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Secrecy and Society
Academic, General Adult
San Jose State University
Peer reviewed
Open access
Reviewed by: Cheryl LaGuardia, Research Librarian, Widener Library, Harvard University

Here’s an unusual journal: Secrecy and Society is an interdisciplinary journal that “encourages scholarship on the problem of secrecy as either the intentional or nonintentional concealment of information.” One of its main objectives is to “establish a distinct field of knowledge characterized as Secrecy Studies, [with this journal serving as a] unifying point for investigating theory, narratives, categories, policies, practices, [and] procedures as they relate to secrecy.” The editors “acknowledge that ‘‘secrecy is a property of information’’ (Scheppele, Kim Lane. Legal Secrets: Equality and Efficiency in the Common Law. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998,, p. 12) as well as recognize the critical importance of the ‘‘professional secret, confessional secret, military secret/political secret, the secret police, the secret in novels, etc., all [the semantics of the secret’’ (Derrida, Jacques & Ferraris, Maurizio. A Taste for the Secret. Translated by Giacomo Donis, edited by Giacomo Donis and David Webb. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2001, p. 75).” They further note that “Secrecy and Society also peers into the ‘‘secrecy process,’’ described by Tefft (Tefft, Stanley K. 1980. “Secrecy, Disclosure, and Social Theory.” In Secrecy, a Crosscultural Perspective, edited by Stanley K. Tefft, 35–74. New York: Human Sciences Press., p. 37) as the ‘‘tensions and/or conflicts between the secret holder (holders) and outsiders that necessitate concealment.’’ As secrecy conceals “potentially embarrassing disclosures, forbidden acts, illegality, inefficiency, evasion of responsibility, and corruption” (Simmel, Georg. 1906. “The Secret and the Secret Society.” American Journal of Sociology 11(4): 441–498), the secrecy process is of “potential value in examining practices and rituals of secret societies (Tefft, Stanley K.The Dialectics of Secret Society Power in States. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press International, 1992, p. 181), and those groups and organizations that rely on the secrecy worker.”

The journal has also set up a discussion list: SecrecyStudies -- A scholarly, cross-disciplinary discussion list for secrecy. The list is “is concerned with inter, multi, and  transdisciplinary investigations of secrecy, including forms, definitions, theory, language, techniques, analyses, policy, and research methods across fields and disciplines,” and encourages discussions on the intentional concealment of information in hopes of “locat[ing] commonalities and patterns in the use of secrecy in social relationships, including institutions and groups.”

The editors seek the following kinds of materials: Scholarly Articles featuring theory and original research related to secrecy; Concept Papers including “discussion of new models, theory, and / or frameworks that concern aspects of secrecy as intentional / nonintentional concealment of information; Position Papers providing “original and novel points of view, explanations, and critical analysis of secrecy-related policies, procedures, and practices; Case Studies that “concentrate on one thing, looking at it in detail, not seeking to generalise from it”; Reviews between 1500-4500 words in length, not including references, that describe, evaluate, summarize, and critique materials such as fiction, nonfiction, and scholarly publications, films, databases, software, and Web sites relevant to secrecy and society; and Non-traditional work, which includes research that “does not fit into established categories outlined above. Examples might include narratives, graphic presentations, and interviews.”

A single issue of the journal has appeared so far, Volume 1, Number 1 (2016). It offers the articles: “The Charm of Secrecy: Secrecy and Society as Secrecy Studies,” “Six Answers to the Question “What is Secrecy Studies?,” “Humpty Dumpty Was Wrong - Consistency in Meaning Matters: Some Definitions of Privacy, Publicity, Secrecy, and Other Family Members,” “Reflections on Censorship,” “Secrecy, Confidentiality and "Dirty Work": The Case of Public Relations,” “Could Technology End Secrecy?,” “Whither Megaleaking? Questions in the Wake of the Panama Papers,” and “A Historian's View of the International Freedom of Expression Framework”; the document: “The Tension Between Privacy and Security,” and the book review, “Secrecy, Democracy and War: A Review.”

Given current global events and the increasingly fraught environment surrounding the keeping of secrets (and the inability to do so in a highly-technological world), I think this is an incredibly timely journal and hope to see it thrive and increase in scope and content. This title should be of interest to scholars everywhere, in all areas of scholarly endeavor.
01 May 2017
Interested in contributing to an upcoming Magazines for Libraries™ Update? Contact Cheryl LaGuardia.

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