Against lists of academic publications

Are these necessary? A conversation I had last week while I was travelling made me think that I should go back to including one on my website, lest someone quickly scanning it (who might, for example, want to hire me to do some consultancy) doesn’t take me seriously as a scholar. But ten minutes of preparing such a list provoked such a feeling of existential turgidity in me that I couldn’t bring myself to continue.

What does the omnipresence of these lists say about academic subjectivity? There’s a commensurability inherent to lists which has moral psychological implications. Individual projects, each one of which we might well have been inspired and tested by, get reduced to items of equal status on a numbered list. Lists flatten moral experience, reducing what matters into what is counted. I really hate numbered lists.

Unless someone convinces me that I’m really shooting myself in the foot, I hereby commit to avoiding using them wherever possible. I think I have a pretty impressive publications list for someone 2 years out of a PhD, with the partial exception that there’s a lot of edited books and chapters, as well as an absence of any publications in ‘high impact’ journals. I’m proud of the work I’ve done, but the process of performing that proudness through a numbered list is totally deadening.

In fact I’m increasingly tempted to delete all the static content from my website, reducing it to a blog with many categories and instead just put the focus on things that I’m wilfully doing, rather than feeling the need to awkwardly freeze and represent those streams of activity in order to construct a professional narrative. Would this be a bad idea? Thoughts appreciated.

10 responses to “Against lists of academic publications”

  1. At one level, I know what you mean. I have in fact fallen behind by about six months in updating my CV, which now runs to over sixty pages. The thought of updating it does fill me with existential turgidity. But I see the exercise as self-archiving, which you may find useful in later years to figure out where certain persistent themes in your own thought first arose and subsequently developed. Strange as it may sound, once you’ve written enough stuff, it’s easy to forget what you’ve done — and it may be important to recall so you don’t reinvent your own wheels! I’m not too fussed about the numbering. That’s just a way to locate specific items more easily

  2. 1. I agree.
    2. I know what you mean.
    3. Lists of three are quite nice, though.
    4. I hadn’t even noticed numbered lists before you mentioned them!
    5. I think a blog of many categories is definitely the way to go, especially if those categories can be listed and numbered.

  3. that’s interesting steve & the self-archiving theme resonates with me a lot. that’s in a nutshell why I find myself so dependent on my blogging.

    does a lot depend on motivation? I found myself doing it earlier with the quite clear sense of “must convince potential clients of my academic credentials” and found that compilation activity immensely soul-numbing.

  4. But numbered lists are EVERYWHERE. There’s a non-public category structure to my blog which is for my own benefit – wondering if I should just make this public & let people infer what I’m doing that way, if they’re sufficiently interested, rather than trying to narrativise and list it instead.

  5. I think using a list could be useful, but more as an index to help clients navigate your expertise and experience rather than as a ledger of academic capital. For example, you could build and list and hyperlink each item to a page displaying your reflections, skills utilised, and social significance of the projects behind the papers. The initial list would be more usefully categorised by research interest/area rather than chronologically. Numbered lists (especially chronological ones) are bland, but I think listing itself can still be a useful tool for helping potential clients to navigate your expertise. I think your “Projects” page would be a good place for such a listing. Organising publications by the research interests gives me the impression that the research papers/chapters are an instance of a larger pool of thought.

    I’ve written pieces across the sociology of ethics, work/life balance, higher education policy, ageing workforces, political economy, and the everyday discourse of “the neoliberal”. Without an explanation of my broader interest in the sociology of knowledge, my work in these areas might seem a little arbitrary and spasmodic. I think the form of the list can be appropriated to help others find value in the academic beyond accumulated research capital.

  6. Do you mean your Google Scholar profile?

    Personally, I’m never going to find your work on your site. I’m going to find it via Google Stalker. Seeing that you have a profile makes me happy – I can see all your work in one place; I can see changes over time; I can reach out and see the other people who have used your work; I can subscribe to updates. All good.

    I’m not interested in seeing what you are working on, in isolation from everybody else (ie on your site). I want to see it in context with the work that everybody else is doing on that topic (ie the literature).

    If I am going to look at your site, it is probably via an RSS reader, not via the site itself.

    But then I’m not going to hire you, just cite you. So I’m probably not your primary audience.

    Can’t you just link to your GS profile, or automagically suck it in and style it?

  7. that’s a great idea, thanks. do you know if there’s a plug in for it? I’ll ask on twitter as well.

  8. Hi Fabian, I think you’re right and it’s made me wonder if perhaps I’m just being weirdly lazy actually….

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