An anonymous Cocoon reader asks the following:
I’m a postdoc so I do not have a permanent or tenure-track job yet, and I am wondering about publication strategies. I’ve noticed that there are some "hot topics" in philosophy that seem to get a lot of airplay in general high-prestige philosophy journals. Given that publications in such journals matter for job applications, my question is to what extent I should redirect my research to write on these topics. Or do you think I should rather write on topics that I care deeply about, even though these topics aren’t the most easy to get published?
I thought this is a great question and I would be interested to hear what readers think. My sense for this stage of career is that a mixed strategy is best. If you notice that a topic is trending in philosophy journals, and you have an idea of an original contribution in that field, I would recommend to go for it, write that paper up, and submit it to high-prestige journals that have a publication history on the topic.
But I would recommend against abandoning the philosophical topics one cares deeply about because they would not be marketable. There is a danger that one sacrifices too much in the pursuit of a permanent position, and abandoning the things that led one to be passionate about philosophy to begin with seems a sacrifice too much. In the quest for a permanent job, it is important not to lose the joy of philosophy.
Moreover, the deliberate redirection of one's own interests to make them more marketable sounds like an instance of what Kristie Dotson has termed "testimonial smothering", whereby a testifier truncates her own testimony to those things that others are willing and able to hear. It is concerning that topics such as philosophy of race or feminist philosophy, or philosophy from non-western traditions hardly get any airplay at all in general journals, and do not routinely form part of strong graduate programs. If specialists in such fields deliberately smother their own testimony, that exacerbates the problem and we risk increasing insularity and decreasing connection with other fields and society at large. So there is also an ethical dimension to our publication choices.
What strategies have readers tried to grapple with this problem?