Spotlight on: King's Review

kingsCan you tell us a bit about the history of King’s Review?

KR was founded about two years ago in Cambridge, UK, by a group of graduate students who shared the same frustration: the research we were doing on topics as diverse as climate change, modern political systems and the knowledge economy didn’t find its way out of the small academic circles in which they originated. The King’s Review was founded with the goal of using research and expert knowledge as a basis for exciting journalism. Since then the original idea of an online journal has developed further: besides our online presence, we are now publishing four print issues a year and sell them in shops in Berlin, London, Paris, and with you in New York.

In your mission statement, you say that KR “exists to promote accessible journalism underpinned by long-term, rigorous research.” Do you find that this goal is in response to a lack of journalism with these particular aims: to be both accessible and rigorously researched? Does today’s journalism too often meet only one criterion or the other?

The most recent trend in journalism, particularly online, has been about ‘accessibility’. Buzzfeed et al. are not doing more than filtering information to make it more accessible to readers. What happened to TNR last week shows how good that is for journalism. KR goes beyond this digestible, surface-level form of information à la ‘Here is the 5 most important things to know about Climate Change’. We understand ourselves as being part of the recent re-invention of long-form writing, which is now being published in places like n+1 and Medium, as well as in classic outlets such as the NYRBLRB and TLS.
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Each of your print issues focuses on a specific topic, with intimacy as the most current issue’s theme. Past topics range widely, from biological dilemmas to privilege and the public sphere. How do you go about selecting a theme relevant to current events? How did you come to choose this issue’s theme of intimacy?

So far, the idea of a ‘one word theme’ was, on the one hand, to give interested authors a suggestion of what to relate to. On the other hand, it leaves it completely open from what angle they would like to approach things. A topic such as ‘intimacy’, or that of the previous issue, ‘crisis’, allows people to play around with different associations – be it in writing, poetry or art – while it also makes pieces hang together in interesting ways. The specific topic of intimacy actually sprung from the combination of a few unprompted submissions in this direction that we received, and many discussions among the editors about the difficulty of writing crisply and comprehensively about a difficult topic like pornography. It is usually a mix of demand-side (when we think people are interested in hearing more about a particular topic) and supply-side factors (when many people in our circuit are writing about a particular theme and we want to give them a platform to develop this further) that bring about the themes for the print issues.

One of my favorite pieces in this issue, “Do You Intend to Die?,” is a selection of excerpts from Lauren Berlant’s research blog, Supervalent Thought. The piece reflects on suicidal behavior, communities of care, and the economic crisis, and is driven by Berlant’s personal anecdotes. Can you talk a bit about the process of shaping this piece?

We approached Berlant after we had chosen the topic for the print issue and she was kind enough to let us compose a piece based on ideas from her personal blog. Positively surprised by how accessible and easy she was as a professional academic, it was a pleasure to be able to freely pick from her writing and juxtapose different parts. After an initial selection of entries, we edited them ourselves where it seemed necessary to turn them into a publishable article. With her piece, we were also trying out a more open, lyrical form of writing a KR article. We’re really happy with the result.

What can readers look forward to in the next issue of King’s Review?

The format of our themes has changed slightly. We have moved away from the ‘one word theme’ to focus more pronouncedly on the foundations of KR articles in current research. For the upcoming print issue (to be published in early January), we will select different articles from three ‘strands’. The idea of a strand is to set up a theme which can produce multiple contributions and perspectives in writing over a longer period of time. For this issue, the three strands are ‘Privilege and the Public Sphere’, ‘Wellbeing’ and ‘Possibilities for our Grandchildren’. While the first is going to examine the idea and necessity of the ‘public intellectual’ (with a piece by Norman Finkelstein among others), the ‘wellbeing’ strand brings in philosophy, economics, psychology and medicine to examine questions of ‘good food’ and the concept of the cure. The last strand, following up on Keynes’ famous 1930 essay (written while he was a fellow at King’s College), investigates intergenerational dilemmas: what is the future likely to bring and what, if anything, should we do to share burdens and benefits? Is it even possible to say anything coherent about such questions? Articles here will concern themselves with new forms of work, the sharing economy, capitalism and climate change.

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Where can people find out more about KR?

KR has started to regularly host events as a way to continue in a more interactive way the conversations that are started with articles. The first event this year was based around the question ‘Where is the intimacy in sex work’ and took place in Cambridge in early October. In the coming two weeks we are organizing two events in Cambridge and London on ‘The Future of Wellbeing’ and ‘Bitcoin and the Future of Money‘. In the future, we are planning on also taking these events to the US and to New York in particular. Obviously, everybody who is interested in writing for us can always drop as an email at We are happy to answer any questions, particularly from people across the Atlantic.

Thanks for featuring us on the Book Culture website.

Questions by Jane