In 2011, Mark McWatt, Founding Editor of the Journal of West Indian Literature celebrated JWIL’s twenty-fifth year of publication as a regional, UWI-led Caribbeanist project invested in highlighting and critically examining the prolific literary production of the Anglophone Caribbean. McWatt observed at the time that there was talk about the journal, which printed its first volume in 1986, “becoming exclusively an on-line publication” in the interests of international recognition and access. Of course, things moved slowly when the editors were all full-time academics juggling multiple responsibilities across the three campuses of the University of the West Indies; but only three years afterward, JWIL has indeed transitioned to an online platform. Earlier this year at the 34th annual conference on West Indian literature – another regional and initially UWI-led project dedicated to Caribbean literary scholarship in the region, for the region and largely disseminating and discussing work by critics in the region – it surfaced that many delegates, especially younger scholars of Caribbean literature, had no idea of the significance of the conference’s continuity. The same applies for the significance of JWIL. So it is worth recapping the history and achievements of this publication in the words of McWatt himself.
McWatt acknowledges that the survival of his project depended on the enormous contribution of his co-editor Victor Chang; eventually Chang himself assumed editorial responsibility, with the assistance of co-editors Michael Bucknor and myself. During Chang’s tenure, a Book Review Editor was appointed and, thanks to the indefatigable work of Curdella Forbes, a more robust review section was produced. With Victor’s retirement from UWI a few years ago, I became editor-in-chief and Michael turned senior editor, passing the care and survival of JWIL from one generation to the next. But much had changed since the journal’s inception and we realized it was time for JWIL to enter a new era in terms of technology as well as leadership. It was time to dispense with prohibitively costly postage of work that, for the price we could afford, was often less than satisfactory in its print quality. It was time to go online, time to bring on board new blood, drawing on colleagues (several of a “younger vintage”) and from all over the world as well as from the wider Caribbean, beyond the UWI campus territories. This is our first website and it will be the platform for our first online volume.
At the same time, the Journal of West Indian Literature remains committed to the same format as any other international peer-reviewed academic journal. We invite articles in English that are the result of scholarly research in literary textuality (fiction, poetry, drama, film, theory and criticism) of the English speaking (cricket playing) Caribbean and in translation from other parts of the archipelago. JWIL will also publish book reviews, and, in time, we hope to include reviews of theatre and film productions. We rely on the unpaid work of academic editors and readers and reviewers, and the support of all contributors and subscribers who hold that the cultural products of this special part of the world (and its diaspora) deserve platforms like the Conference on West Indian Literature and the Journal of West Indian Literature.