Beyond essentialism: Situating gender and academic publishing

Book chapter

Nygaard, Lynn P.; Dag Aksnes & Fredrik Piro (2023) Beyond essentialism: Situating gender and academic publishing, in Women in Scholarly Publishing. London: Routledge DOI:

Link to book chapter "Beyond essentialism: Situating gender and academic publishing"

Is it possible to say anything meaningful about women and academic publishing without falling into essentialist traps? This chapter unpacks the notion of essentialism, the belief that men and women are somehow fundamentally different, that this difference is inherent and unchangeable, and that it is reasonable to group all women (or men) together in a meaningful way. It argues that moving beyond essentialism necessitates seeing both gender and academic writing and publishing as socially situated – even in quantitative research. Drawing from an academic literacies approach in particular, it examines how situating both academic writing and gender in a social context directs our gaze to the ways in which writers take on multiple social roles and how social hierarchies are reflected in these roles. The authors point out that accounting for situatedness is more commonplace in qualitative research but that it is still possible to carry the same sensibility to quantitative approaches. As an example, the authors examine the topic of research productivity, where a persistent finding has been that men seem to publish significantly more than women. The authors describe how they have been able to tell a different story by situating both gender and academic writing and demonstrating that gender gaps in productivity are highly context-dependent; once scientific field, academic position, institutional affiliation and age are controlled for, most gender differences all but disappear.

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