Celebrating 20 years of Publishing in English

Sciences Po Series in International Relations and Political Economy

Interview with the founder of the series, Christophe Jaffrelot

For more than two decades, Sciences Po’s Centre for International Studies (CERI) has pursued an active policy of encouraging academic publications in French and, since the late 1990s, in English. In 2002, the CERI founded the Series in International Relations and Political Economy with Palgrave Macmillan. Today, we celebrate 20 years of a valuable partnership and 50 books published in English, including both translations and original works written directly in English! We take a look back at the creation of this series, what it has achieved, and why it is important to continue encouraging CERI scholars to publish in English, a policy which, like other mechanisms, promotes the internationalisation of the research conducted at CERI. The following is an interview with the creator of the series, Christophe Jaffrelot.

What was the philosophy behind the creation of this series in 2002?

In 2002, two years after I took over as Director of CERI, developing the Publications unit was an absolute priority for me and was part of the very detailed programme that Christian Lequesne and I had presented to the Centre in 2000. The unit, led by Rachel Bouyssou, Judith Burko, and Cynthia Schoch, was remarkably dynamic and was already developing through the French and English series. Beyond that, the “Conseil de laboratoire”—our board—shared our determination to help researchers publish more, since books remain a natural outlet for our scientific production.
This series has strengthened CERI’s English-language publishing, which in 2002 had already created a series with the British publisher Hurst & Co.

How have the two series complemented each other over the years?

The CERI Series in Comparative Politics and International Studies began in 1998, two years after I met Christopher Hurst and Michael Dwyer, the founder and editorial director of Hurst and Co, with whom I had published my first book in English in 1996.1 The translation of Fariba Adelkhah’s book, Being Modern in Iran (co-published with Columbia University Press), had inaugurated this series, which I ran at the time with Jean-François Bayart, the director of CERI, who, following Jean-Luc Domenach, had already created and continued several series in French.
The CERI series at Hurst was primarily intended to provide an outlet for research on area studies—the major strength of CERI, and Hurst and Co’s trademark. We needed another series to accommodate research on inter-/transnational relations and political economy. Hence the title we gave to the series: Series in International Relations and Political Economy, which was launched at Palgrave Macmillan shortly after I talked to the editors in New York, including Toby Wahl, whom I had met at the Association for Asian Studies conference.

Running a series requires not only a personal but also an institutional commitment. In what way is it worthwhile to have a series with one publisher (or several) in addition to ad hoc publications with various publishers, left to the care of the researchers?

One doesn’t prevent the other! Having two English-language series and four French-language series did not mean that researchers could not publish elsewhere—and indeed they did! But there were benefits for the authors and for CERI in having series with well-known publishers.
In fact, for CERI, it was a good means of promotion. At the beginning, moreover, the CERI logo was the only one on the back of the covers, then Sciences Po asked to add its own, then the CNRS’s logo was added too. Finally, the series published by Palgrave included the name Sciences Po and became the Sciences Po Series in International Relations and Political Economy.
For the authors, the interest was even greater. Many of those who had never published in English—a majority—were guided in their search for a publisher, supported by Cynthia and Miriam2 who translated or edited the texts, and finally promoted by the laboratory once their book was released in the United States and elsewhere. The Sciences Po representative at Columbia (through the Alliance programme) intervened at this stage of the game and funded book tours on the East Coast of the Unites States and beyond.

As we know, translation is expensive. Why do we consider this financial effort worthwhile?

Because the social sciences don’t use French as much as they used to and French authors have something to offer to non-French speakers. However, print runs are not sufficient for publishers to cover the cost of translations (although they sometimes do, of course). But for us it is an investment whose “profitability” should not be overlooked. Let’s keep in mind the example of Sciences Po and our series: the latter are not for nothing in the image— and therefore in the attractiveness—of the former. Sciences Po's political science would not rank so high in international rankings if its political scientists did not publish in English. Our series have come to exist in terms of the number of titles published: 55 titles between 1999 and 2020 for the Hurst series, 50 since 2002 for the Palgrave series, i.e. about 6 books per year in English, which is no mean feat!
That said, like any policy of positive discrimination, aid for translation must have safeguards. In particular, one should not publish just anything under the pretext that it is subsidised: our series ran this risk, as a researcher could “demand” that the lab finances the translation of his or her book under the pretext that the series was in-house. This was the objection that some colleagues readily made—including the late Bruno Latour, with whom I had so much pleasure working at the end of my second term as director of CERI. But I always answered the same thing: American and British publishers have their manuscripts blindly peer reviewed by at least two experts on the subject, and the risk of publishing anything other than a high-quality manuscript is therefore almost nil.

While researchers are expected to publish more and more articles in peer-reviewed journals, book publication could be considered too time-consuming. Why do you think it is necessary to maintain a space for book publishing?

Nothing will ever replace a single-authored book in the social sciences. Articles are a way of sharing more specific research results. They are a way of shedding light on a subject. They are certainly based on a demanding—and sometimes invasive—methodology and benefit from rigorous review procedures. But a book—which passes under the same scrutiny in our English-language series—serves a different function and has a different ambition. It is in a book that an author has the space to present his or her long-term research. A book is an ecosystem and sometimes even a monument that creates its own atmosphere, through which you can go on a real intellectual journey. This is only possible because authors live with their books for years before publishing them. Yes, it is costly in terms of time—and peace of mind—but so rewarding! And then, a book is an object, a precious object, the aesthetics of which are refined (starting with the cover), which is taken along as a travelling companion (if only in the metro or the train), which is kept for several days or weeks at a time, which is marked, which is appropriated... The relationship is rarely as intense with an article!

Interview by Miriam Périer, CERI-Sciences Po.
Photo: A selection of books from the Sciences Po Series in International Relations and Political Economy. Photo by Caroline Maufroid, Sciences Po.

Access our list of publications with the Sciences Po Series in International Relations and Political Economy
Access CERI researchers' full list of publications in English

  • 1. Christophe Jaffrelot, The Hindu nationalist movement and Indian politics: 1925 to the 1990s strategies of identity-building, implantation and mobilisation (with special reference to Central India), London, Hurst, 1996.
  • 2. Miriam Périer joined CERI in 2006 to take care of English language publications.
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