Who gets to be an author?

Who gets to be an author in contemporary anthropology and who does not? How does inquiry into the norms of authorship expose problems surrounding academic labor and scholarly knowledge production, which have become normative features of anthropology as a discipline? My most recent article, which appears in a special issue of Anthropology of Work Review, takes up these questions while also examining how inherited logics and practices of anthropological authorship allow for the accumulation of intellectual capital for select academic laborers while excluding others, most notably field research assistants and students. In the first half of the essay, I examine the working relationship between Franz Boas and George Hunt as a point of departure to explore dynamics of attribution and authority. I follow with a discussion of “intellectual contribution” as a basis for authorship, which implicitly denies significant forms of manual labor—commonly performed by student researchers—that are foundational to many research projects. In the second half of the essay, I make the case for how anthropological scholars of labor can begin to challenge the existing logics of academic authorship. I highlight, in particular, methods for broadening authorial recognition developed by the CLEAR Lab at Memorial University. At the same time, I show how neoliberal universities’ demands for ever-increasing authorial output require other forms of response, exemplified in the Slow Scholarship movement. When taken together, these two models offer a glimpse at a more sustainable and equitable model of academic authorship—one that recognizes more diverse anthropological laborers as authors while resisting the pressures to churn out more and more “minimum publishable units.”

HANDOUT PHOTO: George Hunt, 1893. Photographed by Gibson, Jackson Park, Chicago. (Courtesy of Courtesy of Harvard University Archives, Frederic Ward Putnam Papers)

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