New e-journal reimagines the post-COVID-19 future

Interdisciplinary e-journal Ideas and Futures launched in May 2020 with the aim of provoking serious reflection on an uncertain post-COVID world.

Founding editors Sadia Abbas and Raza Ahmad Rumi explain that the journal, which evolved out of a COVID-19 working group of scholars, activists, policy analysts, and artists, will serve as a platform for international contributors in a wide range of genres including art, essays, commentaries, and scholarly reflections.

Abbas, an affiliate scholar with SFU and an associate professor of postcolonial studies at Rutgers University, is also an established author. Her latest book, The Empty Room, has been shortlisted for the DSC prize for South Asian Literature. “We want more serious thinking and scholarly engagement with the society that is going through turbulence and transformation now,” she says. “In newspapers, there is an urgency to do things very quickly, but a lot of issues that affected us and are still affecting us are interceptions of long-standing social issues.”

A platform for different expressions

Sadia Abbas. | Photo by Lali Khalid

Co-founding editor Rumi, a veteran journalist and policy analyst who also serves as the director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College, explains that the new journal will provide room for a wide range of genres and artistic expressions very few journals cover, in addition to a diversity of international voices.

“The (COVID-19) crisis presented an opportunity to reimagine our future, not just for one country or society but for the whole world,” he says. “There are movements such as the mobilization for social justice and fixing the long-standing structure of systematic racism; what we can do in this complex moment is to curate some of the voices, arguments, and expressions.”

Insights born from crisis

The idea of the journal came about when COVID-19 suddenly hit, stranding Abbas during a visit in Pakistan. She penned the journal’s first essay, Immigrant Reflections on Flying Home to New York from Karachi, to document her own complicated relationships and feelings about her family, as well as her birth country, its government, and society.

The journal elicited a positive response from thinkers, artists, and scholars who are used to straddling continents and cultures but are now facing an increasingly uncertain future. “The crisis has revealed just how quickly things could change what we take for granted in daily life. What is inconceivable is how quickly things can all come to a halt, and what sounds like a futuristic scenario, such as climate change, is certainly conceivable to impact our lives immediately,” comments Abbas.

Raza Ahmad Rumi. | Photo by Lali Khalid

While he remains optimistic, Rumi sees that immense challenges were laid bare by the COVID crisis. “There are centuries of structural inequality globally and intra-country, it is a long struggle ahead. What COVID has done is to allow us to think of a world without those structures which have led to these situations.”

Rumi believes that some movements, such as removing historical statues, will go a long way in reshaping our memory and will play an important role in redefining cultures and countries. “The existing liberal orders that have been dominating the world cannot be sustained. Whether a new order will come to reconfigure it or a movement to alter it remains to be seen, but now there is an opportunity.”

Abbas agrees that it is also important to take the current momentum to keep working for a better future. “There are some of us who are very committed to this moment, people who are responding to poverty, racism, and profound injustices, but we have short memories. How do you not let people forget?” she asks. “If we don’t give in, then it is going to happen.”

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