Publication Practices and the Production of the ‘Other’

One obvious observation is that with English being the dominant language it is easier for native English speakers to publish in English language journals. But this is not simply because non native speakers have a language disadvantage and native speakers a language advantage, but also because the most important journals – or, in fact, almost all English language journals – are primarily run by native speakers. Thus, other native speakers have a gatekeeper and network advantage, and a cultural advantage too. Arguably, editors and referees of these journals will be better persuaded by submitted papers that find their origins in the same scholarly environment. Moreover, it has been pointed out how contemporary debates taking place within 'international' journals are essentially internal to the Anglo-American geographical community, and thus the discourse which allows access to these outlets is one that should be considered, to all extents and purposes, a national one. As a result, 'Other' traditions or, more simply, works originating in other countries run the risk of being considered irrelevant or incorrect or, at best, being regarded as interesting, 'exotic', or 'local' case studies incapable of producing innovative theory or framing the epistemological boundaries of disciplinary practices. In addition, few endeavors are still made by most English language academic institutions (journals and conference organizers) to assist non native speakers to cope with the linguistic gap.

What follows from all this is that scholars based in the leading Anglophone countries play an unchallenged role in the development of academic debate. However, these scholars are able to do so not just because they have a competitive edge in publishing in the 'relevant' journals, but also because they have the opportunity to set the research agenda. In fact, non native speakers are allowed to participate in this debate as long as they adhere to the conventions of the native speakers, cite the 'right' – that is, Anglo-American – literature, and show the relevance of the argument of their 'Otherness' to the core of native speakers. While scholars who are non native speakers of English are supposed to keep up with the literature in their own language as well as in English, scholars who are native speakers of English not only frequently ignore the non English literature, they often neglect pieces from authors outside the UK and US even when they are written in English. Indirectly, this neglect has another consequence: non native speakers are required to introduce the reader to the geographical 'context' of their research in great detail because so many UK and US based referees are unfamiliar with research that deals with another context than the Anglo-American one, in cluding the research contexts of peripheral countries within the Anglophone world (Ireland, New Zealand, etc.) or even those of the more peripheral regions within the Anglo-American countries themselves. Ironically, this has the unwanted effect of making the work of non US/UK writers more conventional and descriptive and, thus, of reproducing the existing division of labor between native and non native scholars as theorists on the one hand and providers of case studies on the other.

The fact that US and UK based scholars dominate international publications in social sciences and, even more visibly, in geography, is therefore a well known and also widely shared argument within the debate on Anglo-American hegemony. In addition, this matters even more in a discipline like human geography, whose peculiar history and developing pathway has left much room, in many respects greater than in other social sciences, for national publications and, at the same time, also for the preservation of 'other' international academic circuits. At the same time, however, it can also be argued that the customary divide between an Anglo-American geography and, for instance, a 'continental European geography' is blurred when one looks not only at the long term evolution of the discipline (as proved by the enduring influence of French regional geography on Anglophone geography in many stages of the discipline's life) but also at the more recent critical developments in the discipline drawing on the same philosophical foundations, as a consequence of the large influence exerted today by the 'continental thought' on contemporary Anglo-American geography (most notably, through the work of prominent thinkers such as Foucault, Derrida, Lefebvre and, in more recent times, Latour, and of other authors such as Badiou, Agamben, and Rancie`re). Beyond the existence of separate national traditions what then needs to be emphasized in order to capture the geography of knowledge production is the peculiar circulation of ideas and academic theories, characterized by relentlessly different timing and spacing, highly dependent on the laws and the conventions of the capitalist market in ideas and the other intellectual commodities.