Trying to ask what exactly is meant by an academic discipline, field or area is a question that is almost so broad as to be meaningless. Of course, it’s still a question that is asked plenty of times – as, for example, Paul Ward does in Animation studies, disciplinarity and discursitivity (Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture, 3:2). But one way to at least begin asking this question is to operationalize it – to move away from what a field is, and towards the question of what do those working in this field actually do, and how. There is a general answer – scholars in a particular field think about particular topics, work with particular materials, answer particular questions. And there is an answer that is even more specific – scholars in a particular field produce knowledge that takes specific – and quantifiable – forms. And one way to gain at least some understanding of any particular academic field is by looking at how that field produces knowledge.
At the very basic level, this means examining a particular field’s “research output”, “publication patterns” or “publishing behavior”. That is, what kind of writing is expected of scholars in the field? Does it take the form of journal articles, book chapters, stand-alone books? And what are the proportions of each of those type of output to each other? A typical example of this kind of question and analysis is Huang and Chang’s Characteristics of research output in social sciences and the humanities.
Asking the question, though, presents a basic issue – how do you first select your research sample? Some studies use publications in a particular journal, others, by authors in a particular university department, and still others look at materials included in a particular database over a certain time period.
With anime and manga studies, the “particular journal” approach can maybe work, given the role that Mechademia has played over the last eight years. On the other hand, there is nothing in any American university like a department of anime/manga studies – so identifying a group of scholars that would be representative of the field is hard if not outright impossible. And trying to start right now, and working to assemble a full and chronologically comprehensive list of English-language publications on anime and manga would be a difficult and time-consuming task too.
But, what do you , this is maybe another place where I can come in. I have been assembling this kind of list, year by year, for a decade now. And adding in fifty or a hundred new records a year is a lot easier than going from zero to over a thousand right away. Developing something like a comprehensive analysis of publishing patterns in English-language anime and manga studies over a certain time period (say from 2003 – the year that Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away won the Best Animated Feature Academy Award – to 2013) drawn on the materials I have assembled is one of my long-term goals.
But to start, maybe it’s worth simply looking back at the research output/publication patterns of anime and manga studies in 2013 and extracting some numbers from the list.
Books: 3 (2.4%) (+3 essay collections)
Book chapters: 56 (44.8%)
– In essay collections on anime/manga: 41 (32.8%)
– In other interdisciplinary and general essay collections: 15 (12%)
Journal articles: 66 (52.8%)
– In journal special/theme issues: 15 (12%)
– In general issues: 51 (40.8%)
This total does not include the contents of Mechademia Vol. 8 (originally expected to be published in November 2013, but not actually available for sale until January). It also does not include articles, if there were any, in subject-specific academic encyclopedias. And of course, there may be additional items that I simply did not identify or include in my analysis.
Nonetheless, even this relatively quick study demonstrates that the single largest concentration of new research in anime and manga studies appears in general academic journals spread out across a wide range of fields and disciplines – from Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal and Asian Studies Review to Criticism, Feminist Theory, Marvels & Tales and Neo-Victorian Studies. The specific essay collections on anime/manga that were published over the year also account for a significant percentage of all publications. Proper full-length monographs – that is, books by a single author and on a relatively concentrated topic – are still very infrequent, though of course, each one is a major event.
In turn, this kind of breakdown can be used to make two basic points:
- The best way for an anime/manga scholar to publish their work seems to be to pitch it to a general or specialized scholarly journal
- The best way to locate recent materials on anime/manga seems to be by searching through journal databases or databases that cover both journal articles and chapters in edited collections.
This kind of breakdown can also be used to support at least two questions:
- How do the publication patterns in anime/manga studies compare to publication patterns in other academic fields or areas – the humanities in general, Asian studies/Japanese studies, film, popular culture studies, animation studies, etc?
- How do the publication patterns in anime/manga studies in 2013 compare to previous years’ patterns. Are the particular trends in any direction? And do these trends correlate to anything in how Japanese popular culture is perceived in English-speaking countries in general?
Answering both of those requires additional work – locating research on publication patterns in other disciplines, and expanding this same kind of analysis to previous years. This kind of work is time-consuming, and definitely highly specialized.
But this kind of work is what the study of scholarly publishing, of academic disciplines, and more broadly, of the creation and dissemination of knowledge is built on…