Twelve Week Article Writing Recap: Week 4

This week, I finished week 4 of Wendy Belcher's book, Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks.

I wrote a lot this week! In total, I spent almost five hours working on my article. I’ve been tracking my writing time using Toggl, which helps me be a more efficient writer. I work on my article first thing in the morning, which cements the idea that my own writing is my highest priority.

I revised my argument again. Now it reads like this:

Although scholars have often thought of world’s fairs as cultural sites where elites constructed top-down structures of social control, I argue that elites retained little influence over how visitors understood ideas about SCIENCE AND RACE embedded in the displays at world’s fairs.

Adding the bit about science and race clarified which part of the exposition I wanted to focus on. World’s fairs are such rich sites for historians because touch on ideas about many things: progress, national identity, science, race, gender, social order, and citizenship, just to name a few. Narrowing the argument to how visitors viewed and understood ideas about science and race gave my article draft more shape and better direction.

The most important thing I learned this week was this: pick the journal when you figure out who you want to read your article. I’m still thinking about who I want to read it. The article has lots of big concepts: world’s fairs, visual display, Guatemala, archaeology, race, science, Germans, and the Maya. An article on Karl Sapper roaming around the Central American exposition might be of interest to different groups of people: scholars interested in Europeans in the Americas, scholars of the history science, and scholars of Latin American popular culture. I thought about this for a while. My expertise is not in Europeans abroad in the Americas. I do a little bit of work with histories of science, particularly Mayan archaeology. I am, however, most interested in analyzing Karl Sapper’s to see what it tell us about how people thought about and understood (or misunderstood) ideas about race and science in Latin America.

With this in mind, I I started researching journals. Following Wendy Belcher’s sage advice, I’m not even going to try to publish in “the best” journal I can. I know already that the Hispanic American Historical Review, for example, is not going to publish my article. I ain’t no celebrity.

I made a list of potential journals.

I fired up Zotero and ran an advanced search for journal articles that I’d tagged as world’s fairs. I’ve been collecting these kinds of articles for years, so it turned out to be a long list. I was surprised to find out that articles about world’s fairs are published in journals that I would not have guessed. The list included:

  • Journal of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce
  • Cultural Critique
  • European Contributions to American Studies
  • Anthropology Today
  • Comparative Studies in Society and History
  • The Western Historical Quarterly
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin
  • Film History
  • The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians
  • The Public Historian
  • The Scientific Monthly
  • Isis
  • Studies in Latin American Popular Culture
  • Journal of Design History
  • New Historicism
  • The Americas
  • Ethnohistory

I sent emails to a bunch of friends and colleagues asking for journal recommendations. They responded with several helpful suggestions.

I also searched JSTOR and Genamics Journal Seek. Lamentably, I don’t have institutional access to library databases, so couldn’t search Ulrich’s International Periodicals Directory. I searched with a few different terms, including Latin America, Central America, Guatemala, popular culture, world’s fair, international exposition, museum studies, and history of archaeology. I came up with these journal titles:

  • Journal of Latin American Culture Studies
  • Journal of Latin American Anthropology
  • Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences
  • History of Science
  • Bulletin of the History of Archaeology
  • Mesoamérica
  • Museum Anthropology Review
  • Museum History Journal

I eliminated some of these journals immediately. For example, I struck the Journal of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce off my list. It’s probably great, but not the right place for an article on a German geographer at a world’s fair in Guatemala. I also struck regional journals, such as the Western Historical Quarterly, and journals that focused on things other than what I wanted to write about, like the Journal of Architectural Historians.

I tried to do as much research as I could on all of these journals to narrow them down to likely candidates. I wish I could have visited a university library to look at the actual journals, but I’m in Mexico at the moment. So I did the best I could with the Internet. Most fit the basic requirements of being peer-reviewed, well-established, and published by reputable presses.

I eliminated those journals where my work didn’t seem to fit. While I like The Public Historian, when I read about the journal’s focus, I realized that my article didn’t fit its goals. I also struck the Journal of Latin American Anthropology, as exists for anthropologists to publish their Latin American research, rather than historians of anthropology to publish theirs. I also eliminated the history of science journals, as I’m trying to write an article about how scientific concepts of race were conveyed in world’s fairs in Latin America, not a history of science per se. I also found a journal that charged authors quite a bit for open access fees. As a self-funded scholar, I decided that I’d rather not pay to publish.

I compared what kinds of authors these journals published. Based on the world’s fairs articles that it had published in the past, I thought Comparative Studies in Society and History seemed like a potential candidate for my article. When I started reading the biographies of the authors it publishes, I realized that it prefers to publish well-known scholars who are full professors at research universities. Unfortunately, I don’t fit that profile.

My big fear about publishing my article is that I won’t be able to get published because I lack an institutional affiliation. I no longer have the kind of academic street cred that comes from being affiliated with an actual university. I can only refer to myself as an “independent scholar,” which is nearly always understood as euphemism for unemployment. (I’m not actually unemployed. I’m self-employed.) No university department currently sanctions or supports my work. I like being a scholar and I’d like to continue working on my research; I just want to do it outside of the confines of a university. I’m not sure how much the lack of affiliation will affect my chances of publication.

I kept doing research on my short list of journals until I found one that seemed like it might publish new authors and those without institutional affiliations: the Journal of Latin American Culture Studies (JLACS). It publishes a wider variety of authors, including postdocs and junior scholars. I thought that this was a positive sign, so moved it to the top of the list.

Based on my research, I ranked the journals on my list:

  • Journal of Latin American Culture Studies (JLACS)
  • Studies in Latin American Popular Culture
  • Comparative Studies in Society and History
  • Mesoamérica

I read through back issues of JLACS. They have very few articles on Central America at all and nothing on world’s fairs, so my article might fill a gap there. I’m planning to send a query tomorrow morning to their managing editor to get some more information and see if my article is the kind of thing they publish. Fingers crossed for a positive response!