The Lifeline of Indian Social Sciences
Like most scholars of South Asia, I was introduced to the EPW very early in my academic life, during my student days in the 1980s. It was in the EPW that we looked for authentic and interesting scholarship on the social, economic and political life of contemporary India. I remember spending hours in libraries locating old issues of the journal and scanning through a range of subjects. I also remember occasionally feeling frustrated when one discovered that an enterprising, lazy fellow scholar had torn away the pages that had the paper one was looking forward to read.EPW was not simply a professional journal, it represented something more, a kind of scholarship that was truthful and critical at the same time. One could disagree with the arguments presented there, but one still respected the scholar, perhaps simply because they had been published in EPW.
I still remember very vividly when I received my first letter from Krishna Raj, sometime in 1994, informing me that EPW was going to publish the paper that I had submitted to them. I felt an enormous sense of pride as I shared the news with whomsoever I met. Publishing in EPW continues to be one of the greatest sources of professional satisfaction for me even today. It gives me a sense of accomplishment that I do not get by publishing anywhere else. And, I believe, this is also true of a very large number of fellow scholars working in different disciplines of the social sciences and humanities, and doing research in/on South Asia. I have often encountered this not only among younger scholars of the current generation, but also among the senior scholars from different parts of the world. For many of us, having a “special article” published in EPW has much greater value than publishing in any of the other “refereed journals” in our respective fields in the social sciences.
What makes EPW so special? The obvious answer is its professional credibility consistently sustained by its editors and the editorial staff over the past five decades. Perhaps the most valuable quality of EPW is its reach and audience. It is a research journal, but it is also much more than that. Besides being read by those in the social sciences, it is also read with a similar passion by a range of people with a variety of interests outside the academic world: journalists, policymakers and bureaucrats, political activists, and civil society actors. Even those who often disagree with its editorial positions find it hard to avoid looking at its contents page, week after week. I do not think there would be a single serious student of South Asia who would have not read the pages of EPW. I doubt if the same can be said about any other research journal focusing on South Asia, notwithstanding its formally calculated “impact factor.” EPW has been the lifeline of the social science community in India, and for those working on South Asia and elsewhere in the world. Besides providing a platform for academic and critical publishing, EPW has also given the Indian social sciences community a sense of autonomy and dignity.
It is with professional pride and a sense of gratitude that I participate in the celebrations to mark the 50th year of its publication.
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