In this edition of our UC Press Editor Spotlight Series, we sat down with our Music, Film, and Media Studies Editor Raina Polivka, to discuss what drew her to her disciplines, what types of projects she’s looking for, and her time working at the Kinsey Institute. Read on or watch the video below to learn how to connect.
What drew you to your disciplines of Music and Film and Media Studies?
My academic background is in comparative literature and rare book special collections. I’ve always been interested in the notion of the text, be it musical, filmic, literary, or otherwise. The humanities, for me, have long been a refuge from the mundane day-to-day that governs our lives; it is the element of dimension, depth, and creativity that enables us to reckon with our past and imagine the possibilities of our future.
Through my early work as an editor at Indiana University Press, and now, with more than five years at University of California Press, I have over 12 years of experience publishing in music and film/media studies. I’ve developed a deep understanding of the arguments and trends shaping the disciplines. I’ve cultivated professional relationships within the vibrant communities of scholars, students, and readers that make up these worlds, and I am honored to be a part of it all.
What do you find most exciting about your fields right now?
It is an interesting time for music, film, and media studies, and for the humanities more generally. Scholars in these fields are grappling with challenges facing higher education and their role in shaping compassionate, curious, and critically-minded citizens on the one hand, and furthering deep intellectual inquiry on the other. I do not think these endeavors are mutually exclusive and I am keen to see how the humanities, and the varied disciplines within, address this in their future work. I’m also eager to better understand how publishers can support our authors and their fields to this end.
What do you want people to know about your approach to our Music and Film & Media Studies lists?
These are two very different lists that I approach with distinct strategies. But I think what unites my overall approach as an editor is my desire to work with authors who take intellectual risks, who seek to speak to wider audiences beyond their discipline, and who envision themselves as writers (or wish to become better writers).
UC Press has the oldest scholarly cinema studies list in the country, which has always emphasized the history of cinema (both as an art form and as an industry), avant-garde and experimental cinema (with strong ties to our list in contemporary art), and nonfiction or documentary studies.
In recent years the list has expanded into media studies as “convergence” has come to dominate scholarly conversations. The study of conventional, film-focused cinema studies is now combined with the study of TV, post-broadcast media, radio, moving-image art, animation, personal tech, etc. This shift has provided exciting opportunities to bring a historical framework to the field of media studies. Much of the strengths of our film and media list are reflected in our journals publishing program, like our flagship journal Film Quarterly, and our newer journals: Feminist Media Histories, Latin American and Latinx Visual Culture, and Afterimage: The Journal of Media Arts and Cultural Criticism.
UC Press is home to several series that bring forth high-quality works that touch on major growth areas in the discipline, including sound and technology studies, feminist and gender studies, and international film studies. The California Series of Music, Sound, and Media Studies, edited by James Buhler and Jean Ma, aims to bridge the disciplinary divide and provide foundational studies of sound technologies and histories. The Feminist Media Histories book series, edited by Shelly Stamp, features scholars writing at the intersections of media history and gender/sexuality studies. The Cinema Cultures in Contact series, edited by film scholars Richard Abel, Giorgio Bertellini, and Matthew Solomon, expands the strengths of UC Press’s film history list into transnational studies of film and media cultures.
The music list at UC Press is considered one of the most prestigious and pioneering in academic publishing. As musicology expanded its remit into genres and modes of music outside of the classical canon, California was there —with books on jazz, popular music, film music, and world music. The UC Press music list has distinguished itself as the model for engaged scholarship that explores music in the context of social issues across the classical canon, and in the fields of opera, jazz, American music, and contemporary music. It continues to push the field of music studies into new and exciting areas of inquiry and criticism. Our areas of strength are also reflected in a very strong suite of scholarly journals in musicology: Journal of the American Musicological Society, Journal of Musicology, 19th-Century Music, Journal of Popular Music, and Sound and Music in Games.
The music list is home to several book series that generate award-winning titles. California Studies of Music of the Twentieth Century, edited by Richard Taruskin; Phono: Black Music and the Global Imagination, edited by Shana Redmond and Tsitsi Jaji; the California Series in Music, Sound, and Media Studies, edited by James Buhler and Jean Ma; and the Hip Hop Studies Series, edited by H. Samy Alim and Jeff Chang.
What’s your favorite part of working as an editor at UC Press?
My colleagues at UC Press are some of the smartest, most intellectually curious, and socially minded people I have had the pleasure of working with. They value quality and compassion at every level of the publishing process and constantly strive to be the progressive publisher of record.
What’s something surprising people don’t know about you?
I worked for several years at the Kinsey Institute for Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, in a number of roles. I began my tenure there cataloguing donations and new acquisitions. I then moved into the archives and library services. I finished my time as a public relations and marketing associate, where I began a series of interview projects to learn about the important research being done at the Institute by permanent and visiting scholars. It was in this role that I became close with the Kinsey family and interviewed the children and grandchildren for the archives.
What’s some advice you often find yourself giving to authors?
Be kind to your reader. Provide places in your work where the reader can come up for air. Provide points of access for the audiences you wish to reach.
When seeking out a publisher, remember that this is the start of a long-term relationship. Find an editor who gets you and your work, who will be your advocate for the duration of your project and after. Beyond the book, your editor may reach out to you to learn more about new trends and talents in the field, to serve as a peer reviewer, etc. There are authors with whom I’ve maintained close relationships with for almost 15 years.
How can potential authors get in touch with you?