Introducing Directions Section

By Caroline Parker, Deniz Yonucu, and Jennifer Curtis

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Destiny Compass, stock photo. The Photo Matrix / Getty Images.

As the incoming Directions Editors, Caroline Parker and Deniz Yonucu, along with PoLAR Online Editor, Jennifer Curtis, we are excited to introduce this Spring edition’s Directions section: “‘Thinking With’ When Peer Reviewing.” Directions provides a critical forum for honest and open reflection among scholars about the issues that matter most to us in anthropology. As scholars, we are acutely aware that many of the problems that occupy our hearts and minds today—power, precarity, patronage, and various forms of “isms”—require forms of intentionally organized dialogue beyond the stand-alone article. To this end, Directions provides a dedicated space to discuss anthropology’s new directions in our ever-changing capitalist present haunted by legacies of colonialism and historical injustices.
Together with PoLAR’s new Editors, Georgina Ramsay and Sindiso Mnisi Weeks, we conceive Directions as a forum for bringing together anthropologists from diverse universities, regions, and career-stages into an organized and open dialogue. For each issue, we invite contributors to share their thoughts with us about a specific question or topic, with suggestions for themes taken from PoLAR readers (so reach out!) and decided by the Editorial Collective. The task for our Directions contributors is not to present “ground-breaking” findings or “theoretically-novel” analyses. Instead, Directions’ goal is to turn the anthropological gaze inwards: To ask how ways of thinking and doing derived from carefully crafted ethnographies elsewhere might be brought to bear on our home-turf. How can our research and attempts to turn the anthropological gaze inwards allow us to change the direction of political and legal anthropology in the academy and beyond? How can our analyses help us to understand our own discipline and profession, our places within it, our responsibilities and our duties, but also our vulnerabilities and complicities?

So it is only fitting that after a long hiatus the revived Directions section be devoted this time to peer review, the most powerful gate-keeping process for anthropological knowledge production. In collaboration with PoLAR Online, here we feature selections from PoLAR Online’s forthcoming Emergent Conversation on peer review, edited by Čarna Brković and Jennifer Curtis. Peer review is a critical form of scholarly labor and production, that also, lamentably, reproduces existing hierarchies and exclusions that undermine the discipline’s insights. Yet peer review processes are also a rare area where we as editors and scholars actually have the power to establish new norms for dialogue and practice in pursuit of epistemic justice. At a time when anthropologists are beginning to confront the ways in which both shrinking opportunities and abusive conventions and behaviors are tolerated and perpetuated within our profession, it is important to take action in the domains where we are able to. Bringing together the perspectives of junior and senior academics, publishers, and journal editors, these pieces delve behind the pay-walls and the publications to talk about the process of peer review itself: Who does it serve, who does it hurt, what does all this tell us about anthropology—and what can we do about it?

The inaugural Directions Print section features four articles from PoLAR Online Emergent Conversation 16 on Peer Review as Intellectual Accompaniment. The inaugural Directions Digital section features a video roundtable discussion, with Directions Co-Editor Deniz Yonucu in conversation with Čarna Brković, Dada Dacot, Madeleine Reeves and Saida Hodžić.


“Thinking With” When Peer Reviewing:  Introduction to the PoLAR Online Emergent Conversation on Peer Review

Čarna Brković


Falling into the Gaps, Together: On Peer Review as Intellectual Accompaniment

Madeleine Reeves


Dispirited Away: The Peer Review Process

Dada Docot



For Accountability

Saida Hodžić


There is one comment

  1. David Lempert

    Dear colleagues,
    Instead of “looking inward” again (i.e., writing a personal blog without any reference to standards for the profession or benefits to the public and without any attempt at resulting in something constructive that promotes the discipline and promotes real inclusiveness, debates, with rights and protections) why not actually incorporate the work of colleagues to try to improve processes to solve the so-called “problems”, like disagreements over peer review, that actually do have solutions in functioning disciplines?
    A few months ago, I published a model of review processes for our discipline to promote real intellectual debates and clarity. It doesn’t look like a single author here looked at the existing literature on this topic or tried to engage in a constructive exchange.
    Here is the cite to the piece. I would welcome a respectful and constructive debate but wonder if it is possible in our discipline today, and believe this avoidance is the real reason why we are marginalized and ineffective. We bring it on ourselves and talk in smaller and smaller circles with topics created and controlled by a small clique that are rarely open or productive.
    “Returning Discipline to the Discipline: A Model Procedure for Reviews in Anthropology,
    Other Social Sciences, and Related Disciplines,” Catalyst: A Social Justice Forum, 2018, Volume 8, Issue 1, Article 10, pages 301 – 326.
    Available at:
    In fact, I have authored a second piece, on model procedures for Book Reviews, but apparently our sub-discipline does not allow such pieces or discussions, starting with PoLAR.
    Isn’t it time we had some real inclusivity and openness, instead of political battles for control by one clique or another? My approach is for openness for everyone in a competition of ideas. Can that be heard, or does it have to promote the interests of a specific group?
    David Lempert, Ph.D., J.D., M.B.A., E.D. (Hon.)
    Visiting Scholar, Humboldt University of Berlin, Institute for Asian and African Studies


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