BCDSS Language Policy

With its mission to explore phenomena of asymmetrical dependency, the Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies (BCDSS) and its publications series work against forms of gatekeeping which may put obstacles in the way of scholarly work in English felt by some to be non-standard. The Center understands language to be intimately connected to power structures and strives to foster an awareness of epistemic dependencies resulting from linguistic dependencies. Given that language is multiply situated and constantly evolving, the BCDSS does not insist on conformity to the traditional binary standard Englishes (British and American). Our focus is on clarity and the communicative value of English as an international lingua franca. Authors are encouraged to write in their national or regional variety of English.

Please click on the following link for a more detailed discussion of the language policy.

Frequently Asked Questions about the
BCDSS Language Policy

At the BCDSS, we encourage authors to use their own variant of English – i.e., not to forcibly change their writing to American English (AE) or British English (BE) –, while maintaining clarity and correct grammar. We promote the use of language that is universally comprehensible, thus supporting the aims of open-access publishing to reach as wide an audience as possible.
We believe that the insistence on "standard" variants of English puts an unequal burden on scholars whose first language is not English, or not AE/BE, and thus impoverishes scholarly work. We want to remove unnecessary obstacles and demonstrate our commitment to diversity, openness and inclusion.

World Englishes (WE) are localized or indigenized autonomous varieties of English that are spoken and written throughout the world. English was spread primarily through processes of colonialization: in the Middle Ages from England to Wales, Scotland and Ireland; from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries from Britain to the Caribbean, North America, the Indian subcontinent and East Asia (Hong Kong and Singapore), the Pacific (Australia and New Zealand), and many parts of Africa. After the Spanish-American War of 1898, American English was spread to territories such as Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines.

Just as the English spoken in North America gradually developed into a variety that was distinct from British English, with its own specific grammatical and spelling variations, so did the English spoken in India or Jamaica, Australia, the Philippines or Kenya develop over time into specific localized variations with their own grammatical and lexicographical variations.

They are just as correct than the Old Variety Englishes (i.e. British and American); or, as linguists put it, there is no intrinsic value in the features that are thought of as standard. The only reason we think of Old Variety Englishes as the norm, and of World Englishes as deviations, is a remnant of Eurocentric, colonial-era thinking which is shored up by the fact that the vast majority of academic publishers and journals – and all of the most influential and prestigious ones – are based in the Global North, and therefore in a position to continue to dictate what is seen as standard, and what is not.

In a word: no! It is promoting openness and clarity. The whole idea is to open up to additional varieties or English, rather than to impose a binary standard, as most publications have been doing. Idiomatic features of American and British English have always been accepted and remain acceptable. Linguistic or grammatical features that are characteristic of other Englishes are also acceptable provided they are readily understandable.

Rather than imposing, we are essentially ensuring the accessibility of the work we publish (for authors and readers alike), which would mean that a wider range of research can have a greater impact and benefit a broader public.

All texts that have been accepted for publication in one of the Cluster’s academic series by Publications Manager Janico Albrecht go to one of the Language Editors, Kathryn Abaño or Imogen Herrad, who go through the text and review it for formal linguistic criteria such as grammar, punctuation and sentence construction. They may also rephrase or rearrange some passages to improve the flow of a sentence or to clarify expression.

Clarity and understandability continue to be our top priorities, as the BCDSS aims to foster interdisciplinary dialogue between scholars from many different fields and backgrounds. Additionally, linguistic consistency within each paper is important to maintaining the quality of the Cluster’s different publications. With two professional, in-house Language Editors, the BCDSS ensures that our publications meet the highest standards in academic publishing.

We first developed this policy at the BCDSS in 2022, after extensive discussions in a workshop on 15 July 2022 that was open to all BCDSS members. Those who attended the workshop agreed that the privileging of Global North Englishes continued to reinscribe colonial power structures, and so was something that runs counter to the Cluster’s own mission to explore asymmetrical dependency, as the vast majority of our authors are international scholars, who write in different varieties of English. It was therefore agreed to formulate in writing a sort of mission statement on language.

A number of BCDSS scholars who had attended the workshop volunteered to further discuss and draw up a text, which then became known as the Language Policy. They were Professors Marion Gymnich and Pia Wiegmink, post-doctoral researchers Jutta Wimmler and Sunčica Klaas, and Janico Albrecht and Imogen Herrad from the Publications Department. It was subsequently circulated to all participants of the workshop for feedback. We originally planned to apply this policy only to the Cluster’s flagship book series Dependency and Slavery Studies, which is published with de Gruyter. The policy was approved by Gruyter in 2022. In 2023, we extended the policy to all BCDSS publications, including the DEPENDENT magazine. This move was approved by the BCDSS Steering Committee.

As far as we know, we’re the first.

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