5th Anniversary Commentary from Former Editors-in-Chief
It doesn’t seem so long ago that Zach Nowak came to me and said, “Hey, my friend Brad Jones started a food studies journal for grad students. Does that sound like something you’d be interested in?” I said, “Sure!” not knowing that the next three years would be a blur of meeting in coffee shops and over Skype, searching for just the right words to give feedback to authors, and encountering those electrifying articles that we simply had to publish. Looking back on the beginnings of the Graduate Journal of Food Studies from five years on, the journal still has unique values, both for graduate students and the field. Just to name a few of those values:
Uncovering the hidden curriculum. The hidden curriculum of graduate school is particularly opaque to first-generation and marginalized scholars, but flummoxes just about every graduate student at some point. How do you get in touch with an editor? How do you peer review an article? When we founded GJFS, we decided that the best way to teach people to do these things was, well, by doing them. Pedagogical research shows the power of active learning. As graduate students submit, review, and edit this journal, they grasp the unwritten rules of scholarship, and teach them to each other. The skills I gained while on the staff of GJFS have stayed with me in my own experience of academic publishing.
Introducing the most innovative food studies scholarship. Reading submissions to GJFS, I learned about the most interesting things: Pregnancy and raw milk cheeses. A blind dining restaurant. A horsemeat scandal. Food truck policy. Widely divergent definitions of “local food.” Issues that I first encountered in GJFS scholarship have since surged to the forefront of cultural conversations: A vegan cookbook in digital blackface. Stereotypical representations of black Americans in the form of cookie jars and salt shakers. By publishing the work of emerging scholars, GJFS shows where the field of food studies is going next: always somewhere provocative and compelling.
Building the network that will shape your career. Like many industries, for good or ill, academia is all about who you know. Five years on, I run into people I first met through GJFS simply everywhere: in conference hotel lobbies and on Twitter, in stacks of job applications, on the pages of Gastronomica and Food, Culture & Society. I’ve said it before in these pages but I’ll say it again: in the world of higher education, where opportunities for funding, publishing, and employment are fiercely competitive, it is imperative that we take care of one another. For those of us in positions of privilege—whether that privilege is based on class, race, gender, academic status, etc.—we face a particular responsibility as allies to support, cite, and amplify the work of scholars from marginalized and underrepresented groups. Networking is not merely career advancement—it is walking the walk.
In closing, I hope that GJFS can continue serving the graduate food studies community for five more years and many more after that.
Carla Cevasco is Assistant Professor of American Studies at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. She is a scholar of food, medicine, and the body in early North America.