Something I have thought about since leaving graduate school is how theorists and ideas become influential. How, for example, did Taussig sweep the discipline in the late 80s and early 90s? How did that behemoth of a snowball get rolling? I wonder, because an odd feature of my graduate training was how little formal structure was in place to make sure we apprentice anthropologists were reading the current literature. Perhaps it was just me, but I felt that a lot more credit was awarded both in seminars and at parties for being able to trot out points from, say, the minor essays of Rodney Needham than for having something to say about the latest issue of AE. And again, it may just have been me but I only started paying close attention to disciplinary journals and the differences between them toward the end of my grad school sojourn — that is, as I started to think about trying to publish myself. I definitely felt that I had to figure a lot of it out on my own — what it meant for something to be a “Cultural Anthropology” sort of an article and so forth.
It’s made me remember something I used to hear about as an undergrad bio major: “Journal Club”. No, the first rule of Journal Club was not don’t talk about Journal Club 😉 I never went, but it seemed to be something that grad students had to attend — ie, though it was called a “club” it was a formal part of their training — and at which what they did was discuss the latest articles in the major journals. Doesn’t seem like such a crazy idea, and I wonder why we anthros don’t do it (or maybe other schools do, and only mine didn’t). It seems peculiar, in retrospect, that this kind of thing — the peer-reviewed best of our own collective research results, hot off the presses — wasn’t more at the heart of our formal training. So my queries are: is it a formal part of trainng at other schools? If not, why not? And, to return to the start, how does new research and how do new researchers become “hot”?