Intervention: Elsevier, the arms trade, and forms of protest - A response to Chatterton and Featherstone
Kitchin, Rob (2007) Intervention: Elsevier, the arms trade, and forms of protest - A response to Chatterton and Featherstone. Political Geography, 26 (5). pp. 499-503. ISSN 0962-6298
In their recent intervention in Political Geography (2007, vol 26, 1) Chatterton and Featherstone bring to the attention of geographers the role of Reed Exhibitions in the organisation of the Defence Systems and Equipment International (DSEI) exhibition held in London every second year. Reed Exhibitions is part of the Reed Elsevier group of companies of which Elsevier Publishing, the publisher of Political Geography and several other geography journals (Applied Geography, Geoforum, Journal of Historical Geography, Journal of Rural Studies), plus geography books, and the forthcoming International Encyclopedia of Human Geography (IEHG), is a member. In their intervention they argue that DSEI constitutes an ‘arms trade fair’ and call for a boycott of all Reed Elsevier companies and products (in terms of submitting articles, refereeing papers, editing journals, writing and editing books) on the basis that continuing to work with the Reed Elsevier group adds to the profits of a corporation complicit in the arms trade.1 As someone who is contracted as co-editor-in-chief of the forthcoming IEHG, the call to boycott all Reed Elsevier endeavours has raised a number of thorny questions, issues and challenges. I have been both privately and publicly asked to justify why I continue to work on the IEHG project and why contributors should persist in producing entries. In this short intervention, I want to respond to Chatterton and Featherstone’s call for a boycott of Elsevier publications, extend Hammett and Newsham’s (2007) rejoinder calling for a wider debate on the links between the academy and defence industries, and explain why I will continue to work to see the IEHG to successful publication. Working through this issue has been very difficult for myself and the other editors who have found ourselves caught in a situation not of our making and which has posed serious ethical dilemmas concerning our own continued involvement in the project. I want to make it clear that I am not an apologist for Reed Elsevier and I have written and spoken to Reed Elsevier’s senior management arguing that they need to reflect upon their corporate moral responsibilities and modify their practices accordingly. This is an on-going debate.
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