Publish AND Perish: On Publishing, Precarity and Poverty in Academia


  • Emma Vossen



Academic publishing, graduate students, exploitation, academic worth


We have all heard the phrase ‘publish or perish’ but what does perishing actually look like? Are you publishing and still perishing? In this article, Vossen probes into the complexity of academic publishing from her perspective as both a poor PhD student and the editor-in-chief of Game Studies publication First Person Scholar. Vossen argues that academic publishing (examining both journal articles and academic manuscripts) exploits the labour of grad students and contract workers by encouraging them to publish their work without compensation in the hopes of attaining tenure-track employment in the future. This ‘work for exposure’ method is dependent on the optimism of young scholars, the majority of whom will not attain tenure-track positions. Vossen focuses specifically on how academic journal articles function as both currency and commodity, devaluing alternative forms of research sharing (such as the work published in First Person Scholar) which is seen as ‘academic waste’ that doesn't ‘count’. Academic journal articles are intrinsically linked to an academics ‘worth’ both culturally and financially and therefore, many untenured academics feel they can't take the financial risk of publishing outside of traditional venues for fear of furthering their descent into debt and poverty. Vossen and the staff of First Person Scholar have attempted to remedy the system in their field of Game Studies by both paying academics for their writing and firmly rejecting opportunities to become an academic journal to instead be considered a ‘middle state publication’. Lastly, Vossen discusses opting out of the publish or perish game as a grad student and what you lose when you decide not to play.