Freedom of Expression and Politics of Style. PARISS, A New Journal in the Social Sciences

PARISS journal

Political Anthropological Research on International Social Sciences (PARISS) is a bi-annual journal published by Brill publishers that seeks to promote a plurality of ways of thinking, researching and writing and to give access to contemporary authors in the social sciences coming also from non-English-speaking countries. The journal covers Social Sciences, International Relations, Global Studies, Sociology & Anthropology, Transdisciplinary approaches, Art and Humanities. The four coeditors, Tugba Basaran, Monique J. Beerli, Didier Bigo, and Emma Mc Cluskey answer our questions about the journal and its aims.

CERI: The four of you have been working together through various projects for several years. What brought you to the discussion and the decision to launch a new journal, in a field (academic journals) that is already quite busy? What gap does the journal seek to fill?

PARISS Co-editors: This initiative is an attempt to enhance collaboration between different traditions of thoughts and methods, ways of mediating theory and practice and traversing established academic cultures. We (the editors) all have experiences moving between academic cultures, particularly between Anglophone and Francophone scholarship, and not only encountering linguistic barriers, but cultural barriers and even disciplinary barriers. To provide some examples: to the astonishment of many scholars, the francophone Giddens is considered a policy analyst and known primarily for his inspiration of the third way, the anglophone Raymond Aron is an economist, the anglophone Pierre Bourdieu is reduced to a sociologist of education and the anglophone Foucault considered a philosopher or a historian. Even simple words such as “discourse” or “heritage” carry different meanings in Anglophone and Francophone scholarship. Scholarly work is often lost in translation.

Divisions and barriers reign also between disciplines, methodologies, writing styles, assigning appropriate places for what should be said, but also how it should be expressed. We (the editors) have experienced this personally, moving between anthropology, law, sociology and international relations. Many fragmentations derive from disciplinary and intra-disciplinary boundaries that locate power to politics, authority to law, and social relations to sociology, and distinguish all of this from what are considered non-scientific forms of expression, the tales of humanities, complemented by levels of analysis that seek to draw strong borderlines between the individual, the national and the international. Overcoming the multiplicity of divisions packaged by academic culture and tradition requires sustained common engagement. Our journal seeks to provide such a platform. Through Political Anthropological Research on International Social Sciences (PARISS), we hope to encourage transversal social inquires to cut across conventional planes of scholarship. Drawing transversal lines requires not only a different way of thinking, however, but also different intellectual practices, allowing the creation of novel, innovative and critical intellectual spaces. We want to encourage this through the journal PARISS.

One of the core interests of the journal is the issue of “style”. Would you mind giving us some indication of where the journal intends to go, what changes it aims to introduce in terms of style, academic-wise? Will there be more “freedom of expression” than elsewhere?

This is an excellent way of framing one of the main aims of PARISS ; we certainly hope that there will be more “freedom of expression” than in other journals, and that we can open up a more diverse space for authorship. Having been involved in different discussions on the “politics of style” in conferences and workshops over the last few years, we (the editors) think this is certainly an initiative which chimes with so many scholars at the moment. Despite the “globalisation” of social science, we seem to be witnessing a curiously singular and harmonized way of “doing” social science. One would have expected the precise opposite: much more pluralisation, heterogeneity and creolisation. So, we decided to open the first issue of PARISS with a conversation about the politics of style that emanated from these collective discussions, and a reflexive attitude towards the implications of publication decisions emanating from editors and publishers’ guidelines as well as rules for readers and reviewers.

Prescriptive instructions on word counts, on having one key argument, on the need for a direct style privileging linearity and simplicity; these rules are all taken-for-granted to some extent and reproduced without thinking, even in so-called ‘critical’ journals. Poking around just a little bit however reveals the arbitrariness of these conventions.


community work PARISS journal Copyright: Shutterstock

Community and collective work. Copyright: Shutterstock

Without the pretension of fully dismantling the current order of things, PARISS nonetheless aspires to foster the blossoming of a more heterogeneous social science. This is why we fashioned the collective article in Vol 1 Issue 1 as a kind of “anti-manual”; PARISS is simply offering a space (not a directive) for scholars to challenge convention and exercise creativity. To take one example, complexity, for us is valuable and should never be purified or flattened to conform to norms around linear arguments. Complexity is not a series of complicated facts that can be reduced to simple ones by a step by step reasoning, it is a mode of existence in the world, that can be translated only through complex arguments, which may impose a more holistic way of writing.

As well as breaking with these forms of symbolic violence, PARISS also seeks to depart from the linguistic colonialism at work in social science journals. We encourage submissions in their original languages and will facilitate translation into English in a way that does not destroy a style specific to different traditions of writing social sciences but allows instead for more vernacular forms of English. In this vein, the goal of PARISS is to reflect the diversity of styles of writing taking place in order to reinvent academic English in a world of many worlds. Patchworks, collages, the use of metaphors, analogies, and “fictional” accounts grounded nevertheless in truth claims- are but some of examples of the arts of writing that PARISS will privilege.

What I find particularly ambitious and thrilling is that one of the aims of the journal is to “provide a space for outstanding scholarship, marginalized elsewhere due to academic conventions.” Would you mind developing this idea?

At PARISS, the reason we give so much heed to the politics of stylistic conventions in academic publishing is precisely because their effects go far beyond the impact they have on the finished form, format, or even aesthetic of scientific productions. Of a much higher imperative, requiring critique coupled with action, the subtle standardization of how social scientists should write and ultimately practice their craft works to universalize criteria that were once localized, circumstantial, and thus particular. The consequence, then, is the rejection or, at best, the marginalization of academic writing that does not conform to hegemonic standards shaping the very terms of how “quality” is conceptualized, measured, and attributed. Think of how many manuscripts have never seen the light of day because they did not quite fit with wordcount limits for articles or books. Limits that were originally determined based on the technical constraints and costs associated with the use of printing presses! Or how many texts have been dismissed because they developed “too many” arguments. Even worse, as English has now become the lingua franca of the international academic sphere, many scholars simply don’t dare or have the resources to publish in any language other than their own, thereby inhibiting the international circulation of knowledge. As we argue in our collective article “ The Art of Writing Social Sciences ,” these barriers have impoverished intellectual debates, whilst permitting an Anglophone minority to dictate the terms of scholarly “excellence” and “good” science.

So, what can be done about this?

Putting critique into action is always a challenge, especially when faced with the Goliath that is the academic publishing industry. But there are a number of ways we at PARISS are trying to do our part to disrupt the current politics of academic style and pluralize academic practice. One is quite simply by prioritizing the topic as one of the seven running themes that PARISS seeks to curate over the coming three years. More details can be found directly in the Call for Papers, but we are very keen on receiving submissions that touch on academic conventions, the forms of ostracization they perform, and strategies for doing things differently. Secondly, we are working to change the review process and the criteria that are often used to judge whether or not a work is “deserving” of publication.

This doesn’t mean that “quality” is not an issue for us, but its rather about how quality is evaluated. Lastly, to break down language barriers, as already mentioned, we are allowing submissions in languages other than English, a practice that has been instituted by International Political Sociology and perhaps other journals. Yet, as the problem for some is how to rewrite an accepted article in English, we are also exploring what resources might be available to facilitate translation, especially for scholars who don’t have the means to pay for professional translation or copyediting services. For example, for articles that are accepted for their inner qualities and potential, we have integrated a discussion with one of the reviewers into the review process. The reviewer acting as a “Sherpa” will help the author to climb the stylistic translation and to deliver a paper in English that will respect its original style and ways of thinking and framing.

The journal is offering a free subscription to anyone who registers online, for a two years period. How does that work?

It works easily. Anyone curious about the journal goes to the brill website , and can read immediately the editorial. If interested, the person can sign-up to create an account and use the access token “PARI4U” giving access to all the articles of the journal for free during the first two years.

This generous agreement of Brill publisher is the result of our discussions about the aims and scopes of the journal. A lot of new scholars, in precarious positions, have bureaucratic imperatives set by their higher education systems to publish in journals which have good index, or high level of quotations. As the ranking is not done by most organisations attributing the ranking before five years of existence, and often even more for non-anglophone journals, innovative ideas are obliged to accept the stylistic rules of old journals at the top of their own discipline. Here, the system will benefit to the readers who can judge immediately the journal on a free access, and to the writers who have much more chances to be quoted if they have the equivalent of a full internet access for their paper and for free.

Interview by Miriam Périer, CERI.

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