A Letter to Our Readers
The following paragraphs were included as part of our newsletter of Friday, 24 November 2023. We have re-published them here on our website for our wider readership.
When the SRB was founded in 2013, one rationale was to carve out a space for criticism that separated it from journalism and would allow it to flourish on its own terms. Increasingly restrictive word counts and tight turnarounds for ‘copy’ were discouraging close engagement with books. There was a need for careful articulation of what a book said about the culture that produced it and which it was in turn addressing. For this work to be done, a different and more reflective kind of forum was required.
There will be times when the latitude we grant this activity may seem indulgent; when the need for journalism – and up-to-date, accurate, and unflinching reportage – can outstrip the need for the slower deliberative rhythms of critical practice. As commentators in the public sphere, critics are necessary, but by no means sufficient.
Over the past two months, and like so many around the world, we at the SRB have reflected in horror, outrage, and dismay upon the escalating death toll and deep suffering in Gaza. Shortly after October 7, and in our personal capacity as staff members of Western Sydney University, the SRB team and I were early signatories to an open letter in support of an immediate ceasefire and an end to Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands that has since gathered over 400 signatures. Our staff and many of our contributors have also made their positions clear through other petitions, such as the Artists Against Apartheid and MEAA Members for Palestine open letters.
Within Western Sydney University, we have been, and will continue to be, active in our support for and solidarity with colleagues and students from communities impacted by the violence in Gaza. As an organisation based in Western Sydney, we have the privilege of working with writers and organisations with intimate connections to Palestine and to Arab communities around the world. We remain committed to amplifying their voices and providing a platform where criticism – in the form of honest, intelligent reflection – can help foster constructive public debate.
The SRB is proud of its track record in publishing work that has not only scrutinised the coverage of Palestine, but also explored the richness of Arab-Australian identity and the complexities of its representation. This is work we will continue to do, while guided by our clear responsibility to literary practitioners in Western Sydney and their broader communities.
James and the SRB Team