An open letter to Elsevier and all those involved in the IEHG from geographer Keith Halfacree, 10 April 2007:

I am respectfully informing you of my decision to follow my fellow human geography academics at Newcastle University and elsewhere and am suspending work on my three contributions to Elsevier’s International Encyclopaedia of Human Geography. This is in protest at Reed Elsevier’s ongoing role as organiser of weapons fairs such as the Defence Systems & Equipment International (DSEI) exhibitions in London.

This has been a difficult decision for me to make as it pits the total repugnance with which I view the arms industry against a strong personal ethic of staying true to commitments I make to others. However, having been wrestling with these issues for quite some time now, and I especially thank Dave (Featherstone) and Paul (Routledge) for this, I feel that there is only one course I can take now that a greater formalisation of our protest has emerged and has been discussed most thoughtfully across the Critical Geography Forum.

I would like to add, though, that I have found past dealings with Elsevier themselves via seeking reprint permissions, dealing with the mechanics of publishing journal articles, etc. to be excellent and supportive of the promotion of knowledge. Thus, again following the Newcastle lead, my action initially only targets the high-profile IEHG and I shall not be boycotting contributions towards other Elsevier publications. However, I do of course reserve the right to revisit this decision.

Again lifting often directly from the Newcastle statement, in greater detail, I do not wish my labour to contribute to the profits of an industry that is not regulated and policed sufficiently to prevent sales of weapons to known abusers of human rights. Reports on the 2005 DSEI fair highlighted serious shortcomings of this nature – see also the excellent Mark Thomas’s (2006) As Used on the Famous Nelson Mandela (Ebury). More generally, echoing calls in Elsevier journals such as The Lancet, The British Medical Journal, and Political Geography, as a critical scholar committed to a culture of life I have profound concerns about the incorporation of my labour into an enterprise that profits from the production of the means of killing. Okay, so I am a small small cog and with politics like mine my labour is compromised everyday (!) but just sometimes one has to ‘scream’ (John Holloway 2002 Change the World without taking Power, Pluto) ‘enough’! After all, doesn’t ‘every little count’ (sic.)…

Finally, as those of you know me will appreciate, I find this kind of public statement attention seeking and hence embarrassing, but I do it as part of the call on colleagues elsewhere to join the boycott, and to urge those working in an editorial capacity on the IEHG to reconsider their involvement.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Keith Halfacree (Geography, Swansea University)