In 2011, Mark McWatt, Founding Editor of the Journal of West Indian Literature celebrated JWIL’s twenty-fifth year of publication as a regional, University of the West Indies-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 indeed transitioned to an online platform. In 2015, at the 34th annual conference on West Indian literature – another regional and initially UWI-led project dedicated to Caribbean literary scholarship, 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 A. Bucknor and me. 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. Antonia McDonald continues the good work. With Victor’s retirement from UWI a few years ago, I became Editor-in-Chief and Michael turned Senior Editor, soon joined in that role by Lisa Outar, thus 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. So the Journal, like so many others, is now fully online, with an energetic and committed Editorial Team drawing on colleagues (several of a “younger vintage”) from all over the world as well as from the wider Caribbean, beyond the UWI campus territories.
We now review the Editorial Board and our list of readers every five years, and have linked membership in the WIACLALS, The West Indian Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies (ostensibly the organizational structure for the attendees of our West Indian literature conference) with subscription to the Journal. This way, we can put the Journal more directly in the hands of Caribbean literary scholars, and ensure they are aware of the latest scholarship which circulates via JWIL. At the same time, the Journal of West Indian Literature remains committed to the same format as any other international peer-reviewed academic journal, maintaining high standards for scholarship and a rigorous and thorough peer review process. 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 we now invite reviews of theatre and film productions too. 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.
Recently, we have published several special issues: on the work of Booker Prize-winning novelist, Marlon James; on Caribbean Science/Speculative Fiction; on Caribbean Masculinities; on Caribbean Ecocriticism; on Audio-Visual Platforms of Anglophone Caribbean Literature; and, on Caribbean Writing and the Archives. We have also had a special focus on Indo-Caribbean literature and continue, in each issue, to feature the work of both emerging and established artists working in the region. JWIL is in a good place. But in late 2019, we had to say goodbye to Victor, who passed away peacefully. He will always be remembered, and his work with the Journal along with his sterling service to Caribbean literature and literary education has been invaluable. We celebrate his life.