Friday, August 21, 2009

The book review crisis in Latin American archaeology

I have made the claim several times in this blog that there is a crisis in publishing book reviews in New World archaeology. I devoted a post to this in 2008. (for more posts on the topic, check the index at the right under "book reviews"). Here I limit the scope to Latin American archaeology, where there are two major journals in English: Latin American Antiquity and Ancient Mesoamerica. Frustrated by the presence of only 5 book reviews in the last 2 issues of Latin American Antiquity combined, I tallied the number of reviews per year for the journal, starting in 2007. Here are the data:

Now, here are the counts for book reviews in the other major journal in Latin American archaeology, Ancient Mesoamerica:

Oops, I forgot, AM does not publish book reviews.

Book reviews are important for social science and humanities disciplines for a number of reasons:

(1) They publicize new books and let readers know what they are about.

(2) The positive and negative evaluations in book reviews are a crucial part of quality control.

(3) Book reviews can provide insight into the current status of the discipline, not only through their themes and topics, but by the contextualization provided in a good review. (What do I mean by a good review? Click here)

I hope the book review situation is better for areas outside of Latin American archaeology, but I don't have any data. In my mind, the shortage of book reviews in Latin American archaeology constitutes a crisis in scholarly publishing, and it is harmful to the advancement of the discipline.

1 comment:

Michael E. Smith said...


Yes, the number of book reviews published annually in LAQ was up, from 5 in 2008 to 6 in 2009. Wow, I feel much better now.