Marcel Knochelmann (UCL) - 2017-18 Students

A Social Theory of Authorship and Publishing in the Humanities

Why do researchers in the humanities disciplines publish their research? What may appear to be a trivial question has far-reaching implications: a researcher’s body of published research forms her scholarly identity and is the crucial building block for her career. Reputation and quantity play important roles—the number of publications and the brands of the publishers or journals that accepted the research are acknowledged signifiers of reputation. Those signifiers can be used for career advancement or indicators of institutional prestige. In a highly competitive academic job and funding market such as that of the humanities, publishing research has become an end in its own instead of just being a means to accessing discourses. The Research Excellence Framework in the UK, open access, and increasing economic pressure on humanities publishers appear to be complicating this situation. Within this complex of interwoven developments in authorship and publishing, it is not easy to say with certainty to what degree these are symptoms or causes. Rather, they contribute to a reified narrative which has consequences, especially for early career researchers.

My research focusses on finding out about those symptoms, causes, and consequences: what motivations do researchers have to publish? How are the principles of this narrative enabling or constraining them? And how is their systemic reproduction of those principles contributing to the reification of the narrative? I approach this topic by working with the theory of structuration, which I apply to the topic to determine a social theory of authorship and publishing.

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