Encyclopedia History

In 2006, the ISA decided to create a scholarly reference for our discipline, a work comprising a series of literature review essays (refereed and approximately 10,000 words each) for the myriad topics in our expansive field. These essays, which review the intellectual history of scholarship on topics of international studies, are rigorous, comprehensive, and neutral in tone, detailing fruitful lines of research up to the current “state of the art,” and describing prior dead-ends. As such, the essays provide an invaluable resource for students and scholars new to a particular area of research who need an overview that maps the existing scholarship in a useful way. The Compendium continues to grow with new and updated essays added annually.

The Encyclopedia, formerly the Compendium Project, had three components:

The International Studies Encyclopedia (ISE), the print version, was published in 2009 and features A-to-Z format. It is available for purchase by libraries from Oxford University Press.

International Studies Online (ISO), available to all ISA members and to all libraries that purchase an annual subscription from OUP, includes all the essays in the ISE plus approximately 20 new or updated essays each year. It is searchable by keyword. Further development of the Compendium will include enhancement of online essays with links to archives, datasets, cases, pedagogical aids, discussion boards, and other relevant materials.

International Studies Compendia: Section Volume Series (ISC), suitable for individual purchase and course adoption, are selections of new and updated Compendium essays. ISA sections have the opportunity to propose such volumes.

Compendium history compiled 2010.

When it was suggested that the ISA consider the creation of an encyclopedia project, most people were thinking of a traditional work filled with short descriptions of terms relevant to international studies. This format was not particularly exciting.  Academics don’t tend to consult such works, and generally frown upon their use by students.  On the other hand, the creation of a series of essays that review the literature in important topic areas might be of real interest. A repository of information about the development of our thinking on a given issue, the status of the current literature, and possible future directions, would be of significant use to students, professional scholars, and those who might wish to understand international studies in a sophisticated manner.  We are seeking to create the fundamental reference resource in international studies.

The ISA’s Governing Council placed two constraints upon the project. First, it must not be divisive.  Its creation must not become the terrain for substantive, methodological or ideological battles. Second, the project must not put the Association in financial jeopardy.  The ISA was not to incur debt at any point.

A number of publishers were interested, but the proposal that best met our needs came from Wiley-Blackwell. The project would be allotted between 4 and 4.5 million words – roughly 6,200 to 7,200 pages, under the founding General Editorship of Robert Denemark. With space for hundreds of entries in the range of ten thousand words each, we would be able to solicit manuscripts on ‘mid-range’ issues. (Smaller or perhaps even longer essays will be considered if necessary.) Instead of suffering through the competition that would result from having room for only one entry on ‘the politics of trade’, we can solicit essays on issues that include ‘trade and protection’ and ‘trade and underdevelopment’ and ‘war and trade’.  There is enough space in this project for the full range of issues to be exercised from a variety of perspectives.

The adoption of review essays in the ten thousand word range also allows us to set high standards of scholarship.  The ISA considers this project to be on a par with its journals, and each manuscript will be peer reviewed. This is important because it will assure quality and will allow those essays accepted to take their legitimate place on the CVs of their authors. Unlike traditional encyclopedia entries, many of which are paid for, these longer essays will be more sophisticated, have a more serious analytical content, and serve as a scholarly publication.

We believe these essays will be of significant use.  Undergraduates, and especially graduate students, will be able to review the literature far more effectively than is possible by reading the latest text, or the last half-dozen articles on a given topic.  Those of us preparing to teach in new areas will be able to quickly review the range of literature and its most current manifestations.  Scholars looking into new research areas could acquire a sense of the issues that have been covered, and the way in which they’ve been considered, in an efficient manner.  Those outside the academy might also find such essays to be of significant interest as matters considered by scholars become relevant to public policy and debate.

Who would write such review essays? Most of us already have. Laboriously prepared dissertation literature reviews are the first thing that must be jettisoned when reorganizing manuscripts for publication as monographs or sets of articles.  The work that went into them often goes unappreciated.  The expertise acquired over years of study by hard-working scholars may be translated into syllabi, but the careful consideration of the development and current status of a given literature may never see publication. Yet even junior authors who publish literature reviews for International Studies Review or in various handbooks, yearbooks and volumes of reconsiderations, are acknowledged as leaders in their areas, setting the agenda for future work.

No single editor or small team can bring together a set of essays that encapsulate all of international studies, but the ISA is uniquely suited to doing so.  With over 20 substantive sections, we have a ready-made structure for the organization of such a project. Each section has been asked to contribute.  The section-driven lists of topics will be reviewed and augmented, when necessary, with solicitations to those who might provide unique perspectives. The project is also to be critical in nature.  Each section will be encouraged to offer an essay on the questions that are being ignored or underrepresented.  Along with the on-line version of the project we are going to create an on-line discussion forum so that individuals may respond to the essays.  This project should be the start of a set of valuable conversations about where we have been, where we are, and where we might be headed.

The first goal of the Compendium Project is to have each section generate a list of topics to be considered.  These should be substantially complete, and some authors should have been identified, by our 2007 meeting in Chicago .  One year after that we should have generated the manuscripts for review.  In a total of three years we want to bring the project to market.  Revenues generated by IS On-Line or The International Studies Encyclopedia in excess of the advance Blackwell provided to cover the costs of production will go to the Association for use in the support of professional activities by our members.

The International Studies Association

Representing over 100 countries, ISA has more than 6,500 members worldwide and is the most respected and widely known scholarly association in this field. Endeavoring to create communities of scholars dedicated to international studies, ISA is divided into 7 geographic subdivisions of ISA (Regions), 29 thematic groups (Sections) and 4 Caucuses which provide opportunities to exchange ideas and research with local colleagues and within specific subject areas.
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