The year 2023 was tumultuous. As we turn the page to 2024, the prospects for restoring peace and stability do not look promising. In this era of uncertainty and turmoil affecting all of us, it may appear that thinking about aesthetics is our least pressing concern. What is the value of discussing aesthetics when some parts of the world are reduced to rubble due to political conflicts, natural disasters, and climate change, when human lives are exploited as pawns in military conflicts, and when what little progress we have made on various forms of injustice is becoming undone? Aesthetics suffers from a misperception that it is dispensable fluff, icing on the cake as it were, eclipsed by more urgent issues affecting humanity. It has always been a struggle to secure a place for liberal arts education and, especially, aesthetics in both academic and public discourse.

We at Contemporary Aesthetics firmly believe that aesthetics has a crucial role to play in this age of turmoil and uncertainty. The obvious harms done to human lives and environments by various forms of injustice and political conflicts, as well as by natural disasters, also assault our aesthetic sensibilities, which in turn damages our collective wellbeing. Our Special Volume 7 on Aesthetics and Terrorism (2017) explores the significance of such negative aesthetics. Even without traumatic events, aesthetic sensibility can detect social ills, rendering aesthetics “a powerful instrument for social criticism,” to quote Arnold Berleant from The Social Aesthetics of Human Environments: Critical Themes (Bloomsbury 2023, 13).

At the same time, aesthetics can offer an effective means of resilience and hope in the otherwise bleak and dire circumstances. Consider Salem Al Qudwa’s “Aesthetic Value of Minimalist Architecture in Gaza” (Vol. 15, 2017) which gains even more potency and urgency in light of the situation there today. Consider, too, how the aesthetics of various political interventions, from songs and posters to fashion and bodily gestures, are deployed to protest military conflicts, call out social injustices, and galvanize party affiliations. As Plato recognized and history attests, aesthetic strategies can also be used to enhance problematic social and political agendas. There is no question, then, that the power of the aesthetic can shape a society and advance a certain vision of social well-being, for better or worse.

Thus, far from being dispensable fluff, aesthetics is a fundamental force in directing people and society, thereby helping determine the quality of life and the state of the world. As such, we at Contemporary Aesthetics believe that exploring aesthetics in this age of uncertainty and upheaval is not only relevant but even necessary. With our published articles, we invite readers to reflect upon the role aesthetics plays both in their lives and the world at large.

When exploring contemporary aesthetic issues today, we believe that it is important, more than ever, to promote inclusivity. This is one of the commitments we inherited from our Founding Editor, Arnold Berleant, and we try to continue his vision. We welcome diverse topics discussed from varied perspectives and orientations, as well as from cultural traditions and linguistic practices different from the dominant, Anglophone discourse. We encourage discussions that engage readers across various disciplinary, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds. I believe our published articles testify to these forms of inclusivity.

We also consider our review process to be more than verdictive. We try to make it an educational opportunity particularly for those at the beginning stage of their academic career. We believe that it is our role to mentor and nurture the next generation of aestheticians. While upholding rigorous standards, our reviewers are extremely generous with their time, helping authors improve their discussion and writing, even if the recommendation is to reject the paper. Many of us who have gone through the process of trying to publish our writing know how valuable constructive feedback is for our future work.

We are also committed to practicing linguistic justice. That is, our reviewers and I as the editor work closely with authors whose English writing may be problematic, as long as the content of what they have written justifies the attention. I am personally very sensitive to this issue because I have benefitted from the generosity of those who looked beyond my imperfect English to support my work. Working with CA authors is my way of paying it forward. Our copyeditor is particularly skilled in correcting English while retaining the author’s own voice.

As I get to know aestheticians from outside the Anglophonic universe, I am excited to learn how their works expand the aesthetics landscape formed by Anglophonic perspectives and orientations. Because many of their works are not available in English translation, CA encourages “Short Notes” submissions which summarize those works for an English language audience. We published two such pieces in Volume 21, both summarizing books published in Italian. We hope to keep broadening our Anglophone readers’ awareness of the kind of works being done beyond their immediate linguistic borders.

I am happy to report that our authors and readers continue to be global. For Volume 21, we received submissions from China, Colombia, Czech Republic, Finland, Greece, Italy, Japan, The Netherland, South Africa, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, the UK, and the US. Our steadily increasing readership also extends to 186 countries, no doubt due to CA being an open-access journal but more importantly because its content is accessible and relevant to readers beyond professional aestheticians.

Finally, our commitment to inclusivity is reflected in publishing regular volumes in tandem with Special Volumes addressing a specific theme. We will continue this two-track publication practice, because the regular volumes can feature diverse topics while the Special Volumes offer varied approaches and perspectives on the same theme. We believe this is a win-win formula, with each volume format complementing the other. Currently there are three Special Volumes planned for the near future, so please stay tuned.

As I have mentioned, our reviewers have given much time and expertise to prepare a thorough and constructive review. I can’t thank them enough. The authors are grateful for the feedback from the anonymous reviewers, even if their papers were not accepted. For Volume 21, the following scholars helped us with reviews: Chris Bartel, Arnold Berleant, Anu Besson, John Carvalho, Peter Cheyne, Mathias Clasen, Renee Conroy, Filippo Contesi, Anthony Cross, Andrej Démuth, Laura Di Summa, Richard Eldridge, Jane Forsey, Javier Gomez-Lavin, Thomas Greaves, Arto Haapala, Lisa Heldke, Maja Bak Herrie, Jakko Kemper, Katherine Kurtz, Erich Hatala Matthes, Janet McCracken, Mara Miller, Cathleen Muller, Glenn Parsons, Stephanie Patridge, Nicola Perullo, Yrjö Sepänmaa, Alberto Siani, Kevin Sweeney, Endre Szécsényi, Levi Tenen, Dylan Trigg, Julie Van Camp, Pauline von Bonsdorff, Jennifer Welchman, and Aili Whalen.

As always, I want to thank Arnold Berleant for always being available to lend his wisdom and advice based upon his experience of running CA for the first fifteen years. John Carvalho, the Associate Editor, has been my steady rock. I am grateful for his timely and expert advice, as well as helping with some aspects of my work as the Editor. Sanna Lehtinen, the Assistant Editor, has also been a steady help for which I am thankful. The board members have also given me a constant source of inspiration, encouragement, and support. Running this journal is a true team effort.

Last but not least, Lynnie Lyman, our assistant, is the one who holds our operation together with an expert technical hand and good humour. She is what I call our lifeline. So is our copy editor, Anne Berleant, whose work remains invisible to the public but is greatly appreciated by the authors.

We are determined to continue our contribution to the development of aesthetics discourse. We hope you continue your support for our journal by using the articles for teaching, conducting your own research, and enriching your intellectual life. Please encourage your students and colleagues to do the same. We will wait for your submissions.



Yuriko Saito, Editor