ASA12: Arts and aesthetics in a globalising world

Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India, 3rd-6th April 2012


Publishing, prestige, and money in global anthropology (WCAA)

Location SIS Appadurai Committee Room
Date and Start Time 04 April, 2012 at 15:00


Thomas Reuter (University of Melbourne) email
Gordon Mathews (The Chinese University of Hong Kong) email
Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

This WCAA-sponsored panel explores issues of justice in publishing from different national perspectives. Why are the most widely cited books and journals those published in the US and Europe? If this is an actively maintained hegemony, how is it produced and how can we counter it?

Long Abstract

Anthropology has long transcended the era of Morgan and Tylor, where Americans and Europeans, secure in their sense of superiority, studied everyone else in the world. And yet, uncomfortable echoes of this political history of anthropology remain. Why is it that until today the most well known and widely cited anthropological books and journals in the world are those published in the United States and Western Europe, in English? Is this simply because anthropology first developed in the United States and Western Europe, or is this a matter of latter-day intellectual hegemony? If it is simply a historical legacy, how and when will the rest of the world catch up? And if it is an actively maintained hegemony, how is this hegemony (re-)produced and what can be done to counter it? How can anthropologists throughout the world create a more level playing field for a global anthropology? What is the role of commercial publishers, and various national journal-ranking schemes? The panel will explore these and other questions around the nexus of publishing, prestige and commercial interests from different national perspectives. The aim is to grapple with the problem of intellectual hegemony in anthropology, and to sketch out possible solutions.

This panel is convened on behalf of the World Council of Anthropological Associations.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Contesting Anglo-American Anthropological Hegemony in Publication

Author: Gordon Mathews (The Chinese University of Hong Kong)  email

Short Abstract

Anthropologists across the globe are being penalized for not publishing in ISI top-ranked journals, which are usually American or British. This paper explores different ways in which international anthropologists may attempt to break this Anglo-American stranglehold.

Long Abstract

Anglo-American hegemony in anthropology is apparent in that across the globe anthropologists are being rewarded or penalized for publishing or failing to publish in ISI top-ranked journals, the large majority of which are American or British. Given the increasing neoliberalization and accounting mentality of universities worldwide, this is how anthropologists are being measured as to their worth

From an anthropological perspective, this has an unpleasant echo of Morgan and Tylor, with the Anglo-American center portrayed as the pinnacle to which all anthropologists should aspire. Top anthropological journals have made an effort to bring more international members onto their Editorial Boards, but the problem remains. An international anthropologist must conform to Anglo-American anthropological norms and forms of argument to be published in the Anglo-American center.

There are, however, different ways in which this Anglo-American stranglehold can be circumvented in an international anthropologist's career. One way is to have two parallel writing tracks, one in English following Anglo-American norms, and the other in one's native language, dealing with a very different set of themes and concerns. Another is to focus on books more than articles, which aren't so tied to the tyranny of citation indexes. A third way is to try to forego the Anglo-American publishing core entirely, by publishing on the internet. All these strategies have their problems; but they do represent attempts, on an individual basis, to level the global anthropological playing field, as I explore in this paper.

New Hegemonic Strategies in Publication: Research Quality Evaluation and Corporate Journals

Author: Thomas Reuter (University of Melbourne)  email

Short Abstract

Many government have established systems for ranking journals in terms of their "impact on the field". We need to expose how such ranking systems increase hierarchy in an international publishing world that is already full of disparities, between the core and periphery of power/knowledge.

Long Abstract

Many government have now established systems for ranking all journals in terms of their "quality" or "impact on the field". This paper argues that the impact of such ranking systems is to maintain or extend hegemonies of knowledge. While the declared goal of the schemes is to measure "academic output" more realistically than is possible with purely quantitative measures, the result is that journals considered equal before, are now ranked, formally and permanently. While there usually has been consultation with academics, in Australia for example, the scope provided for criticizing the scheme was limited to the details of ranking. The risk is that this process will increase the degree of hierarchy in an international publishing world that is already full of disparities, between the core and periphery of power/knowledge, and between global and more local languages. If schemas of journal evaluation are shaped by the ethnocentrism of the globally dominant players, alternative cultural value-systems may be ignored and journals in marginal countries devalued. Another danger is that ranking can further marginalize different, alternative voices within our own culture, or within a shared global culture. Given that anthropology is a critical enterprise, we are particularly vulnerable to the kinds of punishments that now go along with publishing in'fringe' journals.

Combating "hegemony" or leveling "hierarchy" in the production of anthropological journals worldwide

Author: Vesna Vucinic-Neskovic (University of Belgrade)  email

Short Abstract

Starting from the assumption that each journal serves to the needs of a particular scholarly community, the anthropology journals at three levels of generality and status are considered. The question of the ways the articles are solicited, reviewed, edited, and published, are discussed in light of the targeted authors and dynamics of their professional advancement on the national, regional, and international level.

Long Abstract

This paper takes an approach to the production of anthropological journals from the point of view of "hierarchy", instead of "hegemony". Starting from the assumption that each journal serves to the needs of a particular scholarly community, with its own rules of professional advancement determined by the job market, the journals at three levels of generality and status are considered. Issues in Ethnology and Anthropology, the journal of the Department of Ethnology and Anthropology of the University of Belgrade, represents a leading national journal in Serbia, Ethnologia Balkanica, issued by the International Association for Southeast European Anthropology, is a journal of regional scope placed at the ERIH list, and American Anthropologist, of the American Anthropological Association, is one of the highest rated journals on the Web of Science. The particular choice of journals stems from the personal involvement with their operation - as a reviewer in all, a co-editor in special issues of the first two and an editorial board member in the later two. The questions of the ways the articles are solicited, reviewed, edited, and published, are discussed in light of the targeted authors and dynamics of their professional advancement on the national, regional, and international level. The concluding remarks consider how instead of trying to combat "hegemony" of the Anglo-Saxon journals, it might be possible to develop ways of leveling the existing "hierarchy", by opening up new spaces for exchange of quality research results and leaving behind the self-colonizing attitudes, such as "we can never catch up with the world."

Solving the Anthropological Double-standard: The Role of Technology in Overcoming the Euro-American Hegemony over Knowledge

Author: Gaurav Murgai (The Chinese University of Hong Kong)  email

Short Abstract

This paper discusses how technology, such as the Internet, may be used to overcome the Euro-American hegemony over what is published and read by anthropologists.

Long Abstract

Today, a clear Euro-American hegemony can be seen in Anthropological knowledge over what is published and read globally. On-line databases such as the Web of Science and Google Scholar illustrate this fact where most books and articles published and works cited come from the Euro-American core. The issue is not simply of lacking funding in the developing world, and raises the question whether forces behind the dissemination of anthropological knowledge are reverting back to the ethnocentric sentiments reminiscent of the discipline's initial foundations. With technology, such as the Internet, easing communication between the developed and developing worlds, why has this hegemony persisted to exist? How can technology be used to overcome this double-standard within the discipline?

The World Council for Anthropological Associations (WCAA) has recently begun to upload a list of world publications (, providing an equal platform for accessing lesser known journals from the developing world. How effective has this model been? Where some users have raised concerns about the functionality of the list, others have questioned the credibility of the lesser known journals posted there. What is needed, then, is a platform to not simply show, but popularize such journals. The WCAA also offers this opportunity by hosting a blog; however, more discussion is needed to truly feel the effects of this effort. Indeed, the only way to experience cultural relativity in the world of publishing, I argue, is to encourage mutual conversation between anthropologists from both the developing and developed worlds.

Linkage between polyglot anthropology and publishing in India: step towards a solution

Author: Ravindra Jain (Jawaharlal Nehru University)  email

Short Abstract

It is well known that there is both hegemony and dominance in the publication of anthropological works in the globalized world of today. I shall not repeat the many significant and relevant observations by my co-panelists. Rather I suggest a small step towards a possible and feasible concrete way out of this impasse based on my knowledge of and participation in an enterprise based in India.

Long Abstract

The proposed solution is two-pronged. My former student at Oxford (and present anthropologist colleague now teaching at Harvard) Michael Herzfeld has already launched the idea of publishing indigenously written anthropological works-- in indigenous languages (with progressive translations into cosmopolitan languages)-- a move that by itself would contribute to breaking the hegemony and veiled dominance in the sphere of international anthropological publications. What I propose through this panel is that we articulate this indigenization enterprise in India with the publication house 'Bharatiya Jnanpith' which awards an internationally renowned, prestigious and well-endowed prize of Rs. 7 lakhs (app. U.S. $ 13,360) annually to the best published literary work in any of the 29 0fficially recognized languages of India. This articulation will at once bring indigenous anthropological works in various languages of India to the forefront in the academic world. In terms of our goal of beating the hegemony of the western commercial world in anthropological publications, the proposed articulation, as a first small step, would have the following advantages: firstly, the Bharatiya Jnanpith is a philanthropic trust rather than a commercial venture and, secondly, it already has a time-tested mechanism (46 awards to date to 51 individuals since 1961) of translating selected literary works into English (and potentially in other cosmopolitan langauges of the world).

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.