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The Book of books: Editing the International Encyclopedia of Education in the 1980s
Örebro University, School of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-8173-7474
2014 (English)In: ECER 2014, "The Past, the Present and Future of Educational Research in Europe", 2014Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

In the short story “The Library of Babel” Lois Jorge Borges distinguishes between different ways of perceiving issues of interpretation: the “purifiers” try to destroy every book that is meaningless while the “inquisitors” seek the canonical Book of books that reveals the meaning of all the others; it “is the formula and perfect compendium of all the rest” (Borges 1941/1962). This perfect compendium is something that has not only attracted the mythological librarian, The Man of Books, as described by Borges, but also to a high degree people of today (Keller 2011).

There are obvious gains of publishing a handbook or an encyclopedia from a market perspective, but what are the gains from a research perspective? Who will undertake such a work, what would be the scholarly motives of the editors working on it, how is that work carried out and what mechanisms shape the content of it? By investigating the archives of one of the most ambitious Encyclopedias of education, The International Encyclopedia of Education, IEE 1985 (cf. Phillips et al 1986), I will explore issues related to the construction of canonical texts. The main purpose of the paper is to provide an understanding of the re/production of canonical knowledge of education. In the paper I will investigate these topics with help from an archive material consisting of meeting protocols and editorial correspondence from the Torsten Husén archive in Stockholm National Archives. Husén was the Editor in Chief for the IEE together with Postlethwaite (Husén, T. & Postlethwaite 1985).

There exist of course several guidelines on how to edit encyclopedias (e.g. Aschmore 1962, Sillis 1969, Beede 2001, Edwards 2012), but it is difficult to find research about the actual work of editing such books. Most of what can be found is biographical notes.

Investigating the becoming of an encyclopedia can probably best be resembled to the work carried out within the Sociology of knowledge and/or History of knowledge. These shall not be considered as coherent research disciplines but for this paper some traits from them are particularly relevant. One basic assumption is that knowledge (in an encyclopedia) is human knowledge – it is produced under social and historical circumstances and reflects society and particular needs (Charle, Schriewer and Wagner 2004, Schriewer, J. & Martínez 2004, Wagner and Wittrock 1991).

If we accept encyclopedic knowledge as a reflection of certain needs and developed within certain systems, we can expect the encyclopedia to be part of also a larger educational socio-political context. To put it differently, it is not only “truth criteria” (or the preservation/development of knowledge) that can be expected as reasons to produce an encyclopedia. Encyclopedias can be treated as we treat other kinds of historical knowledge. We have knowledge practices that develop and change over time, but that always are preoccupied by gathering, analysing, disseminate and employ knowledge. We accumulate, refine and dived knowledge; we loose knowledge or reject knowledge. Knowledge is geographical, sociological and chronological (cf. Burke 2012). In other words we can expect editors of an encyclopedia to struggle with geographical and periodical frames as well as issues of deciding on relevance and limitations of content (and of authors).

The main questions answered in the paper are: What kinds of processes, decisions, problems and relations can we find behind an encyclopedia, including the idea of making it at the first place? If and how does these circumstantial conditions in the re/production of knowledge to the IEE effect the structure of it and the final content?

Method

The research method used in this project is basic historical reading; trying to take as much cross references as possible within the archive material itself and from e.g. reviews of the IEE from 1985 and 1986 and autobiographies from editorial members. In this way it is possible to validate interpretations and claims. Contemporary biographical notes on the editing of handbooks or encyclopedias have some perspectives that are helpful when looking into detail of the editorial work. Some recurrent issues that are dealt with in these notes, that helped structure my own material are: Which considerations provided the necessary strong motivation, given that considerable time investment over an extended period of time could be anticipated? Related to that, what opportunities or contributions could be associated with the creation of such a work? Who was the intended/implied readership? What considerations guided decisions regarding topic and author selection? What particular opportunities, what editorial constraints characterized the project, and how were they addressed? (e.g. Byrnes 2011, Ross and Chanty 2009). In total the Torsten Husén archive builds up to 38 running meters of which about three foot (eight volumes) are IEE material. The documents in these volumes are either chronologically ordered or alphabetically. I have briefly looked at approximately 3000 – 4000 documents. The actual manuscripts and how they developed from editorial comments are not available in this archive, only the comments. The paper is a first attempt to find some researchable themes among all these documents. I have limited the query to the early formative phase of IEE. The paper is structured along three major themes: Deciding on purposes and target groups; Producing and indexing the content; Dealing with contingences and interruptions.

Expected Outcomes

Why take on such a time consuming and demanding project as that of editing an Encyclopedia? A common answer in biographical notes has to do with the opportunity of putting your subject that you worked on for such a long time (editors tend to be prominent) on the map (cf. Chapelle 2011). Husén clearly wanted to illustrate the potential of comparative and international education. It also seems as he believed that by doing this, he could really help the Third world to develop, and then not as many earlier encyclopedias had, from a particular ethnocentric perspective but from the global perspective of a united educational research community. IEE filled a need at the end of the cold war in creating a sense of objectivity and coherence in an increasingly diversified discipline, in a less divided world. IEE is clearly an example of the globalisation of scientific knowledge, but making it was not based on theory or on a well-defined methodology per se. It was an explorative and circumstantial endeavour. There is none, and can never exist any, Book of books – at least not in the field of education. An encyclopedia, even if ten volumes thick, is quickly out-dated. Editing an encyclopedia is not only about collecting pre-existing truths and facts about what for example educational research and studies are all about, it is also about constructing the image of such a collection – presented as an index. This image might be quite representative at large, but will be disputable in detail; it is characterized by the specific writers involved. IEE contracted some 500 authors out of 25000 researches in education 1982 (preface 1982). To the layman though, an index with 45000 entries, as it had, will give an impression that the reader had in its hand, the Books of books.

References

Ashmore, H. S. (1962).Editing the Universal Encyclopedia. American Behavioural Scientist 1962;6 (15), p. 15-18 Beede B.R. (2001). Editing a specialized encyclopedia. Journal of Scholarly Publishing, 2001;33(1), p. 1–10. Borges, L. J. (1941/1962). The Library of Babel. Extract: http://jubal.westnet.com/hyperdiscordia/library_of_babel.html Burke, P. (2012). A Social History of Knowledge. Volume II. From the Encyclopédie to Wikipedia. Cambridge: Polity Press. Byrnes, H. (2011) Perspectives. The Modern Language Journal 95 (2011), p. 628-629. Chapelle, C A. (2011) Why Would Anyone Want to Edit an Encyclopedia? The Modern Language Journal 95 (2011), p. 632-633. Charle, C., Schriewer, J. & Wagner, P. eds. (2004). Transnational Intellectual Net¬works: Forms of Academic Knowledge and the Search for Cultural Identities. Frankfurt/New York: Campus. Edwards, L. (2012). Editing Academic Books in the Humanities and Social Sciences: Maximizing Impact for Effort. Journal of Scholarly Publishing, 2012;44 (1), p. 61-74. Husén, T. & Postlethwaite, T.N. (ed.) (1985). The international encyclopedia of education: research and studies. Oxford: Pergamon. Keller, (2011). The Symbiosis Between Publisher and Librarian. The Modern Language Journal 95 (2011), p. 631-632. Phillips, D., Mallinson, V., Wilson, K., Gruber, K-H., and Backhouse, J. K. (1986). The International Encyclopedia of Education. Oxford Review of Education, 1986;12 (1), p. 77-93. Ross, J. I. & Shanty, F. (2009). Editing Encyclopedias for Fun and Aggravation. Publishing Research Quarterly, 25 (3), p. 159-169. Schriewer, J. & Martínez, C. (2004). Constructions of Internationality in Education. In: The Global Politics of Educational Borrowing and Lending, ed. Steiner-Khamsi, G. New York & London: Teachers College Press, Columbia University, pp. 29-53. Sills, D. L. (1969). Editing a Scientific Encyclopedia. Science 1969 (14), p. 1169-1175. Wagner, P. & Wittrock, B. (1991). States, Institutions, and Discourses: A Comparative Perspective on the Structuration of the Social Sciences. In P. Wagner, B. Wittrock & R. Whitley. Discourses on Society. The Shaping of the Social Science Disciplines. Dordrecht, Boston, London: Kluwer Academinc Publishers.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014.
National Category
Pedagogy
Research subject
Education
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-40302OAI: oai:DiVA.org:oru-40302DiVA, id: diva2:776919
Conference
ECER 2014, "The Past, the Present and Future of Educational Research in Europe", Porto, Portugal, September 1-5, 2014
Note

Paper presented 4 Sept., Network 17, History of Education.

Available from: 2015-01-08 Created: 2015-01-08 Last updated: 2017-10-17Bibliographically approved

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Lundahl, Christian

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