Stuart Elden has a number of particularly interesting posts on academic writing on his blog Progressive Geographies. Recently he put up a post offering excellent advice on preparing for journal publication and then another on his own writing practices which has prompted the following reflections on my part.
Stuart notes that his book:
The Birth of Territory is almost completely new material, rather than reprinting previously published work. In fact, though it might not appear so, in the last few years I’ve actually submitted very little to journals, concentrating on the book…
I currently have no articles in review, due, or awaiting revision. I don’t owe any book chapters or other pieces, apart from a short dictionary entry on ‘Foucault and Space’ for the end of the year. I just have three book projects – one authored, one edited and one five-volume collection for which I’m managing editor – to complete in the next three-six months…
This may not necessarily be where Stuart’s comments were leading, but my own personal view is that journal publishing is not really where it’s at if you want to make a real contribution to the field that people actually read – at least in the humanities area. Many journal articles I find turgidly unreadable and not tractible for use as lecture or teaching fodder either.
Journal articles are something the institution has fixated on as being a quantifiable measure of academic performance. Who cares whether anybody actually reads them? I would argue that those who measure such things are in the rear guard in relation to new developments in how academics actually do their work as academics (as opposed to their work as employees of an institution). It’s rather like Bourdieu’s point that those who are not part of the educated elites think that impressionism is great modern art and a sign of culture – whereas the educated elite are all looking at bleeding edge contemporary art..
It’s a different situation in science – well perhaps not – as the publishing lead times are too long and scientists are resorting to online publication to get their work out before somebody else beats them to it in their chosen research areas.
Journals articles are, in my view, the impressionist art of academe for those not quite in the cultural know.