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Pourquoi publier en langue française quand on est sociologue ?

A desperate French-speaking American sociologist

Un sociologue américain francophone désespéré
Howard S. Becker

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publier en français

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publicar en francés
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1The situation is every bit as terrible as the editors describe it to be. My own observations are that my Anglophone colleagues are overwhelmingly incapable of reading or writing any other language, French included. They thus know nothing of the work their francophone colleagues publish. As a result, English has become the language of international sociology (via processes scholars as diverse as Stanley Lieberson and Marc Fumaroli have described), and that is a disaster for scholarship and for sociology.

2Those who “rank” (in a bad imitation of “scientific evaluation”) publication outlets via specious measures of “impact,” and then use those evaluations to rank individual scholars for career rewards (and universities worldwide in ways that affect their prestige), refuse to be shamed into recognizing the utter failure of their attempts to measure anything real.

3The results are well known. Research and theory in sociology reported in French do not get read by scholars elsewhere as they might otherwise be (it’s an open question to me whether American sociologists read research reported in any language, including English). American publishers have little interest in publishing translations of scholarship in French, worrying (probably correctly) that they will lose money: since “no one” knows the authors’ other work, or the literature to which they are responding, there is no incentive to read these books.

4What do I do? What I can, which unfortunately is not much. I push publishers with whom I have any influence (not many and a few small successes from time to time). I have no way of influencing journals like the AJS and ASR to publish translations (which would be a small help, given their general policy to publish no translations at all, but would not make much difference). I read a lot of French work and cite it frequently in the things I write. No colleague of mine has ever mentioned this strange habit of mine nor have any of them ever shown signs of reading the work I have cited or even of citing it (whether they have read it or not). I scold everyone I know about these bad habits. It doesn’t help and how could it help? The universal “explanation” I’m offered is that they “have no time” to learn to read another language and I suppose that may well be true.

5I’m sorry to be so pessimistic, but don’t see any realistic steps that anyone can take to alter these conditions.

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Howard S. Becker, « A desperate French-speaking American sociologist  »SociologieS [En ligne], Débats, mis en ligne le 17 janvier 2019, consulté le 02 octobre 2022. URL : ; DOI :

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Howard S. Becker

Professeur émérite, Northwestern University, Chicago (États-Unis) -

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