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Reviewed by:
  • Juan Pablo Alperin (bio)
Theresa Lillis and Mary Jane Curry. Academic Publishing in a Global Context: The Politics and Practices of Publishing in English New York: Routledge, 2010. Pp. 210. Paper: isbn 978-0-415-46883-1, us$44.95.

The majority of English-speaking scholars do not pause to reflect on whether or not their work will be read by those outside the English-speaking world. In fact, scholars from the English-speaking world take for granted that their work will be published and read in English. On the other side of the equation are all the multilingual scholars around the world for whom publishing in a language other than their native language plays an important role in their academic careers. Whether you belong to the first group or the second, Theresa Lillis and Mary Jane Curry's Academic Publishing in a Global Context: The Politics and Practices of Publishing in English will challenge your perceptions of what it means to participate in global scholarship.

Through the struggles and practices of non-English-speaking academics, Lillis and Curry challenge us to think about where we fit in a global system of knowledge production. Our place in this system includes the type of research we produce for each of our audiences, considerations related to who our audiences are, and the effects of the language we use on what knowledge is ultimately produced and disseminated.

After a general introduction (chapter 1) and a description of the source materials for the study (chapter 2), the book begins by identifying the various communities of which scholars working in languages other than English are a part, as well as the various incentive structures surrounding publication for these different communities. Lillis and Curry challenge what is generally meant by 'international', introducing a key notion that is echoed throughout the book: the shift of the meaning of 'international' toward 'English-medium.' In many countries, publications in the English-medium 'international' community are the most highly rewarded.

The book draws on a remarkable data set comprising eight years of data related to the work of fifty scholars from Slovakia, Portugal, Spain, [End Page 545] and Hungary. These scholars are primarily from the fields of education and psychology, although there is nothing in the work to suggest that the findings would vary in other disciplines, at least not within the social sciences. The data collected include texts (in as many drafts/iterations as possible); interviews; e-mail discussions; copies of correspondence between participants and colleagues, reviewers, or editors; and few less-used sources. Text histories provide a wealth of examples that the authors draw on to provide insight into the world of the scholars who took part in the study. By giving us the opportunity to empathize with the participants, Lillis and Curry allow us to reflect on the process non-English natives must go through simply to participate in the academic conversation. We clearly see that their efforts on top of the already tedious publication process are substantial.

Using this data set, the authors successfully tackle two main objectives. The first of these is to provide an accurate description of the lives and practices of multilingual scholars working in contexts where English is not the primary medium of communication. The second is to contribute to the debate and understanding of academic production in the global context.

The use of scholars' own words to set up and complement Lillis and Curry's arguments proves instrumental in achieving both objectives. The authors' initial discussion of the various communities to which non-English scholars belong, and of the various incentive structures surrounding publication in each of these communities, is accompanied by discussion texts such as this one:

Let's put it another way. If it's in English, then it's considered that it has impact, just because it's in English. If it's in French, then they have to look into it, and oh, yeah, this is an international prestigious journal—and in Spanish then you know they're going to look at it with X-Rays to see to make sure it has impact.


Many other passages taken from texts, reviews, and discussions...


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Print ISSN
pp. 545-549
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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