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Ilana Gershon asked eight 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:

At what point do you decide that it is better to try and publish a piece in a different venue instead of trying to resubmit a revised article to the same journal?

Deborah Gewertz: After my initial disbelief and anger, I generally come to appreciate reviewers’ comments. I work hard to address their concerns and, more frequently than not—about 80 percent of the time—send a revised piece (one that had been appraised as “revise and resubmit”) back to the same journal.

Jason Jackson: I try hard to get a sense of what the editor really wants from me. Are there clear indicators that the editor is eager for me to publish in their journal on their watch? Are they doing developmental editing work aimed at helping me get to an acceptance with them? If so, there are good reasons to stay. In the absence of such indications and if I sense that doing what is being asked is likely to make the paper worse rather than better, I am inclined to seek a new venue.

Daniel Monterescu: The test is when I can’t bring myself to revise and resubmit for more than a month. If the comments seem too opaque or demanding after a month of distance, it’s a sign that it won’t work. However, it happened to me once that I was working on a revise and resubmit for a whole year (!) only digging myself deeper into a hole, and eventually decided to invite a coauthor to collaborate, which made the decision and writing process much easier, productive, and even fun. On a general note, I’ve grown to enjoy working with one or sometimes two coauthors. It’s technically more complicated to coordinate but ultimately much more rewarding. “It is not good that the person should be alone….”

Carolyn Rouse: I think if you receive a second revise and resubmit that’s an indication that something is not working. After the second rewrite, there should be some indication that your article will be published.

Janelle Taylor: If the revisions that have been requested are so many or so fundamental that you feel like they’re asking you to write a different article altogether, then you have a decision to make. Maybe you really should write that other article they’re asking for. But maybe the one you did write can still find a home somewhere else.

Claire Wendland: I haven’t pulled a revision, but there was one that I probably should have. It took years to come out—by the time it came out I had gone on to work on other things, and I kind of wish I’d pulled the plug earlier.

On the other hand, my favorite published article went through four rounds of revise and resubmit. That was brutal, but each round was relatively quick, and together they made for a really strong article.

Jessica Winegar: I think it is important to gain a sense of whether the journal editors really see promise in the piece if they are requesting a second revise and resubmit. If they do, then it is worth continuing.

Matthew Wolf-Meyer: The closest that I recall coming to this kind of experience takes a couple different forms, which, maybe strangely, both have to do with editorial shake-ups.

The first is with a couple of pieces that took a very long time to work their way through peer review. One was because of an editorial transition at a journal where it got lost in the shuffle. But that shuffle took something like a year to work itself out, and when the new editors finally got up to speed, they accidentally sent out the original version of a manuscript that had been substantially revised. When it came back to me, I considered pulling the piece and sending it to a new journal, but the new editors worked really hard from that point forward and made things move pretty quickly.

The other time I actually pulled a piece wasn’t because of the content of peer reviews (which were pretty supportive), but editorial concerns. I had sent something to HAU and received the reviews just as #Hautalk was emerging on Twitter. It quickly became clear to me that publishing with HAU was the wrong thing to do, so I quietly pulled the piece from consideration there and sent it elsewhere.

Credit: Joanna Kosinska
Photograph of two pencils

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.

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.


Ilana Gershon

Ilana Gershon is the Ruth N. Halls Professor of Anthropology at Indiana University. Her most recent monograph is on corporate hiring in the United States—Down and Out in the New Economy: How People Find (or Don’t Find) Work Today (University of Chicago Press, 2017).

Cite as

Gershon, Ilana. 2021. “When Not to Resubmit.” Anthropology News website, September 10, 2021.