Reading, Recognition, and Temporality in the Emerging Academy
How do we read scholarly work? As we write our own articles and books, what audiences might we imagine for them, and how do we understand the expectations and practices they bring to their reading? What -- in a nontrivial sense - are those audiences actually likely to be reading? And, finally, how do they -- and we -- attribute value to what has been read?
In this presentation I draw upon Richard Bauman's early definitions of "performance" as a powerful heuristic for understanding some recent transformations, both major and mundane, in academic reading practices and their consequences. This presentation draws upon my ongoing ethnographic study of peer review, scholarly publishing, assessment practices, higher education policy, and the ongoing shaping of scholarly and scientific knowledge within and beyond anthropology. Here I focus on some aspects of the processes of "writing money," that is, producing such texts as grant proposals and, in a somewhat more indirect way, scholarly manuscripts and articles, and of "reading value," how such works are read, evaluated, acted upon, and taken as central elements in personnel and program assessment. These processes take place at the intersections of talk, paper forms and documents, and electronic media, and of peer conversation and formal analytical methods such as citation analysis. I will further suggest that there is an ongoing transformation underway in the temporality of academic publication, as the assumed future trajectory of scholarly works has become an increasingly key element in determining their value.
While the ethnographic focus of my talk is on the academic world, it is also intended briefly to speak to broader questions, among them the new affordances, limitations, and surprises associated with new media, the complex relationship between expertise and democracy (as variably construed), and the rapidly transforming political economy of knowledge in the US and beyond