There is a widespread prejudice against edited volumes in the scholarly world, the idea being they are unedited conference papers with a cover slapped on. In a few cases this is true, the culprits often certain eminent academic presses. As a result, the mere mention of ‘edited volume’ can prompt many people and the majority of publishers to blindly reach for their nose.
But this judgement is unfair, the charge they are rough and raw is far from the truth for most edited volumes; many indeed are actually focused and subtle works. Moreover, often these volumes are the earliest channel for new scholars to bring fresh insights in their field to a wider readership.
Of course, it is especially irritating to bring together a group of scholars to write a focused collective work and then have this labelled a ‘conference volume’. As such, although it was gratifying that Lifestyle and Entertainment in Yangzhou, edited by Lucie Olivová and Vibeke Børdahl, was recently reviewed in the Journal of Asian Studies, we were less thrilled to see it called a ‘conference volume’.
Elsewhere, other edited volumes from NIAS Press were recently treated with greater respect – Saying the Unsayable, for instance, was judged ‘truly illuminating’ while a recent reviewer of Tai Lands and Thailand said the volume:
clearly succeeds in terms of identifying what’s at stake in the strategic manipulation of the meaning of community, by unpicking some of the reasons why advocates of community rights and empowerment became so disillusioned with the rural population’s electoral embrace of Thaksin Shinawatra that they more or less warmly welcomed the 2006 military coup which ousted his government - thus negating the voting rights of the country’s predominantly rural majority.