A Smaller Mask

I’ve not been quiet about the fact that one of my least favorite aspects of academia was the relentless pressure to publish. Not that publishing articles isn’t important. Sharing one’s research is the bread and butter of academic work, and the peer reviewed process, while definitely flawed, is really the best system we came up with. What troubled me, and still does, is that the question of whether one succeeds in getting one’s articles published in so-called ‘top-tier’ journals ultimately plays a huge role in determining the course of one’s academic career. So rather than being an intellectual challenge driven by a desire to reveal some complicated truth, publishing is charged with a do-or-die mentality. Never mind whether the academic integrity of the material is compromised as a result (I think it is), but at the very least it takes all the fun out of it.

My own personal white whale was an article I wrote about Autscape, a 4-day conference and retreat held annually in England, organized by and for adults on the autism spectrum. I was the first researcher to be invited to join and do participant-observation in the event. It was a fascinating bit of research, though not without its difficulties. And I ultimately came up with a pretty neat analysis (I think) about how the conference is sort of the opposite of a festival, an ‘un-festival’, with lots of musings over what Autscape tells us about the treatment of autistic people in society, as well as about such ideas as authenticity, freedom, community and the likes.

My first attempt at getting the article published was a bust. So was my second. My third attempt seemed to go well, with some major revisions required but with an optimistic air. That, too, was ultimately a failure. After each submission, I took some time to recuperate (not sure why a journal rejection is so devastating, but it really is), take in the reviewers’ comments, and improve the article. With my fourth attempt, followed by some more revisions, the article was finally accepted.

It’s a bittersweet feeling, I have to say. The sweet part makes sense of course, but I wasn’t expecting the bitter part. I suppose this stems from the fact that this would be my last published article on autism, the topic which occupied my research for nearly a decade. I can’t remember how Ahab reacts after harpooning the whale, but I recall he wasn’t entirely pleased. Luckily, the field that I’m in now – public policy, sustainability, climate action – is every bit as intellectually challenging and meaningful as my academic pursuits. And it’s really much more rewarding.

Anyway, here’s the article. The downloadable version is behind a paywall unfortunately (another huge flaw in the academic publishing system), but this is a link to a read-only version. Enjoy.



2 thoughts on “A Smaller Mask

  1. hi i would love to read your article, but I can ‘t read on Springer, as I am just autistic and not professional. I would be glad if you could send it to me as a pdf. I can pay directly via paypal, ok? Regards Ilona

  2. Hi Ilona, so glad to hear you’re interested in reading the article. Definitely no need to pay for the content – here’s a link to a read-only version. Hope you find it interesting!

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