AAA’s new Tenure and Promotion Guidelines support public forms of writing, publishing, and communicating anthropology.
We don’t need to look far to see there are many new and exciting ways to communicate anthropology than has ever before been possible. New media technologies enable the speedy spread of information that can hit the full range of people’s intellectual and sensory faculties—they can read, hear, see, remember, reason, intuit, imagine, and on occasion touch, taste, and even smell things anthropological. If scholarship is the production and dissemination of knowledge, it stands to reason that anthropologists would embrace all the possible ways to communicate anthropological scholarship. Scholars today are encouraged to reach larger publics, readers and audiences, use alternative means to impart anthropology in non-traditional writing formats and by other means, and take advantage of the opportunities that new communications tools allow. Many—if not most—anthropologists are already doing so, to greater or lesser extents. However, some tenure and promotion committees are unclear about how to recognize these new, public forms of scholarship and evaluate them for tenure and promotion purposes.
We decided to do something to address the gap. Last year, I formed the AAA Working Group on Writing and Publishing Forms. The result is the newly issued AAA Guidelines for Tenure and Promotion Review: Communicating Public Scholarship in Anthropology, designed to assist promotion and tenure (T&P) committees in assessing the quality of new, public forms of anthropological scholarship that are not typically accounted for in existing guidelines.
AAA has played a key role in providing T&P guidelines that reflect important developments in theory, method, and practice in anthropology (see for example, CoPAPIA’s AAA Guidelines for Evaluating Scholarship in the Realm of Practicing, Applied, and Public Interest Anthropology for Academic Promotion and Tenure and SVA’s AAA Guidelines for the Evaluation of Ethnographic Visual Media). Bianca Williams, Kathryn (Kate) Clancy, Carole McGranahan, Alexandra Frankel (AAA staff), Elizabeth Chilton (EB advisor) and I comprised the working group for this latest T&P endeavor. We gathered data on existing guidelines, assessed the state of tenure and promotion expectations in anthropology, examined guidelines produced by sister societies, and reviewed a sampling of relevant literature. The findings suggest there are no agreed-upon standards for assessing scholarship, which is consistent with earlier research on the topic.
Public scholarship in anthropology
Among its activities, the working group defined public scholarship as that which is in dialogue with non-academic as well as academic audiences, and that is informed by anthropological scholarship and knowledge. Public scholarship communicates the insights and value of anthropology beyond the academy. In addition, the working group received reviews of the guidelines document from a diverse group of 22 anthropologists representing the main subfields of anthropology and who hold faculty and/or administrative positions at US colleges and universities. In their comments, reviewers made special note of the importance and value of this project, and expressed appreciation for the conversations the guidelines will generate.
It is clear that public scholarship in its many manifestations contributes to scholarly production and dissemination, and to the visibility and growth of anthropology for both individual anthropologists and the discipline as a whole. That’s the abstract way of putting it.
In down to earth terms, public anthropology includes such works as Roxanne Varzi’s ethnographic novel Last Scene Underground; the spokenword, performance art, installation pieces, poetry and prose of Gina Athena Ulysse; Jason De León’s powerful museum exhibit State of Exception/Estado de Excepción; Hugh Gusterson’s columns in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists; and an ever-growing number of anthropology blogs from Allegra Lab and Anthropology News to SAPIENS and Savage Minds. There’s much more public scholarship I could name—but you get the idea.
Giving credit where credit is due means anthropologists can expand their creative horizons, and the world receives a range of rich, anthropologically informed knowledge. The American Anthropological Association acknowledges the importance of new, public forms of peer-reviewed, editor-reviewed, and non-peer-reviewed scholarship, as well as the ways they add to and complement traditional peer-reviewed publication of articles and books. We hope the association’s new guidelines will find their way to faculty, department chairs, deans, tenure and promotion committees, external reviewers, as well as traditional and nontraditional publishers, editors, and curators looking to support creative production and dissemination.
So, if you would—please share the link to the guidelines widely. We need you to spread the word on getting credit where credit is due on writing, publishing, and communicating anthropology today.
Cite as: Waterson, Alisse. 2016. “Getting Credit.” Antrhopology News website, May 1, 2016. doi: 10.1111/AN.424