Ilana Gershon asked nine anthropologists for their approaches to the many daunting tasks of publishing an article in a journal, based on questions generated by Sandhya Narayanan. This installment explores the following question:
To what degree does publishing either in another language or an international, non-English publication count towards your standing as a scholar or tenure and promotion in anthropology?
Deborah Gewertz: Those on my college’s tenure and promotion committee take seriously the evaluations of others as conveyed in letters, but also like to decide for themselves. (I know this because I have been on this committee.) If all a candidate’s publications were in another language, one that no one on the committee could read, the dean would likely hire someone, or several people, who could advise as to their quality. If I published something in Tok Pisin, my guess is that it would count less than if I published the same thing in French or German (but maybe this is shifting). Concerning international, non-English publications, the dean would seek out a rating of such venues.
Jason Jackson: There is much variation here, I think. In my own circle, doing this is valued for good reasons that are often discussed, but I have witnessed contrary views put into practice in academe. Having now published in languages other than English, I can just report that doing so opens up a range of positive outcomes for an author who mainly writes in English. Those benefits would be there even for authors who worked in a context in which such publication was not highly valued. Outside Anglophone North Atlantic anthropology and related fields there is (in varied locales) great pressure on authors whose first languages are not English to publish in English. English-speaking North American authors who work in non-English speaking settings are in a different position from those who, like me, mainly work in contexts where English is widespread. While there is no one right way, I am in favor pluralizing the field and developing conversations across its diversity.
Daniel Monterescu: My university counts English, French, and German toward promotion, but this is a result of its position as a hybrid US-European institution. While I mainly publish in English, I also publish in other languages for the sake of critical engagement and public anthropology. The hegemony of English is a major burden for scholars in non-English speaking countries which only solidifies a sense of marginality. However, the self-centered academic discourse in American social sciences is also a sign of provincial thinking. This is obviously clear in disciplines like sociology but paradoxically it is manifested also in anthropological discourse on other worlds, predominantly in English.
For anthropologists, publishing in local languages is one way to give back and be heard. The paradox is that our disciplinary promotion and professional recognition are based on languages that the communities we work with rarely read.
For the importance of publishing in other languages than English, see “International Representation in US Social-Science Journals.”
Carolyn Rouse: It’s best to speak with the head or chair of one’s program or department before deciding how a non-English article will be factored into tenure or promotion.
Janelle Taylor: That’s an interesting question. I’m not sure, honestly. Personally I think it should be considered a big plus, especially if you’re publishing in a peer-reviewed journal in another language. Even more so, of course, if it’s the language spoken in the settings where you have carried out your research.
Matt Tomlinson: I have not published in languages other than English, which I would like to change. I want to mention that I’ve joined the editorial board of a new journal whose purpose is to publish translations of scholarly work into Oceanic languages. It might not boost one’s career to publish in a less widely spoken language, but it honors public anthropology’s goal of making our work more accessible.
Claire Wendland: Non-English publications, publications in international journals, and publications with colleagues from the nation where I do fieldwork all matter for my department and university. These are things I look for in other people’s tenure and promotion materials—not so much as a problem if they are missing, but as a plus if they are present.
Jessica Winegar: Sadly, when I was coming up in the field, publishing in another language was viewed more like “community engagement.” I think these days the conversation is changing. That said, I would not count on institutional metrics of tenure and promotion to move that quickly.
Matthew Wolf-Meyer: German is my only other language and what I work on isn’t German-based, so I’ve never sought out publishing in another language. That said, my work has been translated into a few languages (Serbian, German, and French) either because someone identified a piece they wanted to translate, I was invited to give a talk and then it was translated, or I was invited to write something that someone else was going to translate for me. In the case of Germany, that seems to have led to further opportunities to give talks and publish in German, which has been great.
Those pieces have all been superadded in the sense that I had already met the expectations for tenure and promotion, so I wasn’t spending precious time working on translations. As a pre-tenure scholar, I would be very wary of publishing in translation unless I had a clear indication from all of the people in my department that it was valued the same as publishing in English. Watching friends publish in their field languages and in journals hosted in the areas in which they work has made it clear that not all tenure and promotion committees really value that kind of work and those kinds of publications—it might be best saved for later in one’s career.
Deborah Gewertz is the G. Henry Whitcomb Professor at Amherst College and has been an associate editor of American Ethnologist, Ethnos and the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute.
Jason Jackson is the Ruth N. Halls Professor of Anthropology and Folklore at Indiana University, and the editor of Museum Anthropology Review.
Daniel Monterescu is associate professor of urban anthropology at Central European University.
Carolyn Rouse is chair of the anthropology department at Princeton University.
Janelle Taylor is a professor at University of Toronto.
Matt Tomlinson is an associate professor at Australian National University.
Claire Wendland is a professor at University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Jessica Winegar is a professor at Northwestern and editor of PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review.
Matthew Wolf-Meyer is an associate professor at SUNY-Binghamton.