Contemporary Southern Psychology Hits Odd Snag

The Online Journal Contemporary Southern Psychology, announced in June 2018, has published only one volume of one issue, and that volume is not available at this time, explained Dr. Bill McCown, the editor pro temp. McCown is Professor of Psychology and Associate Dean for Research at University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM).

“We expected to be almost into our third issue by now,” he said. “We thought there would be ongoing operational difficulties, but what we encountered was a bit unusual.”

The journal is the brain-child of co-editor Dr. McCown, and team members Dr. Burt Ashworth, Assistant Professor in Psychology and endowed chair in Gerontology, and Dr. Mkay Bonner, Associate Professor, Criminal Justice & Psychology, College of Business & Social Sciences, both at ULM Contemporary Southern Psychology is a peer-reviewed, open access journal with a focus primarily toward psychological research, aiming to match the style and contributions of the wellrespected, 1980s, Southern Psychologist.

While the editors encountered some expected production delays, what they didn’t expect was to find themselves engaged in national politics, said McCown who noted that as the national atmosphere became increasingly heated, “… things got very strange.”

“Not long after we started talking to outside reviewers and editors we began receiving calls and  manuscripts on unusual topics,” McCown said. “We found out that there’s an entire pseudo-scholarly world out there that we didn’t want to be affiliated with.”

“These are people who want to publish on racist and anti-semitic topics and somehow believe that the word ‘Southern’ indicates a like-minded audience. It’s clear most of them did not come from our area, perhaps not even our country. I guess we just got on someone’s radar.”

After a while this flood of extreme right interest subsided somewhat, McCown said, but it was as if it generated an opponent-process on the left.

“Suddenly the name ‘Southern’ seemed to be in the crossfire of some left-leaning people. We started getting emails and calls saying things like, ‘What are your real intentions? Are you as racist as everyone else in the South?’ And, ‘Are you white nationalists at your University?’

“The rhetoric even got much worse even after we explained our mission,” McCown explained. “At that point we just slowed down our pace and waited for the national climate to become more reasonable.”

“It seems that the word ‘South’, which the editors mean more in a geographic sense, is almost a trigger for nonobjectivity,” McCown said.

Have they considered a new name? “We want to be true to our concept, which is a regional journal which recognizes the brief but influential legacy of Ralph Dreger and LPA in one of its periods of excellence, “ McCown said.

“We also want to highlight the necessity of employing psychology and the behavioral sciences for making sure our region is all it can be. The Deep South was a late adopter to the science of psychology. Sometimes this is overlooked. We want to try to remind people not to make this mistake again. So we are sticking with the name.”

“We aren’t going anywhere. Our funding is secure. Our mission is legitimate.  We have enthusiasm and energy.  We will be a peer-reviewed, open-source, journal with no fee charges.  There is a need and we aim to fill it.”

“By late January we hope we will be announcing a special issue and have a general call for papers for future issues,” McCown said.

“The mission of the new journal is to emphasize what psychology can do for our region,” Dr. McCown previously told the Times. “The South, perhaps for reasons that no one still understands, has been slow to embrace this potential contribution. The results of this failure are all around us. The mental and overall physical health of southern citizens is poor. The southern education system is often disconnected from advances in cognitive and social psychology. Southern criminal justice systems desperately need changes that are informed by behavioral science. In the private sector many corporations inadequately understand what organizational psychology now can offer. Consequently, they are not maximally competitive beyond our region.”

“This is a deeper opportunity for psychology to assert its identity to a region that has not recognized what we do and can do well. This is very much in the spirit of the original publication and we hope is a way of celebrating 70 years of LPA’s successes in our state,” he said.

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