If you submit an article to a journal, they always ask you to list your “affiliation.” Typically this means name, academic department, name of college/university, email and mailing addresses. Here’s an example from my friend Jess Falcone’s paper on The Hau of Theory:
JESSICA MARIE FALCONE
Kansas State University
204 Waters Hall
Manhattan, KS 66502
Here’s another example, from Bonnie Urciuoli’s paper on neoliberal workplace language:
> Department of Anthropology
> Hamilton College
> Clinton, NY 13323
To be sure, there are good reasons for this information to be available. If you want to ask the author a question, it helps to know their contact information. If you want to get a sense of which universities are supporting certain research topics, it helps to know where a given scholar is working. Or even, if you are trying to do meta-research on academic prestige and hierarchy, it’s pretty handy to be able to see who gets represented and who doesn’t, or maybe to get a really crude measure of gender and racial representation based on the scholars’ names (which inevitably encode certain social characteristics).
That was the case for listing affiliation. But I think there is a strong case that we should stop listing affiliations in journal articles.
In brief: the naming of affiliation is also the creation of stigma. What kind of stigma, you ask? The stigma of precarious employment. The stigma of being out of work, “unaffiliated.” The stigma of career ambiguity. The stigma of not having an affiliation to put in this box.
You really notice the problems of affiliation if you graduate with a Ph.D., for instance, find a job in some other field, but still want to publish an article. Take my former job working in campus IT. Is a job in campus IT a plausible affiliation? I don’t think so: most employers require that you don’t use your job title for non-job-related purposes. What if your employer doesn’t want to be associated with your findings? Wouldn’t you need to show them what you were publishing beforehand? Whatever you might say about academic freedom, there’s less of it for non-academics.
For a year after I got my doctorate, I just kept listing my graduate department instead of my actual job whenever someone asked me for a scholarly affiliation. It beat writing “independent scholar.”
Underneath the current system of declaring one’s affiliations, there’s an assumption that one’s scholarly identity is equatable with one’s job, with one’s institutional belonging, and with one’s paycheck. I think that as global academia gets increasingly precarious, these things are all getting unbundled. You might not get your paycheck from being a scholar. You might have an institutional affiliation that’s partial, that’s barely declarable. You might be broke and unemployed but need to publish in hopes of getting a job so as to get less broke. All of these conditions are ill-served by the affiliation metadata that journals are requiring.
I think they should abolish it. These days, you don’t need to publish your academic department and campus address to be contactable; we have Google and academia.edu if we want to find someone’s CV. Publishing an email address is a sufficient form of contact information.
I think it may make sense to still collect metadata about the employment status of scholars who publish in journals, so that it will still be available for meta-analysis. But it doesn’t need to be published with the article. In my modest opinion.