Thursday, November 11, 2010

I can't find a journal for my article!

I am finishing up a short paper, and I can't figure out what journal to send it to. This is a new experience for me - its has always been pretty clear where to send my papers. One or two journals have seemed obvious for each paper, with perhaps one or two others as backups. But for this particular paper, nothing comes to mind. This is a short paper on a very limited subject (comparative data to support the interpretation that Classic Maya house clusters functioned as urban neighborhoods). The target audience is Mayanists and other Mesoamericanists.

Normally the first choices would be Ancient Mesoamerica and Latin American Antiquity, the top two English-language journals for Mesoamerica. But these journals take forever to review and publish articles. I don't have firm data, but based on my own experiences and anecdotal data, these journals take a year or more to review manuscripts, and then a year or more until they appear in print. But now I've been spoiled by the quick turn-around times (and insightful reviews) of my 3 most recent papers: 3 weeks (Urban Studies), 5 weeks (Jr. Anthropological Archaeology), and a couple of months (Jr. Archaeological Method and Theory). And the archaeology journals got the papers online very quickly. After these experiences, the idea of waiting around a couple of years to get a short paper into print seems unacceptable.

I thought of Mexicon, a less prestigious journal that seems to be quicker than AM and LAA, but my paper exceeds its rather short length requirement. There are some good relevant journals in Mexico and Spain (and France), but I'm not anxious to have to translate this paper, and I think these journals also have long lead times. There are the general anthropology journals (American Anthropologist, Current Anthropology) that sometimes take specialized papers, but I would predict that reviewers for these journals would want a full analysis of the larger topic, rather than the very limited and specific point of the paper.

So do I go with an online journal with rapid turn-around but less visibility for my target audience? Or do I just accept the long delays of the top Mesoamerican journals? Or try a general anthropology journal and hope for the best (in terms of both reviews and turn-around time)? Or cut the thing down for Mexicon (its really pretty lean right now)?


Anonymous said...

Maybe Journal of Social Archaeology? They have published articles on Maya households and settlement before. I think they are fairly quick but perhaps the journal has a too "postprocessual" touch?

Michael E. Smith said...

Yes, JSA is too postmodern for my taste. What that means, in my view, is that from a scientific perspective their standards are too low, which lowers my interest in the journal. They publish papers that I consider poorly argued and poorly supported empirically. Now perhaps their standards are high within their particular approach to scholarship, but I can't really judge that.

Plus there is my own complaint that the "social archaeology" crowd has highjacked that label from its original meaning as a scientific approach to the archaeology of society, as exemplified by Renfrew 1984.

Renfrew, Colin (1984 Approaches to Social Archaeology. Harvard University Press, Cambridge.

Right now, in revising my book The Aztecs for a new edition, I am torn between continuing to use the phrase "social archaeology" for the kind of work I do (and explaining the 2 meanings in a note), and giving up the field to the postmodernists and finding another term for a scientific approach to the archaeology of society that can stand in opposition to the "monumental archaeology" approach to ancient complex societies.

Sorry for the rant. Actually a big factor against JSA for this paper is that the target audience is Mayanists, not archaeologists interested in social theory.

Michael E. Smith said...

Well, I thank Charlotte Arnauld for suggesting I send the paper to the Journal de la Société des Américanistes (published in Paris). It is now under review there! They publish in French, Spanish and English.