Interview with Dr. Tej N. Dhar Regarding the Journal of Eritrean Studies, by Simon Mesfun, from, Nov 10, 2005 – In 2002 the University of Asmara started to publish a journal titled ‘Journal of Eritrean Studies’ to provide researchers an opportunity for making their contributions known to the public.

The journal is published twice a year and the contributors are from inside and outside the University and from abroad. Shaebia org. conducted an interview with Dr. Tej N. Dhar, Editor in Chief of the Journal, regarding the journal?s content, distribution, problems and other related issues. Excerpts:

First, when did you start the journal and why? The first issue of the journal came out in 2002. Since it was the first issue, we had to spend considerable amount of time in attending to many procedural matters, such as securing the required permission to publish it and following the bidding procedure for finding a printer. The selected printer did not have any experience of printing a journal of this kind; so we had to spend time with the printer, too. The result was that we could not bring out two issues in 2002, though the policy of the journal is to publish two issues per year. Because of the same reasons, we had to combine the two issues of 2003 into a single volume. We put ourselves on track in 2004, and brought out volume III in two issues of May and December.

The journal was started to provide researchers an opportunity for making their meaningful contributions to the history, geography, culture, politics, economy, and languages and literatures of Eritrea known to other researchers and also to the public at large. Many of our University teachers were busy doing their doctoral research in various universities of Europe, and America, and some are still out there. We wanted to ensure that their work too is known in their country. The University too is moving slowly from a purely teaching mode into teaching and research mode. Besides, we also want that interesting work on Eritrea that is being done by non-Eritrean in various parts of the world should get known here. In short, we had several reasons for starting the journal. We also want that research that is being carried out in various ministries of the government should find a place in it.

You have published four issues of the journals so far. Can you tell us something about these issues? The four issues of the journal confirm what I have already said. We have published research articles in diverse areas: such as, archaeology, anthropology, geography, economics, history, demography, literature, and linguistics, but all of them related to the Eritrean situation. The contributors are from Asmara University as well as from universities in Holland, Germany, and America. Articles are published only after they are cleared by referees both from inside and outside the country.

We also have a section on book reviews. We invite experts in the field to review books related to Eritrea published outside the country and books published in Eritrea.

We understand that there have been delays in the publication of the journal? What were the reasons for this? You are right about the delays. I have already mentioned what happened in 2002. There were too many procedural delays, because we were doing something for the first time. We have had problems with the bidding procedure and also with the printers. We are still in a kind of learning process. We could bring out the two issues of 2004 only in 2005. But delays in academic journals are quire well known. So long as we continue to publish, it is all right. I do not want to suggest that we should live with delays, but invariably delays do take place. The whole process of preparing an issue is a complicated one, and involves the participation of many people. We also lack facilities: we do not have an editorial office and I am not a full-time editor. But it is okay; we are at it.

What about the volume that is due this year? Actually, this year?s volume is going to be a double issue, devoted exclusively to the languages and literatures of Eritrea. Significant research articles by Eritreans and non-Eritreans on the different languages and literatures of Eritrea will be collected in this issue. All the selected articles have gone through the review process. Some of them have also been edited, and we have already started preparing a copy for the press.

How do you handle the distribution of the journal? The distribution of the journal has been one of our major problems. When we published our first issue we sent out copies to different countries, to try to get subscriptions, but we did not get many. This is quite understandable. A journal has to be in print for several years before it can attract the attention of academic departments and institutions. We hope that with the passage of time the journal will get the kind of attention that it deserves.

We have had problems with local distribution too. We have tried to create outlets for its sale to the public through bookshops, but it has not yielded encouraging results. Perhaps we need to do more to win individual and institutional subscriptions from within the country.

Who are your main contributors and how do you approach them to send their articles for publication in the journal? As I have told you already our contributors are from within the University, from the ministries, and also from universities in countries like Italy, Germany, America, Holland, and England.

For every projected issue we write to experts we know, contact academics and non-academics who have done work on Eritrea, and also put a Call of Papers notice in the website of the University of Asmara as well as on the website of the journal.

What role do you think this journal has in the area of research and documentation? I would say a significant one. All the articles that we publish are research articles. They are important in themselves because they document different aspects of life in Eritrea, and thus a source of valuable information that can be used by anybody who is interested in these areas. They are important also because they provide directions for future research.

I must add here that the publication of the journal has already stimulated a number of people to do and publish research on different aspects of Eritrean history, culture, economy, etc.

What are your future plans? Our future plans are to stabilize the publication of the journal by bringing it out twice a year without any delays. We are already at work on the double-issue of 2005, and we have enough essays for the two issues of 2006. We also hope that we succeed in getting the various literary and cultural organizations of Eritrea interested in the journal and its future. © Copyright 2001 – 2003

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