communication technologies, which have in turn seemingly made knowledge production, dissemination and consumption more equal. Yet, before we define the current era as the Information Age, the Age of Knowledge, or the existence of a global Knowledge Society (David and Foray 2002; Drucker 2001; Rodrigues 2003) we need to acknowledge that this process has been far from equal. Instead, as Strange (1998) has pointed out, information is in fact still distributed and utilized unequally around the world, and this is particularly true in the former Soviet space. Moreover, access to information has become a form of structural power that has created hierarchies between and within academic networks in different societies.

It has also been noted that the uneven distribution of knowledge (creation, production and dissemination) not only impacts the academia but can also have an effect on the ability of states to develop sound policies and institutions for good governance (Popper 2002).  Knowledge harnessed by the governments of “western” industrialized democracies, or the “Global North” – especially through the development of statistics – has been said to have helped in the creation of conditions that promote national development (Foucault et al. 1991). Crucial in this process is the harnessing of knowledge produced by social scientists in the creation of governmentality or a form of power that functions through “institutions, procedures, analyses and reflections,” and has populations as its target (Foucault et al. 1991, 102). Or to put it otherwise, the goal of reaching an “open society” must rely on equally open knowledge about both institutional and extra-institutional political practices and policies that can only be achieved through a systematic and scientific approach (Popper 1988; Popper 1979; Popper 2002; Popper, Shearmur & Turner 2008). One can argue that it is perhaps even more important to develop such scientific knowledge in democratizing contexts such as contemporary Ukraine. And although we acknowledge that not all knowledge that is pursued will help improve the state’s ability to govern more effectively or increase general well-being in societies, recognizing that there is indeed a link between the rigorous analysis of socio-politico-economic phenomena and the application of insightful findings to social problems faced by states is crucial if we intend to increase the “quality of government,” expand “state capacity,” and thus, remedy a state’s weaknesses, as in the case of Ukraine (Holmberg and Rothstein 2012). Thus, it can be argued that the development of social sciences is a vital aspect of contemporary societies in Eastern Europe and specifically in the case of Ukraine.

It is important to acknowledge that the production and engagement with global social scientific knowledge has, in fact, been deeply hierarchical. It has been dominated by “western” academic institutions that oftentimes act as gatekeepers. Scholars from other parts of the world rarely sit on the editorial boards of top-ranking western journals that define major disciplines in the social sciences. Crucially, this western-dominated social science has been increasingly English speaking. However, recently with the advent of open access platforms, a change is in the air and it is coming from both directions.  Western academic institutions are increasingly eager to hear, empower and integrate with academic institutions and scholars in emerging economies in the “South” and in the “East.” And academics from democratizing contexts like Ukraine are also actively seeking to create their own English-language journals, so that their voices can be heard by global audiences. It is in light of these larger social and academic developments that in May of 2013 the idea for the Journal of Ukrainian Politics and Society (JUPS), Ukraine’s first peer-review, English-language, scholarly journal was born and launched by its editors as a product of the Krytyka Institute, a non-profit research institution of its parent – Krytyka Magazine.

Why?

The need for academic journals, like JUPS, in Ukraine became evident to us and other social scientists who were both from Ukraine or  interacted regularly with Ukrainian academics. We experienced firsthand that while on one hand, excellent Ukrainian scholars (aside from a small handful) were rarely known in western academic circles and thus, not integrated into western scholarship; and on the other, we observed a need for further development of the state of social sciences in Ukraine. Judging from these conditions, Ukraine (as well as other post-communist states) in regards to social sciences needs both local development as well as further integration into the global academia. We launched the journal with these goals in mind. But how does one go about promoting the development and exposure of social sciences in Ukraine?

Scholars in Ukraine, as well as in the greater region, face several obstacles in conducting and communicating their research so that their findings have an impact both domestically and abroad. First is the matter of language. For numerous historical reasons at present the language of globalization, international communication and science is English. Although we can critique this reality, this will only delay the integration of Ukraine’s scientific community into the global academia and allow the dominance of Anglophone scholarship to define approaches, narratives and discourses about what is taking place in Ukraine, as we have seen over the last year. This issue has been a serious setback for evidence-based policy making during the ongoing crises faced by the Ukrainian state. When foreign academics, and the governments they advise, were not able to access existing Ukrainian scholarship on important topics such as political preferences, behavior, national identity and foreign policy due to linguistic issues, it led to the creation of policies based on limited and even flawed knowledge (House of Lords, European Union Committee 2015). Thus, we must provide tools and aid to allow more Ukrainian scholars to publish their scholarly findings in English. Thus, promoting their engagement in a dialogue with western academic circles, and even promoting their ability of becoming agenda-setters. JUPS will seek to do just this. We will provide translation and editorial services for exceptional social science research by academics based in Ukraine.

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