Authors, Editors and Authority in the Postmodern Academy



Textbooks are presented, by their authors and publishers, as authoritative statements regarding the nature of a scientific discipline or sub-discipline: in Kuhn's words, they are the “vehicles for the perpetuation of normal science.” One of the main contributions of postmodern and poststructuralist thought, however, has been to challenge the nature of power and authority in the academy, a challenge that has been widely taken up in contemporary geographical research. There has been much less impact on textbook production and other teaching resources, however, where the “authority of the disembodied scholar” still holds sway. This is illustrated with respect to readers, collections of both original and reprinted pieces (the latter often in abridged form) where editorial authority (“this is what I think you should read”) is frequently as firm as its predecessor, authorial authority. The reasons for this are sought in contemporary developments in higher education.