Anglo-American/Anglophone Hegemony

One of the two authors of this article was born and raised in Italy, and is presently also working in an Italian university. The other was born and raised in the Netherlands, and has temporarily moved to an American university after having worked in a Dutch university for a number of years. Both of us grew up with English as a second language, and we have had the opportunity to live in an English speaking country for a short period of time. Also, both of us have had the opportunity to work in each other’s country for a short period of time. But although we have had to try to ‘overcome’ Anglophone or Anglo-American hegemony, our situation is different in many other respects. In Italy, within the human and social sciences, publishing in English is valued, but is not considered as something unavoidable. In the Netherlands, on the other hand, publishing in English language journals is compulsory, and particularly important if one’s contract is up for renewal or extension. Journals in which Dutch scholars are supposed to publish – the ‘international’ journals – are in general also relatively easy to access; most libraries carry many journal subscriptions on paper as well as digitally. This is different in Italy where access to ‘international’ journals – whether in printed or in digital form – is more scarce and limited to more prosperous or large scale universities. In short, language is one important factor in shaping hegemonies in academic publishing, but access to ‘international’ publications is another one. Local culture is a third factor that clearly intervenes with access, since access to ‘international’ work is considered less important when a local or national academic environment is more inward looking and less outward looking. Of course, it should also be noted that in English speaking academic circles, there is also a tendency to look inward: to publications from their own country and to publications from other English speaking countries. In many cases English publications from nonnative speakers are virtually ignored, or reduced to ‘case studies from the Other’.

In recent years, many authors have debated the increasing international hegemonic position that Anglophone countries, and most notably the US and the UK, have acquired in human geography over the last decades. This situation is not unique to geography. In fact, it is typical of social sciences more generally, because historically a strong geographical bias has affected the production of social scientific knowledge. Yet, more than in other social sciences, a lively body of literature in human geography has started to discuss the so called Anglo-American or Anglophone hegemony. The central premise in this literature is that within human geography English has become the dominant language used in the production, reproduction, and circulation of knowledge. As a result, what are considered to be ‘relevant’ or ‘influential’ international journals are almost exclusively English language journals in which predominantly native English speakers publish. Protagonists in this debate are geographers pursuing an intellectual argument which is sensitive to the critiques of cultural Euro centrism and rationalism and the related modes of discourse that have been developed since the late 1970s onward by thinkers and social scientists such as Edward Said, Homi Bhabha, Donna Haraway, and Pierre Bourdieu. It is to be noted that, with the notable exception of Pierre Bourdieu, all these leading theorists and critics of the Anglo-American and, more generally, Western intellectual hegemony are members of British or North American universities, and are thus integrally part of the system they criticize. To some extent, this is also true for the proponents of the Anglo-American hegemony thesis in human geography. This literature is indeed firmly positioned ‘within’ and not ‘outside’ the Anglo-American geographical academia, and those in the forefront of this critical position who are not working in Anglo-American universities in many cases have been trained in these universities.

This article first reports on the quantitative evidence offered about the extent of and reasons behind the supposed Anglo-American hegemony in human geography and then outlines the direction in which the debate has developed in recent years. Next, some underlying reasons are discussed, most importantly the different roles of language, translation, ‘Othering’, and access. Finally, some critiques are discussed.

Is There an Anglo-American Hegemony in Geography Journals? The Empirical Evidence

Publication Practices and the Production of the ‘Other’

It Is Not Only a Matter of Publishing: The Issue of Access

What about the Excluded? Critical Stances on the Anglo-American Hegemony Thesis