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Academic Writing in a Global Context: The Politics and Practices of Publishing in English

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Academic Writing in a Global Context addresses the issue of the pressure on academics worldwide to produce their work in English in scholarly publishing, and why the growth of the use of academic English matters. Drawing on an eight year ‘text-ethnographic’ study of the experiences of fifty scholars working in Europe, this book discusses these questions at both a macro and micro level- through discussions of knowledge evaluation systems on all levels, and analysis of the progress of a text towards publication. In addition to this, case studies of individual scholars in their local institutions and countries are used to illustrate experiences of using English in the academic world. Academic Writing in a Global Context examines the impact of the growing dominance of English on academic writing for publication globally. The authors explore the ways in which the global status attributed to English is impacting on the lives and practices of multilingual scholars working in contexts where English is not the official language of communication and throws into relief the politics surrounding academic publishing. This book will be of interest to postgraduates and professionals in the fields of World Englishes, language and globalization and English Language Teaching.
Academic Writing in a Global Context: The
Politics and Practices of Publishing in English
Theresa Lillis, Mary Jane Curry.
London/New York: Routledge, 2010. 203 pages. ISBN: 978-0-415-46883-1.
Academic Writing in a Global Context is a result of an eight year “text-oriented
ethnography”, which investigated publishing experiences and practices of
fifty scholars from two disciplines working in four countries in Central and
Southern Europe. The aim of the book is to “explore the impact of the
growing dominance of English as the global medium of academic
publications (…) where English is not the official or dominant means of
communication” (page 1). In other words, it addresses the growing global
status of English and its effects on academic text and knowledge
production, participation and access to resources. The volume makes a
relevant contribution to the discussion of the dominance of English in
academic publications and its consequences.
The volume is divided into seven chapters, each tackling a different aspect of
academic text and knowledge production. The approach, the background, as
well as key themes of the study are discussed in Chapter 1. Further
descriptions of “Methodological Tools” can be found throughout the book.
It is these, together with “Scholar Profiles”, dispersed throughout the
chapters, that are the major strength of this book, as they provide a useful
and interesting insight into the lives and experiences of individual scholars
as well as detailed descriptions of how the analyses of various texts were
performed. Additionally, all chapters also include “Text Histories”, through
which the authors exemplify different scholar practices and experiences.
The discussion of different aspects of scholars’ experiences begin in
Chapter 2, which deals with scholars’ publication practices, how they choose
to publish and how these choices are affected by pressures at different levels.
A large part of the chapter describes the different choices that scholars make
when it comes to deciding whether to publish in a national language or in
English, and whether they should intend to reach the national, international
or intranational community, as well as academic or applied community. The
chapter also investigates how publishing in English has become important in
order to receive research funding and promotion, and how these pressures
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influence the scholars when it comes to their choice of language and journal.
One theme which emerges from this chapter is “the sliding of the signifier
English towards international and vice versa” (page 59, authors’ emphasis),
which has resulted in English being attributed greater value. The authors
successfully develop and comment on this theme in the following chapters.
In Chapter 3 the authors explore scholars’ participation in local and
transnational networks. They focus on how the resources available are
different depending on what type and strength of network they participate
in. The authors conclude that maintenance of networks, especially
transnational networks, is very important, as the availability of resources
depends on them. Transnational networks are “less intense and durable than
local networks” (page 86), but they provide more opportunities for useful
feedback on research, help in publishing articles, books, and conference
papers, as well as language help.
Text and literacy brokers and the challenges the scholars face when dealing
with different types of brokering activities are the focus of Chapter 4. The
authors examine both language brokers, such as translators and
proofreaders, as well as academic brokers. It is the examination of the impact
of this second type of broker which is the most interesting in this chapter,
as this is where the authors clearly show how “unequal power relations”
(page 113) affect construction of knowledge, which is the central question
of the book.
Chapter 5 continues with the question of how knowledge is constructed and
valued by reflecting an “Enlightenment ideology of Science”. In this chapter
Lillis and Curry address locality, the relation between the local and the global,
and show that while scholars still perceive the local as being the most central
to their research, different kinds of knowledge are distributed nationally and
globally. The conclusion they draw is that “new” knowledge is published in
international journals, whereas “applied” knowledge and summaries are
published in national publications.
In Chapter 6 the focus changes to the discussion of the “more dystopic
aspects” (page 134) of knowledge construction and publishing in
Anglophone journals. Here the authors describe how centre-based
gatekeeping affects the construction of knowledge, in particular when the
scholars attempt to publish new knowledge. Locality in this context is valued
in relation to the Anglophone centre: It is either interpreted to provide
contrast and confirmation, or it is relocated within the centre. The scholars
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are thus expected “to account for locality in ways which are not expected of
knowledge that is located and produced from the default centre” (page 154).
This chapter therefore provides a useful contrast to Chapter 5, as it shows
how scholars can face great obstacles when trying to publish in major
English-medium (centre) journals.
The concluding chapter (Chapter 7) summarizes the key themes and findings
of the study, after which the different possible ways of changing centre-
based practices for the benefit of all scholars are identified. The authors
argue for the support of local publications and local languages, as well as for
the shift in criteria for judging journals from “international” towards
“internationality”, where non-centre contributions and collaboration should
be included and encouraged. Furthermore, in the final pages of the book,
Lillis and Curry effectively advocate the idea of “knowledge as a gift
economy”, where open access networks and journals and the use of Web 2.0
technology could facilitate global participation in text and knowledge
construction.
In conclusion, Academic Writing in a Global Context is a thorough exploration
of the consequences of the dominance of English in academic publishing.
It offers a good insight into the different aspects of academic text and
knowledge production and how these are influenced by the current
publishing practices. All in all, this volume is highly recommendable for
researchers and teachers whose interests lie in language and globalization and
academic writing.
[Review received March 2011]
[Revised review accepted April 2011]
Reviewed by Špela Mežek
Stockholm University (Sweden)
spela.mezek@english.su.se
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... In 2014, 77 % of active scholarly peer-reviewed journals were English-language, as were 72 % of fully open access journals listed on Directory of Open Access Journals (own calculations based on Ware and Mabe, 2015). Moreover, 90 % of social science journals and 95 % of natural science journals use all or some English (Lillis and Curry, 2010). Evidently, scientific English has become a communication tool for a global community of scholars with different native languages (Hyland, 2015). ...
... With the globalisation of knowledge and the rise of the knowledge economy have come pressures to publish in English: for journals, which may then be more likely to be accepted into the prestige databases, and for researchers across the globe, who, along with their institutions and nations, receive recognition when publishing in high prestige journals (Corcoran and Englander, 2016;Englander and Corcoran, 2019). Lillis and Curry (2010), for example, found that publishing in English pervaded evaluation and rewards systems for academics in all the countries they studied (Slovakia, Hungary, Spain and Portugal). ...
... One form of linguistic injustice is if peer reviewers and editors judge the scholarly quality of academic writing more harshly if it does not meet expectations for international academic English, even if the content is good (Corcoran, 2019;Politzer-Ahles et al., 2020). Moreover, some authors make a case for the negative impact of monolingualism on science itself, arguing that the English medium is not neutral but political, dominated by the Anglophone academic world (Lillis and Curry, 2010). Monolingualism is more than simply 'one-language', it is also 'one-culture': a western cultural approach that comes with assumptions and expectations, that may be different to that held by an EAL scientist. ...
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... However, we found that one relevant area of studies is little discussed in this chapter or other parts in the book. For many EAL scholars, proofreaders, who act as literacy brokers or text mediators, play a pivotal role in the editing process to overcome their language gap for publication (Lillis & Curry, 2010;Luo & Hyland, 2016). The textual interventions proofreaders have made can increase the chance of publishing success and we would therefore have expected to see more content related to this role and the process of text mediation. ...
... However, we found that one relevant area of studies is little discussed in this chapter or other parts in the book. For many EAL scholars, proofreaders, who act as literacy brokers or text mediators, play a pivotal role in the editing process to overcome their language gap for publication (Lillis & Curry, 2010;Luo & Hyland, 2016). The textual interventions proofreaders have made can increase the chance of publishing success and we would therefore have expected to see more content related to this role and the process of text mediation. ...
... 243). Since then, the idea of the 'linguistic injustice' that multilingual scholars experience in the process of writing and publishing their research has been developed in many studies reporting that the scholars feel inequality compared to native speakers [33][34][35][36][37][38][39]. Even in the titles of publications, the authors stress difficulties [40,41] or treat writing research in L2 as a 'burden' [42]. ...
... Some studies focused on the impact of national and institutional policies about publishing on multilingual scholars' writing practices [13][14][15]57,58]. Others explored the interventions of gatekeepers and 'literacy brokers' in the process of text production [34,48,[59][60][61]. While these studies were conducted in various geographic locations, none of them examined Russian scholars' perceptions of research writing and their publication practices. ...
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