How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis, Katherine Hayles notes the "shockingly small rate at which [academic] articles are cited (and presumably read)." The news is bleak enough for the sciences, in which 22.4% of all articles aren't cited even once within the first five years, but that unfortunate statistic pales compared to humanities articles, 93.1% of which fail to be cited even once five years after they appear in print. Regardless of the greater prestige given to books in our field, this is dismal news (Hayles 3-4). The story gets incrementally worse for those us not in the social sciences. As David Hamilton points out, "Within the arts and humanities (where admittedly citation is not so firmly entrenched), uncitedness figures hit the ceiling. Consider, for example, theater (99.9%), American literature (99.8%), architecture (99.6%), and religion (98.2%)" (Hamilton 1991, 25). Certainly things may have improved for the better since Hamilton's article appeared due to the rise of electronic databases like JSTOR and Project MUSE and the willingness of people to place offprints online on Academia.edu and Research Gate. Even so, given the amount of time and affection many of us put into writing academic articles, these statistics are more than a little depressing.
In some ways these paltry statistics belie my own experience: articles often influence my own thinking the most. Are there things we could (or should) be doing to make academic articles more visible in the circuit of ideas? Like most scholars, I focus my published reviews of other scholars' work on their books; hence I'd like to dedicate this post to a few articles that either I return to again and again, or (if the articles are recent) I expect to return to repeatedly in the future. I hope this list will not only lead others to these gems, but also encourage readers to present their own lists of favorite article in the comments or to review articles in future posts on RiAH.
Here is my current Top Five:
|Joel Robbins, Cambridge|
2. Aviva Ben-Ur, "Purim in the Public Eye: Leisure, Violence, and Cultural Convergence in the Dutch Atlantic." Jewish Social Studies, 20.1 (2013): 32-76. URL: https://muse.jhu.edu/journals/jewish_social_studies/v020/20.1.ben-ur.pdf. Don't have access to Project MUSE? Here is a public domain copy of the article.
|Aviva Ben-Ur, U Mass Amherst|
3. François Furstenberg, "Beyond Freedom and Slavery: Autonomy, Virtue, and Resistance in Early American Political Discourse," Journal of American History, 89.4 (2002): 1295–1331. Don't have access to OAH or Jstor? URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3092544 Here is a renegade copy of the article.
|François Furstenberg, Johns Hopkins|
4. Jessica Vance Roitman and Aviva Ben-Ur, "Adultery Here and There: Crossing Sexual Boundaries in the Dutch Jewish Atlantic," Dutch Atlantic Connections, 1680-1800. Ed. Gert Oostindie and Jessica Vance Roitman. Leiden: Brill, 2014. 185-223. URL: http://booksandjournals.brillonline.com/content/books/9789004271319 (this book is open access)
|Jessica Roitman, KITLV|
5. James B. Gardner; Sarah M. Henry, “September 11 and the Mourning after: Reflections on Collecting and Interpreting the History of Tragedy,” The Public Historian, Vol. 24, No. 3. (Summer, 2002), pp. 37-52. URL: www.jstor.org/stable/3379085
obsessed with the intersection of religion and death, but Gardner and Henry's work on 9-11 is by far one of the articles (along with Marita Sturken's “The Wall, the Screen, and the Image: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial”) that I teach most often in my classes, whether it is a class on the Dead and Undead, Evil in American Culture, or Graphic Novels. Gardner and Henry's article is a great example not only of public history, but also of the way American responses to death are changing in the twenty first century. Official abstract: "In the aftermath of September 11, public historians working in museums have faced new challenges to our sense of our work and ourselves as professionals. In addressing our collecting and interpretive responsibilities, we have had to grapple with the tension between our sense of obligation to the historic nature of the events and their aftermath and our concern that we are still too close to them to be able to judge clearly what is truly historically important. Our goal has been to respond to those challenges thoughtfully and positively, embracing the opportunity to help our visitors understand these tragic events and to contribute to the nation's healing, while remaining true to our obligation to enrich the historical record."
Hamilton, David P. "Publishing by -- and for? -- the Numbers," Science, 250.4986 (1990): 1331-32.
Hamilton David P. "Research Papers: Who's Uncited Now?"Science, 251.4989 (1991): 25.
Hayles, Katherine. How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2012.
Sturken, Maria. “The Wall, the Screen, and the Image: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial,” 35 (1991): 118-142. Web. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2928719
What articles have influenced you or do you return to the most? Are there things we could (or should) be doing to make articles count more in the circuit of ideas?