AFS Begins Search for the Next Journal of American Folklore Editor

AFS News, Professional Opportunities
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The Journal of American Folklore/JAF: A Global Quarterly is searching for a new editor or editorial team to transition into the term beginning in January 2025. A range of editor configurations have been successful in the past, and we are open to creative and feasible proposals going forward. Editor(s) have customarily served for a five-year period. The deadline for proposals is May 1, 2024. The new editor(s) will begin work with a transition period starting in the fall of 2024.

Published continuously since the founding of the American Folklore Society in 1888, JAF is one of the most prestigious and respected journals in the field of folklore, offering double-blind, peer-reviewed scholarly articles, perspective pieces, featured and reviewed projects, and book reviews that engage with the broad field of folklore across academic, public, and applied works.  Since 2002, the University of Illinois Press has published JAF on behalf of AFS, which retains ownership of the journal.

The next editor(s) will arrive at an important moment. Academic publishing is changing; the communication needs and practices of scholars across folklore and the humanities are continuing to change; and the place of our field and of the humanities in the world is also changing. Each of the many forms of communication now used by folklorists—in print, in person, in public programs, and on the internet—has a niche in the overall ecology of folklore communications. At the same time, JAF is committed to advancing AFS’s pledge to investigate, correct, and reclaim the unrecognized histories, perspectives, and visions of our interdisciplinary and international field in order to provide a more inclusive story of the trajectories of the discipline within the US and around the world. Supporting a lively, healthy communications ecology for our field in a time of rapid technological, legal, economic, and social change is a major (perhaps the major) responsibility of the American Folklore Society. The Executive Board wants JAF to remain at the center of this ecology, and the new editor(s) will have remarkable opportunities to articulate and realize an editorial vision, to advance the field, and to shape as well as communicate the best work of our colleagues.

Here are some of the questions with which the new editor(s) will engage:

1. How can JAF preserve its existing strength as a print and digital journal?

2. How can JAF address structural inequities within the field and within the world?

3. Given its central position in the field of folklore, how should JAF articulate its  evaluative criteria in deciding what to publish? 

4. How can JAF balance the traditional “slow” communication of peer-reviewed, well-considered scholarship with the need to respond to current issues and urgent questions within the field? 

5. How can JAF promote robust scholarly interaction among folklorists, taking account of the diverse professional and social commitments, research paradigms, ethnographic involvements, and interdisciplinary connections within AFS membership? 

6. How can JAF assist AFS by catalyzing a field-wide conversation about  such key scholarly communications questions as the nature and impacts of artificial intelligence (AI), open access, open data, copyright, peer review, dissemination, and preservation?

7. How can JAF take advantage of new media affordances and experiment with new approaches to increase the consequence and visibility of folklore scholarship? 

Editorial Team Structure and Management

We encourage applicants to be innovative in proposing potential staffing structures.  

JAF has historically been positioned within a research university that has provided support for the Editor-in-Chief through course releases, compensation, and resources for an Editorial Assistant through graduate assistantships. Though this structure has been effective, it has also limited the editorship to those who work in institutions that are committed to funding this work. 

To open this opportunity to more people and to provide greater continuity in the transition, JAF now has a Senior Managing Editor to support the Editor(s)-in-Chief in supervising and carrying out the editorial process.

The current structure comprises:

  • Editor-in-Chief (faculty member at George Mason University)
  • Senior Managing Editor (AFS staff member)
  • Three Associate Editors (faculty members in George Mason’s Folklore Program)
  • Editorial Assistant (Graduate Research Assistant, funded by George Mason University)
  • 5 Review editors 
  • Editorial Board

Note that the current editorial team operates completely remotely. Proposals can thus include teams dispersed geographically. 

Editors work in concert with these constituencies: 

  • Student assistants who help administer the manuscript review and editing process;
  • An editorial board, chosen by the editor(s), which provides counsel and outreach to the field;
  • Featured and Reviewed Project editors who are responsible for soliciting and shaping critiques of recent scholarly products (e.g., books, sound recordings, films and videos, exhibitions and exhibit catalogs, digital projects and other public presentations); 
  • The AFS Publications Committee, which provides advice on publications policies;
  • The staff of the Journals Division of the University of Illinois Press, who take JAF from manuscript to finished publication;
  • The AFS Executive Board and Executive Director, to which the editor provides a report each year.

The Editor(s)-in-Chief or editorial team has final authority and responsibility for the contents of the Journal, including absolute authority to accept, edit, and reject all manuscripts, including reviews. Decisions in this area are not subject to review by any AFS officer or employee.  AFS has a standing agreement (which it will ask the editor(s) to sign) that describes the responsibilities and authority of the editorial staff, AFS, and the University of Illinois Press. Candidates interested in reviewing this document can request a copy from the AFS Executive Director’s office. 

AFS provides an annual amount (currently $8000) to the JAF editors to help offset operating expenses, including postage, supplies, overage fees, editorial assistance, and travel to conferences to hear new work and solicit that work for submission. Each year, the Journal’s leadership presents to the AFS Board goals and a budget request for the coming year as part of AFS’s annual program and financial planning process. 

AFS welcomes proposals for partnerships with institutions that can contribute support for the editorship, ideally for the mutual benefit of all participants. For instance, in past arrangements, student assistants funded by host institutions have benefitted from this important opportunity for professionalization.

Selection Criteria

A successful proposal for the editorship will provide evidence of:

  • A compelling editorial vision for JAF
  • Extensive knowledge of the field and strong reputation(s) within it
  • An outline of the proposed staffing structure with information about any institutional support and plan for funding the Editorial Assistant. 

as well as:

  • A grasp of the major issues surrounding academic publishing in the humanities, including those concerning online publishing and open access
  • Excellent writing skills
  • Strong editorial experience
  • Strong organizational and deadline-meeting abilities
  • Administrative competence and responsiveness 
  • Excellent oral communication and persuasive skills, indicating the ability to be proactive in acquiring outstanding submissions for JAF


In order to allow for a full year of transition, the Board plans to select the next editor(s) no later than the end of summer 2024. This will enable the new editors to begin work shortly thereafter, including a question-and-answer session at the AFS annual meeting in 2024, where the editor(s) will discuss their vision and plans with the membership. The annual meeting will also serve as a prime acquisitions opportunity for the new editor(s).

The first issue under new leadership will be due to the University of Illinois Press in July 2025 and will appear in early 2026. Contributions already in the JAF publication pipeline will help populate that first issue.

The American Folklore Society’s Executive Board gives its deepest thanks to JAF’s current team for their outstanding service to AFS and the field. The team, led by Editor-in-Chief Lisa Gilman with Senior Managing Editor Lorraine Walsh Cashman, Associate Editors Benjamin Gatling, Debra Lattanzi Shutika, and Lijun Zhang, and Editorial Assistant Emma Bussard, is based at George Mason University’s Folklore Program. 


Intrigued? Want to know more? We’d be happy to discuss possibilities with you. 

Contact the current editors ([email protected]) or AFS Executive Director Jessica Turner (812-856-2346 or [email protected]) with your questions, including those pertaining to operating expenses.

How to Apply 

The major element of a proposal for the editorship is a letter that articulates a vision for the Journal and details accomplishments and abilities in the areas mentioned above. The proposal should include current CVs for all candidates and explain the anticipated structure, institutional support, and availability of resources for the editor’s office over a five-year period.  

The deadline for submitting proposals to AFS Executive Director Jessica Turner is May 1, 2024. Please submit materials electronically to [email protected].  

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