Abstract:

How do we read scholarly work? And who else is reading it? How do they read scholarship, and towards what ends? 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? And how, finally, do they – and we – attribute value to what has been read?

In this presentation I draw upon draw upon some key notions in linguistic anthropology and the ethnography of performance as heuristics for understanding recent changes, both major and mundane, in academic reading practices and their consequential afterlives. This presentation draws upon my ongoing ethnographic study of peer review, scholarly publication, 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.

While the ethnographic focus of my talk is on the academic world, it is also intended to raise some broader questions, among them the new affordances, limitations and surprises associated with the roles of new media, the complex relationship between expertise and democracy (as multiply construed), and the rapidly transforming political economy of knowledge.

Text of the Presentation