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WHO WE ARE AT CHIEDZA
The formal lectures, essays, examinations and the award of degrees are the core business of a university. But to these, there should be added an intellectual excitement that arises from the ferment of ideas that communities of intellectuals inevitably produce. Any university should provide a cultural environment that like any culture remains conscious of its fundamental ideas while adjusting and readjusting to the novelties around us, adopting some and rejecting others. In the institution, in the university culture, there is a constant exchange of ideas so that any intellectual who has the courage to be conservative can promote sets of ideas even when these have fallen out of fashion or as courageously boldly accept innovations when these convincingly challenge what once seemed incontrovertible.
Chiedza is the journal of Arrupe Jesuit University and has appeared twice a year since 1998 when its first issue was published as the journal of Arrupe College. Over the years, Chiedza has provided students with a forum in which they can contribute academic articles on contemporary issues in Africa using our training in philosophy and the humanities. Our ambition is to be true to our motto: “Lighting Africa”. When it was founded its object was to provide a publication in which students and academics could give their intellectual exchanges a more formal context than ordinary social occasions provide. From the beginning, Chiedza required its contributors that their articles were serious academic publications.
Writing for a serious academic journal requires different skills than a class essay or a newspaper article. For one thing, academic writing means that a writer is entering into a public debate and situating his or her ideas within that debate, agreeing or disagreeing with one side or the other or in between or offering positions that in the writer’s opinion have not been adequately considered. Academic writing should not be dogmatic nor can it provide only subjective opinions, its conclusions unsupported by adequate evidence and coherent argument. Because an article contributes to public debate, it must provide quotations and references that identify the current positions that constitute the debate. An academic article not only shows what its authors think on the subject but how his or her thoughts confirm or depart from those of other writers. A serious article cannot simply confirm intellectual positions that are widely held. A reader would understandably turn impatiently away from an article that simply traced well-trodden arguments. Sometimes, however, there is a value in showing that this is the current state of a debate but the discussions should invite readers to think of other positions that have not been adequately covered and that could in future be considered.
Although Chiedza initially assumed that its contributors would be students and academics at Arrupe College, we soon found that we were not limited to that constituency. Alumni from the College and now the University have continued to provide articles when they discover that their current research interests coincide with the theme of the next issue and feel that they can usefully contribute. But our external contributors are not limited to our Alumni. Over the years, we often receive contributions from scholars in other African institutions who have seen our fliers and want to contribute to the debates around the theme that we have chosen. There is prestige for students who may be publishing for the first time in finding their own work published alongside the work of established scholars. Both new and old scholars benefit from the interaction.
How do the editor and the editorial board decide what the theme of the next issue will be? The decision is the consequence of a series of meetings. The editor meets informally with members of the board and then calls a meeting of the entire board - in recent years this has been online. As the board members have had some warning that this is the purpose of the meeting, they will have had an opportunity to ask their companions what they think is a pressing concern of Africa that Chiedza needs to address. Chiedza, as a journal of philosophy and humanities, can raise issues that invite a philosophical response or can be approached through literature or political ideologies or can be seen to be the products of local or continental history or can combine all these disciplines and perspectives. At the meeting, we finally decide what we want as the theme of the next issue and the editor publicises this by producing a flier in which he spells out the possible ways in which this theme can be addressed. We then wait and see whether we have excited interest in our intellectual debate.
Some of the most exciting themes that we have addressed in the past have simultaneously attracted the ethicists among us and the political scientists and the cultural theorists and the historians, each of whom has revealed different facets of the theme. Contributors may have a great deal of local knowledge that they use to explore a theme but in their exploration, they show that what appeared to be merely local is replicated all over the continent. If the themes have attracted diverse contributions, the readers are able to engage with Africa in all its diversity but also in the similarities that its multiple parts bring together.
When the contributions begin to accumulate at the editor’s desk, the editor invites members of the board to come together in groups of two or three and the contributions are divided among them. The task of each of the groups is first to consider whether a contribution can be considered for publication. Once it is accepted for consideration, the group will consider how far the argument has been shaped and advanced to arrive at a clear conclusion. The readers will pay particular attention to the use that the article makes of sources that inform the article’s argument, how it is positioned in current debates about the topic and how it uses its sources to enhance its arguments. If the readers think that the article can be improved in these or any other way, they inform the editor who writes to the author and asks whether he or she can make the changes that have been recommended. Sometimes the initial readers do not agree on the merits of a particular contribution. When that happens, the article is sent to a third reader who will give his or her opinion on the merits of the contribution and agree that it should either be accepted or rejected. When the initial readers or the third reader agree that an article should be published, the editor and assistant editor will read through the article and correct any remaining errors of grammar or punctuation or other faults in the text. When they have completed their work, the material is handed to the Layout Manager and he brings the whole issue up to a print-ready version. Chiedza is produced from the office of the Pro-Vice-Chancellor Academics who is responsible for Chiedza including the funding. Once he has considered the latest version of the future issue and has given his approval for publication, the editor can get quotes for the cost of printing the hard copies. As with most journals and newspapers throughout the world, an increasing proportion of our issues are now posted and read online.
As can be seen, the production of Chiedza involves a series of processes that are needed to create a professional journal. During the last quarter of a century, generations of Arrupe students have been involved with Chiedza. The editors, lay-out managers and others who have contributed to the technicalities of producing a new issue and the members of the editorial boards have carried the expertise they acquired to other publishing projects throughout Africa. Their most important gift, however, has been the contribution they have made through Chiedza to the intellectual life of the Church and the Society of Jesus in Africa. At Arrupe Jesuit University, we should remain aware of their labours and how future generations of Arrupe students should see Chiedza as a significant instrument of their intellectual apostolate.