LINGUIST List 23.4695

Thu Nov 08 2012

Review: Applied Ling.; Sociolinguistics: Lillis & Curry (2010)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <jsalmonslinguistlist.org>



Date: 08-Nov-2012
From: Reka Jablonkai <rjrekagmail.com>
Subject: Academic Writing in a Global Context
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AUTHOR: Lillis, Theresa and Curry, Mary JaneTITLE: Academic Writing in a Global ContextSUBTITLE: The politics and practices of publishing in EnglishPUBLISHER: RoutledgeYEAR: 2010

Réka Jablonkai, Institute of Behavioural Sciences and Communication Theory,Corvinus University of Budapest, Hungary

SUMMARYEnglish has become the lingua franca in international cooperation, business andacademia (see Hyland, 2006; Kachru, 2001; Nickerson, 2005). This development hasspurred studies and textbooks aimed at giving guidance to researchers on writingand publishing in English (e.g. Hartley, 2008; Hyland, 2006; Károly, 2009). Thisambitious monograph reports on a longitudinal study analyzing several aspects ofpublishing in different academic contexts. It sheds light on issues of Englishas an international language from a new angle. Following the epistemological andmethodological approach of New Literacy Studies (Heath and Street, 2008; Street,1984; 2004), Lillis and Curry move beyond the textualist tradition of academicwriting reflected in most research and pedagogy in the field of English forAcademic Purposes (Hyland, 2006) and take the position that academic writingshould be viewed as a social practice rather than a textual phenomenon. In theirlongitudinal study, called Professional Academic Writing in a Global Context(PAW), they apply a text-oriented ethnographic approach using severalqualitative methods blended into a coherent methodology to identify obstaclesnon-Anglophone-centre academic professionals face when publishing research.Furthermore, they argue for "the need to develop context-sensitive mediationalcategories" (p. 21) to better understand various contexts of academic writingembedded in specific cultural traditions and reflecting different ways ofknowledge construction. Lillis and Curry focus on the politics of academicwriting and also discuss what it means in their own research context as they areboth native speakers of English and work in the Anglophone centre. They makeclear that they are aware of "the benefit [they] gain from this privilege atthis time of history" (p. 7).

The book contains seven chapters, a table of contents, lists of tables, figures,notes, references, and an index. Chapter 1 sets the scene by providingbackground and a theoretical framework. Chapters 2 through 4 provide insightsinto publishing and text production practices in non-Anglophone centres based onanalyses of the experience of 50 scholars working in various institutional andnational systems. Chapters 5 and 6 focus on knowledge making in local and globalcontexts and explore the role of locality in evaluation practices. Finally,Chapter 7 concludes by summarizing impacts the privileged status of English hason the work of non-Anglophone-centre scholars, proposes ways to assist scholarsin their publishing activity globally and calls for an 'open access' approach toknowledge production and dissemination. The book also includes sixmethodological tools to provide a clear picture of the data collection andanalysis. 14 Scholar Profiles provide insights into the priorities, interestsand experience of scholars who took part in the study.

Chapter 1 introduces the authors' starting point for the study and their stanceon the politics of location in academic writing and the status of English injournal publication. Lillis and Curry argue that geopolitical location is ahighly relevant factor in academic text production. The chapter also gives anoverview of the complex qualitative methodology they applied -- 'text-orientedethnography' -- including interviews, e-mail discussions, field notes and textanalysis. One particular tool developed for the study is Text History. Itprovides an overview of "all the drafts produced, the different people involved-- including authors, reviewers, translators, editors and academic colleagues --the chronology of involvement and the nature of their impact on the text and itstrajectory" (p. 4). These methods and tools were used to analyze the academictext production and publication activity of 50 scholars from four countries(Hungary, Portugal, Slovakia and Spain) and two disciplines (education andpsychology). These four research sites are described as non-Anglophone-centrecontexts based on the status of English in these locations (Kachru, 2001) andtheir economic positions in the world (Wallerstein, 1991). The authors formulatefour main themes that run through the book: (1) "the global status of English";(2) "the geopolitics of academic text production"; (3) "the relationship betweenlocal and global knowledge production"; and (4) "the politics of participationin academic knowledge production, including issues of access to, and use of, arange of resources (human, linguistic, material)" (p. 27).

Chapter 2 explores academic text production from the point of view of theindividual scholar in the above-mentioned non-Anglophone-centre contexts. Lillisand Curry find that most scholars experience increasing pressure to publish inEnglish, reflected in local and institutional reward systems, policies andpractices. English-medium publications are attributed higher status andpublishing in English "functions as a powerful form of symbolic capital" (p.60).Therefore, scholars in such contexts face additional burdens including access toresources, time and energy for writing in a foreign language and achieve anappropriate level of English proficiency to meet specific employment andpromotion requirements. Most scholars maintain a multilingual publication agendaby writing in their national languages, in English and in some cases in otheradditional languages. In these academic contexts, as the authors note, therequirement to publish in a foreign language or in an international journaltends to refer to publications in English or in high-status Anglo-Americanjournals.

Chapter 3 presents academic text production as networked activity. The authorsargue that strong national and international networking is a key element inresearch and publication. The scholars in the study were asked to draw arepresentation of their network relationships relating to academic textproduction. The analysis of these sketches indicates that links with otherindividual scholars, within and across different departments or institutions andbetween countries are among the most relevant connections in scholars' networks.The following resources can be made available or mobilized through local andinternational academic networks to support text production: contacts (otherscholars), information (conferences, grants, publishing opportunities), academicmaterials, rhetorical resources (English-language writing expertise),collaboration on writing and research, brokering (connections to publishingopportunities, help in interpreting reviewers' comments) (p. 69). Furthermore,success in publishing in English-language journals is found to necessitate themobilization of people and material resources via academic networks. Therefore,in stark contrast to earlier research and teaching in academic writing that hasmainly focused on the individual competence (e.g. Medgyes and Laszlo, 2001;Norton and Starfield, 1997; Widdowson, 1983), Lillis and Curry emphasize therelevance of networks, a hitherto rather neglected factor, as a source ofsupport in academic text production and publication.

Chapter 4 introduces the concept of literacy brokering. It refers to "all thedifferent kinds of direct intervention by different people, other than namedauthors, in the production of texts" (p. 88). Moreover, Lillis and Curry arguethat literacy brokering is not a neutral activity, it "involves participants ofunequal status and power" (p. 88). Based on the analysis of 284 Text Historiesthe authors identified two main categories of literacy brokers: language andacademic brokers. Language brokers are defined as professional and informallanguage brokers who assist the text production process by their expertise inthe English language. Professional language brokers include proofreaders,English-language specialists and translators who are paid for their work. Incontrast, friends, spouses or other family members and personal relations, whooffer unpaid help with the text production, are considered informal languagebrokers. The study reported that 17% of literacy brokers fell into thiscategory. In general, multilingual scholars are satisfied with thesentence-level corrections language brokers made to their texts. However,scholars often expressed concerns about the work of translators for two mainreasons: cost and accuracy. Scholars tend to avoid using professionaltranslators, who are usually not members of their specific academic discoursecommunity, and as a consequence, find it very difficult to achieve accuracy atcontent and discourse levels.

Academic brokers are "academics who work in universities or research institutes,often from Anglophone-centre contexts" (p. 93). The authors classified academicbrokers into three subcategories: general academic, disciplinary experts andsubdisciplinary specialists. The majority, 83% of all literacy brokers wereacademic brokers. Academic brokers intervene in text production in various ways,including beyond sentence level. Although scholars appreciated such support andsuch interventions were found to be successful -- that is, these texts werepublished in English-medium journals -- they also expressed misgivings about theprocess and/or changes to their texts. Lillis and Curry also note that reportsof the non-Anglophone scholars in the study foreground two additional dimensionsto global academic writing: the primacy of English-centre rhetorical practicesand the unequal power relations between centre and periphery around constructingknowledge. These are illustrated by powerful Text Histories in this chapter.

Chapter 5 explores multilingual scholars' dilemma of 'staying local or goingglobal'. Based on scholars' reports the authors distinguish two core aspects oflocality: immediate locality and imagined locality. Immediate locality refers to"the material locality where people live and work, who they work and communicatewith […], which language(s) and cultural identities they daily experience andespouse, and the kind of resources they have access to […]" (p. 116). Byimagined locality, the authors mean "the meanings attached to a specificlocality by scholars" (p. 116). Although geographically most scholars stay localfor various reasons, they wish to be part of and communicate to the globalimagined research community. According to Lillis and Curry, this reflects thestill powerful Enlightenment ideology of science, which considers knowledge assomething universal that should be constructed collectively and should be sharedacross the world. At the same time, non-Anglophone scholars' accounts indicateprejudice and lack of equality in research opportunities and evaluationpractices. The authors also discovered a clear functionalist distinctionscholars make between what they publish where. Such decisions are usually madeby distinguishing new, innovative knowledge and overview of existing knowledge;academic and applied knowledge; English and national language. Some scholars,however, strive to publish their research both in English and in nationallanguages making similar knowledge available in national and internationalcontexts, rather than sustaining a functionalist distinction.

Chapter 6 discusses the politics of knowledge construction highlighting the moredystopic aspects of publishing internationally. These aspects also emerge fromthe non-Anglophone scholars' reports and practices. In contrast to the focus ofChapter 5 where the decision of what to publish locally and globally ispresented as a decision within the scholars' control, Chapter 6 shifts theemphasis to the obstacles scholars face when attempting to publishinternationally, focusing on gatekeeping practices in getting published andtextual ideologies at work in evaluation practices. The authors start bydescribing the relationship between local and global publications as ratherhierarchical where the terms 'global' and 'international' are almost synonyms ofAnglophone centre or the United States as a prototype. Scholars' accounts oftheir struggle to publish in high status English-medium journals illustrate theboundaries that exist between what counts as relevant contribution toknowledge-making locally and globally. In order to pinpoint the significance oflocality in the publication process, Lillis and Curry introduce the concepts of'marked' and 'unmarked' locality. Marked locality refers to non-Anglophonecentres, whereas unmarked locality refers to Anglophone centre localities.Marked locality is present in various ways in the publication process: in coverletters, reference to authors' national contexts, and in the texts submitted forpublication by explicitly mentioning the national context or research site.Unmarked locality, for example, textual reference to New York as the researchsite, is valued more in gatekeeping practices. In general, non-Anglophonescholars perceive a lack of interest in research outside the Anglophone centre.This lack of interest is expressed, for example, in reviewers' comments andrequests for justification of the specific location of the research if it was anon-Anglophone site such as Spain or Hungary. Furthermore, marked locality isfound to be valued as a confirmation of existing knowledge through the processof exoticization. Exoticization is present in texts as frequent reference to thelocal context as 'a different linguistic and cultural setting' or 'a differentlinguistic and cultural background'. This way the local context becomes acounterpoint or contrast to Anglophone centre contexts where Anglophone-centrefindings can be replicated and confirmed.

Textual ideologies are mainly present in the review process of high statusAnglophone journals. Anonymous or 'blind' reviewing is seen as a way to providefair evaluation of texts. Lillis and Curry, however, question the objectivity ofsuch practices on two grounds. First, reviewers might recognize the authordespite author anonymity as in specialist fields scholars usually know eachother's work. Second, reviewers imagine the nationality, language background andethnicity of authors (Tardy & Matsuda, 2009) which has an impact on how theyevaluate their contribution to knowledge construction. The authors conclude byformulating the dilemma relating to the publication process of non-Anglophonescholars in the following way:

"Periphery and non-Anglophone-centre scholars may get caught in a double bindhere: if they foreground the local, they may be accused of being parochial; ifthey background the local they may be denied claims to universal relevance orstatus because of their peripheral position in global relations of knowledgeproduction" (p. 154).

Chapter 7 summarizes key issues that emerged from the experiences and practicesof non-Anglophone-centre scholars relating to their academic text production andpublication activities and how the privileged status of English in academicwriting and systems of evaluation impacts these activities. In addition torecapitulating the obstacles non-Anglophone scholars face in getting published,the authors also make some recommendations and note existing initiatives (e.g.AuthorAID, pre-review support of the Croatian Medical Journal, Mentoring Programof TESOL Quarterly and of the journal COMPARE) to better support scholars inacademic writing and in the publication process. They suggest that the firststep be to make brokering activities visible, which would help pinpoint thekinds of brokering scholars need and identify who is best placed to offerguidance and how. Furthermore, the authors propose a set of questions to makevisible the textual ideologies and their orientations in academic textproduction and evaluation. They argue that by asking these questions theemphasis can be shifted from a straightforward division between Anglophonecentre and non-Anglophone centre, and it can help identify the choices that canbe made in the processes of academic writing and evaluation. The authors alsomention initiatives, for example, the UNESCO Forum on Higher Education, Researchand Knowledge, which emphasize the importance of conducting research andpublishing in local national languages. Moreover, they call for a shift from aknowledge economy based on market economic principles, where knowledge isconverted into goods, to knowledge as a gift economy (Kenway, 2006) whereknowledge is shared between people. Digital technology offers potential ways tofreely disseminate knowledge and there are already examples of using thistechnology to create and sustain free access local journals, wikispaces orpublic repositories following the Budapest Open Access Initiative (2002). Thiskind of approach to knowledge production and dissemination was also regarded asan ideal by many scholars in the study.

EVALUATION "Academic writing in a global context" is a formidable work, exploring academictext production from a hitherto rather neglected perspective, focusing on thepolitics of location and the politics of English in academic text production andpublication. The perspective adopted here is that of the non-Anglophone-centrescholar. It is, however, not only this particular perspective that is introducedto the study of academic writing by this volume, but it is also the innovativesocial practice approach taken here. By applying this kind of approach the bookprovides a fertile source for finding ways to shed light on and describe indetail the textual ideologies that govern publication and evaluation practicesin different locations and across the world. Furthermore, this is a book forthose with some knowledge of academic text production and it is written in avery accessible style. It is clearly structured with the aims of each chapterprecisely formulated in its introduction part and suggestions for furtherreading provided at the end, thus giving guidance for readers who are interestedin related issues.

The research project reported in this volume supplements earlier research ontext production practices and descriptive studies of characteristics of academictexts across cultures and disciplines. The authors apply a complex andwell-designed research methodology with an array of innovative methodologicaltools such as Text Histories, which provide insights into how academic texts areshaped and who is involved in the text production and publication process. Thusit presents a fresh look at issues relating to publishing and knowledge-makingin different geographical and geopolitical academic settings.

Future work, however, could benefit from additional perspectives, for example,that of the editors and reviewers of high-status English-medium journals.Although the study provides examples of their views and comments on submissionsby non-Anglophone scholars, a more systematic approach could result in a clearerpicture of gatekeeping practices from the point of view of the 'insiders'. Suchinsights would be instructive for scholars and academic writing instructorsalike. Furthermore, extending the research focus to other non-Anglophonegeographical locations such as Western Europe, South America or Asia wouldprovide an understanding of the politics of English in further academic contextswhere current findings could be tested and global tendencies, if there are any,could be identified.

This book is a must-read for all who are engaged in preparing students andscholars in non-Anglophone contexts for academic writing and publication for theglobal research community. On the whole, the findings and conclusions enrich ourcurrent knowledge of academic text production in various contexts and it willsurely transform understandings about English as a lingua franca in academiccontexts.

REFERENCESHartley, J. (2008). Academic writing and publishing. London and New York: Routledge.

Heath, S.B. & Street, B. V. (2008). On ethnography: approaches to language andliteracy research. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Hyland, K. (2006). English for academic purposes: an advanced resource book.London: Routledge.

Kachru, B. (2001). World Englishes. In R. Mesthrie (Ed.), Concise encyclopediaof sociolinguistics (pp. 519-524). New York: Elsevier.

Károly, K. (2009). Author identity in English academic discourse: A comparisonof expert and Hungarian EFL student writing. Acta Linguistica Hungarica, 56(1),1-22.

Louhiala-Salminen, L., Charles, M., & Kankaaranta, A. (2005). English as alingua franca in Nordic corporate mergers: Two case companies. English forSpecific Purposes, 24(4), 401-421.

Medgyes, P. & Laszlo, M. (2001). The foreign language competence of Hungarianscholars: ten years later. In U. Ammon (Ed.), The dominance of English as alanguage of science (pp. 67-100). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Nickerson, C. (2005). English as a lingua franca in international businesscontexts. English for Specific Purposes, 24(4), 367-380.

Norton, B. & Starfield, S. (1997). Covert language assessment in academicwriting. Language Testing, 4(3), 278-294.

Open Society Institute. (2002). Budapest Open Access Initiative, available atwww.soros.org/openaccess.

St John, M.J. (1996). Business is booming: Business English in the 1990s.English for Specific Purposes, 15(1), 3-18.

Street, B. (1984). Literacy in theory and practice. Cambridge: CambridgeUniversity Press.

Street, B. (2004). Academic literacies and the new orders: implications forresearch and practice in student writing in higher education. Learning andTeaching in the Social Sciences, 11, 9-20.

Wallerstein, I. (1991). Geopolitics and geoculture. Cambridge: CambridgeUniversity Press.

Widdowson, H.G. (1983). Learning purpose and language use. Oxford: OxfordUniversity Press.

Tardy, C. & Matsuda, P. (2009). The construction of author voice by editorialboard members. Written Communication, 26(1), 32-52.

ABOUT THE REVIEWERRéka Jablonkai is a senior lecturer at Corvinus University of Budapestwhere she teaches English for Specific Purposes, Academic Writing andIntercultural Communication. Her research interests lie in corpuslinguistics, professional communication, English as a lingua franca inEuropean Union institutions, discourse analysis and interculturalcommunication.

Page Updated: 08-Nov-2012